This list began life as an idea to produce a Top Ten of Horse Racing books to read during the current lockdown; but I failed in spectacular fashion. I ended up with a shortlist of thirty odd books and was completely unable to whittle them down to ten let alone in any kind of numerical order of preference.
So, dear reader, here follows a Girdys Gee Gees guide to ten books, in no particular order at all, that I would advise you to read whilst we are stuck indoors with no actual horse racing to enjoy.
Doped - Jamie Reid:
The real life story of the 1960’s racehorse doping gang with Bill Roper and Albert Dimes ‘Italian Albert’ amongst other up to no good. Most racing folk will know the story but the book is a real page turner none the less and a very enjoyable read.
Gentleman George? The contradictory life of George Duffield:
An interesting read and insight into the life of one of the leading jockeys in modern times. If you were a fan of Duffield kicking one home for Sir Mark Prescott, as he did over 800 times, then this is one for you.
Winning It Back Gary Wiltshire:
Remember Gary, the guy that took everyone on when Fankie Dettori rode his Magnificent Seven and did his brains! He ended up owing over a million pounds. Well this is his story and a very god read it is to. As the cover says a tale of winning big and losing big – and winning it back.
Richard Hughes A Weight Of My Mind:
This is a cracking little read, and none the worse for the fact it was published before he became Champion Jockey in 2012. It is a remarkably frank insight into the life of a jockey, the good and the bad, as he talks of his battle with the scales and alcohol as well as the big wins.
Winners Enclosure An Autobiography Terry Biddlecombe:
I actually stumbled across this, first published in 1982, in a Hospital Bookshop on sale for a £1. I am not sure I should admit is does carry a stamp from Wantz Library, Dagenham in it, late fees will be a crippler! It’s Terry Biddlecombe, how could you not want to read his autobiography? Three times Champ and a legend of the game on and off the track if you can track a copy down, buy it!
Tales From The Turf Reflections From A Life in Horseracing Robin Oakley
A collection of writings from Robin Oakley I am glad to say not of the Political kind, he was Political Editor at the BBC, but instead from his love of horse racing. Trainers, Jockeys, Horses, the good and the great are covered and it is a very enjoyable read. He is an opinionated man, as you would expect, and that made it an even better read for me.
Henry Cecil Trainer of Genius Brough Scott.
One of my all time favourite racing journalists writing about one of my all time favourite trainers, this was always going to be a good’un for me. You will probably know a lot of what is in this book, but not all. From his early years having been born in the middle of World War II through the ups and downs to, of course, Frankel. This is a lovely book and well worth a read.
The Racing Tribe Kate Fox
Kate Fox is a social anthropologist, in short, she assesses social trends and human behaviour. In 1996 she was commissioned by the BHA to conduct research on racegoers and the book is based on her findings. I found it a fascinating read as she looks at the ‘racing tribe’, the types of people and their rituals and etiquette. It’s about us, the ‘racing tribe’ and who doesn't want to read about themselves?
Freud On Course The Racing Lives Of Clement Freud
Freud died suddenly in April 2009 while writing his weekly column for the Racing Post. This is a collection of his work including many of those jokes he would work into his column. I was, and remain, a fan of this guys work and purchased the book as soon as I saw it. If you enjoyed the column you must buy this book.
The Best Of Alaistair Down Cheltenham et al
I have mentioned Freud and Scott already but Alaistair Down is the best of the best for me, I love his articles. The man waxes lyrical and paints a picture with his words when he writes and this book, as the title suggests, is the best of his countless pieces for racing papers down the years. The opening lines in the preface read ‘Every house has need of a doorstop or something suitably chunky to hurl at the television when a photo finish goes against you. This volume should perform both functions admirably. Hopefully some of it will be worth reading as well.’ A true wordsmith if you haven’t got a copy of this, treat yourself; if you don’t like it use it as the great man suggests, as a doorstop.
I hope you pick up at least one of the above books, and of course enjoy reading it. Stay safe and well, and please stay home. Be lucky.