Thank Seabiscuit. Or, rather, thank Seabiscuit: An American Legend (Ballantine), Laura Hillenbrand's biography of the legendary depression-era racehorse. Because since the breakaway success of Hillenbrand's unlikely 2001 bestseller, publishers are gearing up for a wire-to-wire competition between a new, crowded field of horse racing titles geared to a popular audience.

It's about time, aficionados of the sport of kings will tell you; few sports have such a rich pool of history, characters and anecdote to draw from. And few characters have the unique qualifications—not to mention the improbable backstory—of Jim Squires, author of Horse of a Different Color: A Tale of Breeding Geniuses, Dominant Females, and the Fastest Derby Winner Since Secretariat (Public Affairs).

Squires was the editor of the Chicago Tribune from 1981 to 1989, when he took a severance package from the paper and sank it into a thoroughbred breeding farm in Versailles, Ky. Squires was clearly a quick learner, and Two Bucks Farm, where he still lives with his wife, produced Monarchos, the gray colt who won the 2001 Kentucky Derby.

What better time and place, then, to launch Horse of a Different Color's assault on its collection of rivals than at Lexington's Joseph-Beth bookstore in the midst of the Keeneland Spring Race Meet, which culminates with the main prep for the May 4 Derby, the Bluegrass Stakes?

To celebrate the release of Squires's third book (and first horse racing title), Joseph-Beth sent out printed invitations to a who's who of the Kentucky thoroughbred industry, as well as to Squires's extensive list of old pals in both the racing and newspaper business. They also promoted the event to all the horse racing folks and general track rats who make their home in and around Lexington, or who were in town for the Keeneland meet.

"We held a private wine and cheese reception an hour before the public event," Angie Coleman, Joseph-Beth's senior marketing manager, told PW. "It was such a beautiful day that we held the whole thing outside on our patio. We really did have a wonderful time, and a very interesting crowd of people."

And they sold a lot of books. "It was fantastic," Public Affairs publicist Gene Taft told PW. "The folks at Joseph-Beth really turn these events into much more than just book signings. Horse of a Different Color is obviously going to be a big book in that area, and they did a tremendous job. From a publisher's standpoint, we're always interested in the sell through. At a lot of these events, you'll get a nice crowd, but only 25% of the people actually buy the book. I think it was much closer to 75% at Jim's launch, and to us that's a very successful event. It helps that this book has such a broad appeal beyond just the world of horse racing. It's just a great, amazing, fish-out-of-water story, and we certainly think it's already pulling well ahead of the pack."

As far as Squires is concerned, it was just flat-out a good time. "When a Kentucky horse wins the Kentucky Derby, there's always a certain unique celebrity that comes with that," Squires told PW. "It was really the popularity of Monarchos, rather than mine, that drew the crowd."

"And Joseph-Beth is an extraordinary place," continued Squires. "They do such a wonderful job with their events. I pretty much signed for three hours straight. We had a lot of horse people there, plenty of people who made money on Monarchos, and I've learned that you can always count on a good turnout from that large population of women who carry the horse gene."

Public Affairs will be creating more word-of-mouth by giving out 200 copies of Horse of a Different Color at the BEA Kentucky Derby party cohosted by the ABA and BookSense.