From handicapping tomes to adventure stories, horse racing literature includes some of the most well-written and engaging texts of any genre. Even casual readers probably know about Seabiscuit, but there are a plethora of books that masterfully capture the highs and lows of the sport along with its intermingling of beauty and seediness. Here is a short list where horse racing inspires the core of the narrative and the words reveal the sport of kings’ authentic and poetic truths.
Top 5 Horse Racing Books
Why They’re Great
Essentially, these books are great reads for different reasons. For the aspiring handicapper, for instance, there is no better beginning guide than Andrew Beyer’s seminal text Picking Winners. Originally published in 1975, the book’s primary themes are timeless.
Beyer’s approach to handicapping explains the art and science in a no-nonsense and entertaining way. For anyone with even a slight desire to learn the rudiments of betting, Beyer’s book is the choice, but it’s also the kind of read you’ll want to pick up again and again to relive some of the colorful stories the author relates.
For readers with more of a literary bent, Bill Barich’s Laughing in the Hills provides an intimate view of racetrack life as do Elizabeth Mitchell’s Three Strides Before the Wire and Jane Smiley’s A Year at the Races. Each author offers their personal connection to horse racing, providing different lenses, but never romanticizing the subject.
Barich is particularly creative with his frequent illusions to the Italian Renaissance interspersed with his personal traveling, wagering and observing experiences at Golden Gate fields while attempting to escape depression following his mother’s death and the inevitable dissolution of his marriage.
In perhaps the best piece of horse racing journalism produced, Ann Hagedorn Auerbach chronicles the rise and fall of the famed Calumet Farm in Wild Ride. Calumet’s story, as told by Auerbach, is a page-turner that reads like a cross between The Great Gatsby and a true crime piece. Some of the stories Auerbach relates are truly unbelievable including the suspicious circumstances surrounding the great stallion Alydar’s death.
Without question, horse racing is a powerful game that has inspired some diverse literature that holds its own outside of the genre. For racing fans who love to read, there are a plethora of titles out there worth exploring.
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