There's something about the coexistence of sadness and romance in horse-racing that's hard to pin down; while its halcyon days are long past, horse-racing retains some of the pageantry and mystery that once made it the sport of kings (now the sport of conglomerates and sheiks).
The recognition and maintenance of this duality is to my mind the central achievement of Jaimy Gordon's Lord of Misrule. Her characters are down and desperate, but not despairing. Hope is kindled by the prospect of a big win, but the hope is on the level of a trailer home to call your own. Few of the characters seem to have any designs on leaving the track and even fewer of the horses possess anything like quality. Even the plot of the novel seems aimless and beside the point; scene and sentiment are as important as success.
Ultimately it is Gordon's linguistic verdancy that imbues the near-squalor of low-stakes horse-racing with something like nobility. Her casual, unremarked on deployment of a by-gone lexicon resuscitates, however briefly, the possibility of the perfect horse and the transcendent race.