Racing books for Christmas
We pick the best racing books for Christmas, from Barry Geraghty’s autobiography, 100 years of the Arc and Enable’s achievements to the whimsy of Ian Carnaby and the chronicling of a different world in the Racing Post Annual
It’s been a bit of a lean year for new racing books, so it’s good to welcome Barry Geraghty’s autobiography True Colours.
From his first win in 1997 he went on to ride almost 2,000 winners, making him the fourth most successful jumps jockey of all time. With the second most wins at Cheltenham in the sport’s history, he has worked with all the greats – Moscow Flyer, Kicking King, Monty’s Pass and Sprinter Sacre.
Geraghty finally retired in July 2020, covered in scars. He has broken all of his limbs, his shoulders, his ribs, his nose. He has survived falls too numerous to recall, and spent most of 2019 with a metal cast on his leg. And yet, he kept getting back on the horse, for 23 years.
His autobiography is about resilience, the mental power that enables the great to keep going despite the pain, despite the odds. It explores how he’s developed the mind tools to continue to push himself, even when all seems lost.
There hasn’t been a good racing autobiography for a while and True Colours shows us what we’ve been missing. Containing numerous revelations and a frank insight into the life of a top jockey, this will be enjoyed not just by the racing fraternity but the wider world of sports fans.
♦ True Colours: my Autobiography by Barry Geraghty. Headline, £20
With attendance at Longchamp limited to 1,000 turfistes, and the last-minute withdrawal of the Ballydoyle contingent, it wasn’t the best way to mark the 100th anniversary of the Arc. But justice has been done to the race with Celebrating a Century of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Author Malcolm Pannett charts the history of Europe’s – and arguably the world’s – greatest horse race. Established in 1920 and staged in Paris on the Bois de Boulogne.
This illustrated race-by-race account traces the exploits of many all-time racing legends. From Ribot, Sea Bird, Allez France and Mill Reef, to Dancing Brave, Sea The Stars, Treve and Enable.
It’s 400-plus pages is also a who’s who of the turf starring the Rothschild, Aga Khan, Wildenstein, Wertheimer and Head families, as well as Marcel Boussac, Vincent O’Brien, Lester Piggott and Yves Saint-Martin.
The modern era features luminaries such as Andre Fabre, Coolmore, Godolphin, John Gosden, Frankie Dettori and Khalid Abdullah. You’ll discover which champion hurdler won the title, which horse came back from stud to recapture his crown and which jockey ended up in prison as a result of his win.
♦ Celebrating a Century of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe by Malcolm Pannett. Pitch Publishing, £25
Enable may not have won a third Arc, but that in no way diminishes her reputation as a modern-day racing heroine. She stirred the emotions of fans like few before her. Any weather, any racecourse, and any opposition could be overcome; her achievements were unique.
Enable: Queen of the Turf tells the story through the words and pictures which appeared in the Racing Post.
It shows how Enable’s trainer John Gosden managed her from beginning to end. Setbacks are inevitable with a beast as fragile as the thoroughbred but Gosden was precise in his handling, and as a consequence Enable delivered when it mattered most, winning two Arcs among a host of Group 1 races before coming up just shy of a historic third in Paris.
Of course, her story is incomplete without the one-off in the saddle. Frankie Dettori, rider of so many household names, was moved to tears at York on her final racecourse appearance in Britain. He knew he would never ride another horse like Enable. She meant something more to him, something different. Enable will forever hold a special place in Frankie’s heart, as she will for all those who saw her race.
♦ Enable: queen of the turf by Andrew Pennington. Racing Post, £19.99
Ian Carnaby’s weekly column in the Sporting Life was a must-read and for over 30 years he was the Irish Field’s British correspondent. He’s been a freelance writer for nearly 20 years and contributes to Marten Julian’s Weekend Card whose readers accepted long ago that Brighton and Bath invariably rival Ascot and York when it comes to forensic form analysis.
Fifteen years ago, he wrote his memoir Not Minding That It Hurts. Now, he’s penned The Long Road From Portman Square, which is described as a gambler’s odyssey from Portsmouth to Paraguay.
Fans of Carnaby will be pleased to enjoy more of his whimsy and new readers will enjoy entering the world of Carnaby who lives in Nailsea, Bristol, though much of his work is produced in favourite hostelries and restaurants. He likes the quiet times there, the early mornings and mid-afternoons.
♦ The Long Road From Portman Square by Ian Carnaby. Marten Julien, £20
The Racing Post Annual is celebrating its tenth anniversary and indulges in a two-page look back at the front covers from 2012 onwards, when the stars were Frankel and Long Run.
The other 200-plus pages of the 2021 edition are packed with features on the good, bad and sad of the year past.
The good by way of Al Boum Photo, Battaash, Enable, Magical and Stradivarius. The bad centering on coronavirus, although there were plenty of triumphs over adversity, and the sad in the death of Pat Smullen albeit it that it’s a celebration of the life of a wonderful jockey, husband and father.
As ever, a standout element of the annual are the double-page Big Picture spreads from the cameras of Patrick McCann and Edward Whittaker.
♦ Racing Post Annual 2021 edited by Nick Pulford. Racing Post, £14.99
♦ Christmas Gift Ideas from the Injured Jockeys Fund shop http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-5jZ
♦ Your guide to the 2020/21 jump season annuals http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-5nR