An Interview with Dawn LeFevre, Author of BACKSTRETCH GIRLS

December 13, 2019

What is BACKSTRETCH GIRLS about?

Backstretch Girls is set at Atlantic City Racecourse in the 1980’s and tells the story of a friendship between a rebellious ponygirl named Teagan and Anne, a naïve jockey wannabe. Teagan is the black sheep in her Olympic equestrian family; Anne grew up in a trailer park and had to play stable slave to ride yet they bond over their love of horses. The novel chronicles Teagan’s quest for redemption and Anne’s journey to become a jockey and the wonderful horses they come to know along the way.

What makes BACKSTRETCH GIRLS different from other horse racing novels?

My book celebrates the people of the backstretch – the hotwalkers, grooms, exercise riders, ponypeople, etc. Most horse racing books romanticize the track, spinning tales of millionaires in fancy hats, immaculate stables, and perfect horses. BACKSTRETCH GIRLS is an authentic portrayal of the track life – the whacky hours, the flies, the mud, the danger, and the greed. Yet it accentuates the love that the backstretch workers have for their horses and their sport. It shares in the elation of watching your horse turn for home five lengths in front of the field.

Who inspired your love of horses?

My mother, Anne Bradshaw who passed away in 2018. She started taking me to the track at the age of eleven. For my high school graduation present, she took me to the stud farms of Kentucky and I got to meet Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed. She was so proud when I got my trainer’s license and came to almost every race.

Who are your favorite racehorses?

I was too young to remember Secretariat but whenever I see his races, I can’t help but salute his brilliance. Seattle Slew is very special to me; my mom took me to “watch” his Belmont. Thank God for Jean Cruguet standing up and waving his stick; his arm was the only thing I was able to see and that’s how I knew he’d won. I also loved Affirmed but whenever he raced against Slew, I rooted for Slew. I’m a sucker for “underdog” horses like John Henry, Cigar, California Chrome, Lava Man, Wise Dan, Forego, etc. I love mares, especially when they beat the boys. I’m a huge fan of Zenyatta, Ruffian, Goldikova, Xtra Heat, Miesque, Lady’s Secret, Personal Ensign, Azeri, Rachel Alexandra, Davona Dale, etc.

All the racehorse names in my book are cobbled together from Thoroughbreds that I’d worked with during my years at the track. Lucky All Over honors two wonderful fillies – Plain All Over (a stakes winner voted champion New Jersey bred two year old filly in 1989) and Luckey Lipco (a game claimer known for her win streaks at AC) Haunting Melody is the only real name I kept, although she was a dark bay filly I owned back in 1999 and not a gray gelding like the horse in my novel.

What are your favorite racetracks?

Atlantic City Racecourse was where I first started out so it will always be special to me. Garden State Park was my winter palace and I enjoyed shipping into Delaware Park, they were always so friendly. As a racing spectator, Belmont and Saratoga are my favorites but I hope to someday check out the west coast tracks.

Will there be any more horse racing novels from you?

Definitely. I’m currently working on one now, this time it will be set at Garden State Park and tells a more intimate story – a woman dealing with the loss of her mother while training a stable of misfit racehorses.

BACKSTRETCH GIRLS is available now at Amazon at this link:

Contributing Authors

Nick D’Agostino

Nick grew up In upstate New York near Saratoga. This afforded him the benefit of being able to embrace the ambiance  of the premier summertime...

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