Reading List: General Racing
By Melaina Phipps, Hello Race Fans Contributor

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From life at the track to some of racing’s greatest mysteries, these books provide a broad spectrum of observation about the racing world.

A Year at the Races by Jane Smiley

Best-selling and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jane Smiley takes readers along on a year-long journey toward the winner’s circle with her own racehorses, Hornblower (aka “Wowie”) and Waterwheel. Unabashed horse lover—and sometime eccentric—Smiley shares her admiration of the horse in these pages with a blend of experiences, facts, and feelings, along with observation and theory on the nature of the equine and the human. While neither horse achieved success at the track, Smiley’s connection to the animal is unshaken. Perhaps this is what comes when one’s livelihood does not dependent the racing industry, but nonetheless, it is a refreshing and entertaining read.
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Archjockey of Canterbury and Other Tales by Kent Hollingsworth

Former editor of the Blood-Horse, Kent Hollingsworth is no doubt missed at his former offices. Indeed he is missed in the industry as a whole for both his extraordinary knowledge and his ability to tell a story. The Archjockey of Canterbury is a collection of both. It is a compilation of stories, of histories, of people, and places—it’s a grand history of some of the best of Thoroughbred racing and breeding. All previously published in the Blood-Horse, these tales and tidbits are undated and organized in “no particular order,” which at times can be frustrating. However, between the characters you’ll meet as you travel from Saratoga to Keeneland to Hialeah to Longchamp, and the history you’ll relive, chronology won’t be foremost in your mind. Undoubtedly a wonderful addition to any racing library.
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Great Horse Racing Mysteries by John McEvoy

From race-fixing scandals to a disappearing jockey to the demise of Calumet Farm, Great Horse Racing Mysteries is a wild ride through racing history. John McEvoy brings to life the stories that have baffled racing fans for generations. How did Phar Lap really die? What happened to the famous European race horse Shergar? These and other questions are investigated with Sam Spade–esque zeal in this highly entertaining collection of tales. While some mysteries may never be solved, McEvoy’s detecting and reporting are sure to intrigue racing fans and mystery fans alike.
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Horseplayers: Life at the Track by Ted McClelland

For some, betting isn’t a way to spend a few bucks on the weekend: it’s a job. For most, this is an unbelievable way to make (or try to make) a living. Ted McClelland tries to see how it’s done. Taking ten months at Hawthorne and Arlington in Chicago, he dedicates himself to learning about handicapping and life at the races. McClelland meets trackers from every walk of life—some “professional,” some dabblers. Each has his own methods and systems, but all are looking for the same thing: a big win. Often overlooked as subjects for books on racing, these characters are the ones thatpump life—and money—into the game, and this profile brings them to life.
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Not by a Long Shot by T. D. Thornton

For the casual fan of Thoroughbred racing, Not by a Long Shot is an insider’s view of what really goes on during a track’s day-to-day workings. From his position as director of media relations at Boston’s Suffolk Downs, T. D. Thornton chronicles a six-month season interlacing stories of trainers, jockeys, horses, exercise riders, backstretch workers, bettors—winners and losers, newcomers and old-timers. It paints a true picture of a track that is one of many across the country—a track that many will never visit and that some don’t even know exists—that help propel the billion-dollar industry.
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The Home Run Horse by Glenye Cain

For fans who think that owning a Triple Crown– or Breeders’ Cup– winning horse is the end-all goal in racing, Glenye Cain’s book will be an education. From the auction room to the track to the breeding shed, The Home Run Horse describes a fuller picture of the Thoroughbred racing industry, including a history of the sales business and using examples such as Satish Sanan’s purchase and campaign of Vindication and Coolmore’s breeding program. With horses as much commodities as they are athletes, Cain explains the extraordinary lengths to which owners will go to protect their investments. As counterpoint, however, one chapter focuses on Funny Cide’s 2003 Triple Crown bid and is a reminder that a “home-run” can mean different things to different people.
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They Call the Horses by Edie Dickenson

To many at the track or watching racing on TV, they are simply disembodied voices, but sometimes, they create the historic moments we all remember as much as the horses themselves. In They Call the Horses, Edie Dickenson shares the lives and stories of eleven of the top racetrack announcers in the country: Tom Durkin, Kurt Becker, Dave Rodman, Michael Wrona, Terry Wallace, Larry Collmus, John Dooley, the late Luke Kruytbosch, Dave Johnson, Robert Geller, and Trevor Denman. With a chapter dedicated to each announcer, the book details their lives, their careers, and their stories—memorable calls and bloopers included. Clearly these announcers are in it for the love of the game, and theirs are tales that will entertain and inspire.
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Three Strides before the Wire by Elizabeth Mitchell

The first time Elizabeth Mitchell ever went to the races she saw Charismatic’s upset win at the 1999 Kentucky Derby, winning ticket in her hand. Following the horse’s campaign through the Triple Crown and learning about the connections, Mitchell weaves together the biographical background and stories of owners Bob and Beverly Lewis, trainer D. Wayne Lukas, and jockey Chris Antley along with her own experiences and relationships. Interspersed throughout the Triple Crown trail narrative are chapters of history and background, and the result of the whole is a book that explores the wide range of emotions that carry us through the triumphs and disappointments of the game and of life.
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