The Best Horse Racing Books

Crist, an executive and columnist with the Daily Racing Form, has ably filled that hole with this book, which offers some solid strategies for tackling both single and multi-race exotics. Cramer virtually invented the idea of unconventional handicapping as a way of uncovering hidden value, and here he offers ways to use pedigree handicapping, company lines, and other contrarian methods to beat the speed handicappers at their own game.

Secretariat: The Making of a Champion by William Nack

Nack is a long time Sports Illustrated writer who had unprecedented access to the great Secretariat and his connections during “Big Red’s” amazing career. The information is certainly a bit dated, but there’s still lots of good food for thought considering the book was published 25 years ago.

The Race for the Triple Crown by Joe Drape

New York Times writer Joe Drape gives an excellent history of a year on the Derby Trail among the high class stables of New York, a world far removed from the scrape-along lifestyle at most race tracks.

The Winning Horseplayer by Andrew Beyer

Written in 1983 it’s still an excellent introduction to trip handicapping and how to relate trips to speed figures. Nack gives us a ring side seat for all the twists and turns leading up to his incredible Triple Crown Campaign. A meticulously researched account of Seabiscuit’s rags to riches story, as well as that of his owner, trainer, and jockey.

My $50,000 Year at the Races by Andrew Beyer

Andy Beyer always delivers a good read, and this account of his home run year of 1977 when he beat the races for 50 large while splitting his time between Gulfstream Park and the Maryland tracks is one of my favorite racing books ever. I particularly enjoyed Ragozin’s war stories about his experiences as a horse owner and bettor (he and his partner Len Friedman have poured millions into the parimutuel pools over the years). The focus here is on non-fiction books, although there’s no shortage of fictional horse racing books. I’ve spent countless happy hours with this book revisiting some old friends as well as learning about the greats before my time. A great portrait of the greatest horse of all time.

General Interest Horse Racing Books

Handicapping Magic by Michael Pizzolla

There haven’t been a lot of additions to the body of handicapping knowledge since the glory days of the 70’s and 80’s, but former Sartin disciple Pizzolla at least contributes something new with his Balanced Speed Ratings and Fulcrum Pace. Beyer always interleavens his handicapping books with lots of good stories that bring out the magic of the track from the bettor’s point of view.

Stud: Adventures in Breeding by Kevin Conley

A behind-the-scenes look at the world of high-class breeding, where millions of dollars are at stake, and wealthy breeders roll the dice as they “breed the best to the best and hope for the best.” Conley gives as a look into the breeding life of the great sire Storm Cat, as well as the Godolphin breeding operation, where Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum spends tens of millions trying for that elusive Derby winner

Champions by Daily Racing Form Staff

An awesome collection of lifetime past performance for every eclipse award winner since the 1890’s. The book is more notable for its exiting narrative than its handicapping secrets, but speed figures and track bias played a large part in his success.

Speed Handicapping by Andrew Beyer

By the time this was written in 1993, speed figures had lost most of their value in the parimutuel pools, but Beyer is nothing if not a die hard figure player. In addition to an excellent chapter on money management, Mitchell teaches you how to calculate the cost of any exotic wager, make an odds line, as well as how to know when a bet is offering value on the tote board.

Kinky Handicapping by Mark Cramer

Cramer is one of the most entertaining and thought-provoking handicapping writers there is, and Kinky Handicapping is his magnum opus. Quinn gives an introduction into how figures are made, as well as their application as part of the general handicapping process. He also provides a figure method for the turf based on late speed as a deciding factor.

The Odds Must Be Crazy by Len Ragozin

Ragozin is the creator of the famous “Sheets” performance figures (which some consider a bargain at $25 a pop), and this autobiography cum handicapping tome gives a broad overview of how the numbers are created as well as how their users employ pattern matching to find live horses that may offer solid value in the mutual pools. My favorite part of the book details Beyer’s expedition into the virgin territory of Australian racing, where he attempted to use his figures to conquer the fat betting pools down under.

Laughing in the Hills by Bill Barich

Barich is a terrific writer, and here he gives a wonderful account of bumming around the Northern California racing circuit in the late 1970s, marking time and getting to know the colorful denizens of the Golden Gate Fields backside.

Money Secrets at the Racetrack by Barry Meadow

Many consider this the best book ever written on money management and the mathematical aspect of value betting and exotic betting. A great book to dip into when a losing streak has you looking for new ideas.

Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand

A book that hardly needs an introduction, given the sensation it made when published. I’ve divided this article into two sections, one focusing on handicapping books, and the other on more general interest books. Meadow is a serious player and the information here is rock solid.

Commonsense Betting by Dick Mitchell

Winning at the track takes more than good handicapping. Beyer on Speed gives a solid overview of how speed figures are made as well as how they might be employed for betting success. This book covers speed and pace figures, Quirin Speed Points, pedigree handicapping on the grass, even trip handicapping. A must for every horseplayer’s bookshelf.

Thoroughbred Handicapping State of the Art by William Quirin

Quirin was among the first to do a major computer study of American horse racing. Not a great place to start for the novice, but well worth reading for more experienced players.

Modern Pace Handicapping By Tom Brohammer

If you only read one book about pace handicapping, this should be the one. Here are my choices for the best horse racing books.

Handicapping Books

Horse of a Different Color by Jim Squires

A great account of what it’s like to be a small time breeder by Jim Squires, the former Chicago Tribune editor turned thoroughbred breeder who hit the big time when he bred the Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos.

Exotic Betting by Steven Crist

Most of the best handicapping books were written before exotic betting came to dominate the mutual pools, and this has left a big hole in the literature for horseplayers seeking the big score. In this book, recently republished by DRF Press, he brings together a comprehensive overview of most aspects of modern handicapping theory. MPH contains a complete overview of the classic Sartin Methodology by its best-known (and perhaps most successful) practitioner. It also requires solid money management, and that’s where Commonsense Betting comes in. Crist is a pick six specialist, and his treatment of how to use multiple tickets to tackle that difficult bet is well worth the price of the book.

Betting Thoroughbreds by Steve Davidowitz

For my money this is the best general handicapping book ever written, and a great place to start for novices looking to expand their knowledge as well as more seasoned players looking to move up. Davidowitz gives a solid treatment of virtually all aspects of handicapping from speed and pace handicapping to workouts, conditioning, trainers, pedigree, and betting strategy. I can’t imagine a horse racing fan who won’t enjoy paging through this book.

The Best of Thoroughbred Handicapping by James Quirin

Quinn was the most prolific of handicapping writers in the 80’s and 90’s. If you’ve ever wanted to know about feet-per-second calculations, early, late and sustained pace, decision models, track profiles and all the other tools of high-tech pace handicapping, this is the place to start..

Figure Handicapping By James Quinn

As the title suggests, speed and pace figures are the focus here. Ragozin doesn’t give away the store here, but there’s still plenty of good information as well as an enjoyable read for horse racing fans.

What are the best horse racing books?  Horse Racing has an excellent body of literature that surpasses most sports in its quality and variety. Sadly, several of the books mentioned here are out of print, but they can often be found on ebay or at abebooks. There’s something about the beauty of the thoroughbred and the color of the backstretch that brings out the lyrical side of many writers

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