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Centaur by Declan Murphy, Ami Rao

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Shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2017

Miraculously, and the word is not used lightly, Declan Murphy survived and defied medical thinking in recovering to the extent that eighteen months after his fall, he was able to saddle up for one more race. It is a story of triumph, fear, love and loss, by turns primal, heartbreaking and inspirational, and ultimately, it is the story of hope, and of life.

William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2017 is Tom Simpson: Bird on the Wire by Andy McGrath, publsihed by cycling specialist Raph Editions

Other shortlisted books for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2017 were:

The Greatest Combeack: From Genocid to Football Glory by David Bolchover (Biteback Publishing)

Ali: A Life by Jonathan Eig (Simon & Schuster)

Quiet Genius: Bob Paisley, British Football's Greatest Manager by Ian Herbert (Bloomsbury Sport, Bloombsury)

Swell: A Waterbiography by Jenny Landreth (Bloomsbury Sport, Bloomsbury)

Centaur by Declan Murphy and Ami Rao (Doubleday, Transworld)

Breaking Ground: Art, Archaelogy and Mythology edited by Neville Gable, Alan Ward and Jason Wood (Axis Projects)

Last year the prize was won by Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan (Corsair)

Win a signed copy by Dame Vera Lynn

Three very lucky winners will each receive a signed copy by Dame Vera Lynn and her daughter Virginia of Dame Vera Lynn's memoir - Keep Smiling Through; My Wartime Story - written with her daughter Virginia Lewis-Jones, together with a DVD of the birthday concert held in her honour to celebrate her 100th birthday earlier this year.

To have a chance of winning this fantastic prize, click the button below. Please note that this draw is open only for UK residents and is free to enter, multiple entries from the same email address will only be counted once.

The draw closes on 11 December 2017. The winners will be notified by 15th December 2017, and you should get your prize in time for Christmas.

Good luck!

Enter prize draw Draw closes: 11/12/2017


Centaur by Declan Murphy, Ami Rao


Coping with your own death, when you are not yet dead, is a strange thing...

A natural on a horse since he was able to walk, and imbued with a pure love of riding, Declan Murphy became one of the most brilliant jockeys of his generation before his world came crashing down at the final hurdle of a race at Haydock Park. His skull shattered in twelve places, he was believed to be dead, the last rites were read and the Racing Post prepared his obituary. Miraculously, and the word is not used lightly, he survived and defied medical thinking in recovering to the extent that eighteen months after his fall, he was able to saddle up for one more race. As usual, he won.

For 23 years, Declan has been unable to tell his story, to bring to words existence on the frontier between life and death, to describe the incredible bond between man and horse. But now, in an extraordinary collaboration with Ami Rao, she has helped him find those words, a way to piece together what happened before, during and after, what it all meant and what it means to us all. It is a story of triumph, fear, love and loss, by turns primal, heartbreaking and inspirational, and ultimately, it is the story of hope, and of life.


Beautifully written and genuinely revealing. It is brilliant. A work of art, Centaur has a rhythm all of its own but more than that, it has an immense depth of soul and spirit. Declan has been brave enough to show himself raw, at his most vulnerable, and Ami has been clever and empathetic in her telling of the story. Together they have made magical music. The rhythm of the prose reads like a Declan Murphy-ridden race: beautiful and steady, balanced and spiritual before unleashing its dangerous sprint to the line. -- Clare Balding

Emotional and honest, Centaur is an unflinching look at how Murphy 'came back from the dead and the heavy price extracted for doing so. Centaur is a book haunted by ghosts: lost careers, lost memories, lost friendships and, most devastatingly of all, lost love... Not only a certain candidate for the William Hill sports book of the year but also sure to be on many non-sports fans end-of-year lists. -- Sarah Hughes * Observer *

A magnificent piece of work: never less than enthralling... a thing of dramatic beauty. * Mail on Sunday *

Deeply powerful, [told with] grace and poetry... an entirely gripping drama. * Sunday Express *

Brilliant, bold, at times brutal. * Sunday Telegraph *

Heart-rending... a page-turner. * The Times *

Riveting... At times, it's an uncomfortable read, but the journey from awakening from a coma and trying to piece together the absent parts of his life is truly heart-rending. * Robert Cooper, Racing Plus *

Extraordinary... It is a miraculous tale, recounted with searing honesty. Here is a book that goes way beyond the normal ambitions of the sporting autobiography and clears those limits with room to spare. -- Scott Burton * Racing Post * `

Really, really beautifully written... the most riveting description. Extraordinary, quite brilliant... it's an amazing read.* Sarah Brett and Nihal Arthanayake, BBC Radio Five Live Afternoon Edition *

Wonderfully written... very moving. -- Brough Scott

Primal, heartbreaking and inspirational. The story of triumph, fear, love and loss, it's a remarkable testament to beating the odds and reclaiming a life in the most dire of circumstances. * Booktime *

Extraordinary: an outstanding book. Superb. * Matt Williams, BBC Radio 2 *

You can read and enjoy Centaur simply as a thrilling account of an elite sportsman who nearly died, but lived to ride again. There are beautiful insights too into the relationship between rider and horse. But it is also a book about how stories get told. -- Caroline Sanderson * The Bookseller *

A stirring story. * The Sunday Times *

With lovely descriptions, so very frank. Wonderful. It's a truly amazing story. -- Libby Purves

Extraordinary... Centaur defies all the usual definitions of biography/autobiography/memoir because Ami has worked in an area that sometimes sounding-board, sometimes investigator, sometimes therapist and her ability to read and authentically express emotion has made it possible to bridge gaps in Declan's life - to create a coherent version of the story that's going to blow readers away. It has almost as much potential outside of the sporting world as within it. Ami has taken a 'sportsman's memoir with all the attendant concentration on performance and motivation and translated it into something with the broadest human relevance. -- Tim Hayward

Remarkable. * Irish Independent *

Extraordinary... one of the most incredible and brave memoirs. Beautifully written and worthy of the highest plaudits. * The Last Word *

Compelling. * Irish Examiner *

An extraordinary story [and] a wonderful read... even if you've never read a book in your life, even if you don't normally read, people will really enjoy this. * RTE Radio 1, Today with Sean O'Rourke *

Mesmerising, haunting and beautifully written. -- Lauren St John A remarkable man with a remarkable story. * BBC Radio Ulster, Sunday Sequence *

Absolutely amazing... it offers a fascinating insight into how the brain works. * Newstalk, Off The Ball *

If this book isn't prominent in the best of not just sports books but books of the year, and if it's not sweeping awards come Christmas then there's something massively flawed with the process. This isn't a racing book, this is a remarkable personal story, a brilliant read. I've not read a book in a long time that has affected me as much as this book, it's unbelievable... if you have an interest in human life, if you have an interest in human psychology, in the will the survive, if you want to hear about bravery, about overcoming challenges, that's the book to buy. It's as motivational a book as you will get. * 2FM, Game On *

About the Author

Declan Murphy (Author) Declan Murphy was born in rural Limerick on 5 March 1966. Like most of his seven siblings, he took to riding horses from an early age and after being spotted by Ireland's top trainers became a leading amateur jockey while at school. He then moved to England and rode a host of winners in races as prestigious as the Champion Chase and Mackeson Gold Cup, as well as two Irish Champion Hurdles, before a near-fatal accident on Arcot at Haydock Park in May 1994. Eighteen months later he rode a final winner, Jibereen, at Chepstow. Ami Rao (Author) Ami Rao is a British-American writer who was born in Calcutta and has lived and worked in New York City, London, Paris, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Ami has a BA in English Literature from Ohio Wesleyan University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. As a self-proclaimed foodie, she has written before for Tim Hayward's Fire & Knives. She has always been 'absolutely horse mad' and rides regularly in her spare time. Centaur is her debut book.

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Book Info

Publication date

27th April 2017


Declan Murphy, Ami Rao

More books by Declan Murphy, Ami Rao
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Doubleday an imprint of Transworld Publishers Ltd


304 pages


Sport from the Armchair
Biography / Autobiography
All Shortlists and Winners

Autobiography: sport
Horse racing



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