The best horse racing books

9 authors have picked their favorite books about horse racing and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Seabiscuit: An American Legend

Seabiscuit: An American Legend

By Laura Hillenbrand,

Why this book?

A true-life horse racing Rocky story set against the backdrop of the Great Depression. While the blurb may sound like something straight out of Disney, Hillenbrand doesn’t shy away from exposing the darker side of racing, especially when it comes to the mistreatment of jockeys and horses.

From the list:

The Best Horse Racing Books From a Former Trainer

Book cover of For Kicks

For Kicks

By Dick Francis,

Why this book?

When Daniel Roke takes on an unusual job he does it for monetary and personal reasons and has no idea he is risking his life. Dick Francis takes you from Australia to the world of English horseracing with a clever plot that is unexpected and has a really wicked twist. He also can deliver some villains that inspire visceral dislike like no other author and doesn’t let you down in this intense novel. Well done and kept me doing the infamous reading into the night.

From the list:

The best books for the steep cliff page-turners

Book cover of Secretariat

Secretariat

By Raymond G. Woolfe Jr.,

Why this book?

My late mother was a Secretariat junkie and this gorgeous oversized hardcover book only fueled her passion. Loaded with beautiful photos of arguably the most photogenic Thoroughbred in history, Secretariat is sheer horse lover eye-candy at its finest. Ah, but there’s also a wonderful story to go along with those pretty pictures – a true-life fairytale about one of the greatest racehorses of our time and the irrepressible team behind the wonder horse.

From the list:

The Best Horse Racing Books From a Former Trainer

Book cover of Bolt

Bolt

By Dick Francis,

Why this book?

Actually, I could have chosen any of the Dick Francis mystery books for this list as they are wonderfully consistent in quality of writing and story. Plus, as a former steeple chase jockey, Francis knows horse racing. It’s surprising how many “horse books” out there get racing so wrong. I can’t count how many of his books I read while sitting in the barn waiting to race my own horses.

From the list:

The Best Horse Racing Books From a Former Trainer

Book cover of Black Gold

Black Gold

By Marguerite Henry,

Why this book?

While I loved all of Marguerite’s horse books as a child this one was my favorite. This may be listed as a “children’s book” but the story is in no way “dumbed down” nor is the cruel treatment of Black Gold by his trainer glossed over. Featuring the charming illustrations of Wesley Dennis, Black Gold is a sweet but ultimately tragic underdog story.

From the list:

The Best Horse Racing Books From a Former Trainer

Book cover of How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders

How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders

By Maryjean Wall,

Why this book?

As a journalist, Wall reported on horse racing in Kentucky for many years before becoming a serious student of history, which makes her writing really readable. Today, most people classify Kentucky as a southern state, but before and immediately following the Civil War it was considered the west. This book explains the switch, giving horsemen credit for rehabbing the Bluegrass State’s tarnished image, albeit to serve their own financial interests. Besides introducing readers to the post-war history of Kentucky, it provides a useful introduction to horse culture. After reading it, you will understand why the Kentucky Derby is so steeped…
From the list:

The best books about Kentucky history

Book cover of I Rode the Red Horse: Secretatriat's Belmont Race

I Rode the Red Horse: Secretatriat's Belmont Race

By Barbara Libby,

Why this book?

A singular talent of his generation and arguably one of the greatest racehorses of all time, few are unaware of the feats of the immortal Secretariat. Prior to his record-breaking three-year-old campaign, it had been twenty-five years since the sport had crowned a Triple Crown champion. Through immersive illustrations and the words of the prized colt's jockey, Ron Turcotte, the tale comes alive to delight a new generation and bring those who were there back to the glory of the red horse.

From the list:

The best children's books about horse racing

Book cover of Seabiscuit the Wonder Horse

Seabiscuit the Wonder Horse

By Meghan McCarthy,

Why this book?

I adore the quirky, offbeat illustrations that perfectly compliment the tale of an underdog racehorse who proved the world wrong. During his life, Seabiscuit was a big-name celebrity once the right team of owner, trainer, and jockey found him. The tale of an unlikely hero resonates beautifully during our current troubled times. McCarthy manages to use an economy of words to tell the story well to the youngest of readers. 

From the list:

The best children's books about horse racing

Book cover of Come to Grief

Come to Grief

By Dick Francis,

Why this book?

Dick Francis combines the wonderful world of horses with crime mystery. Dick Francis wrote many books and later combined with his son, Felix, who continued the dynasty after his father’s death. This is exciting and factual fiction. In Come to Grief, Sid Halley, an ex-champion jockey turned investigator, uncovers an obnoxious crime committed by a close friend, whom he had held in high regard. 

From the list:

The best books for horse lovers

Book cover of The Edge

The Edge

By Dick Francis,

Why this book?

I tend to distrust frenetic hype around authors, only to be proven wrong again and again. The Edge was the first Dick Francis thriller I was given, and it won me over completely. Part of its charm is the setting – I’d love to take a train journey across Canada! But adding Shakespeare, theater, and horses to the mystery about a blackmailer on board a luxury train won me over completely. Like all the great books of the crime genre, The Edge can be just read for the sheer excitement, but it can also be enjoyed for the underlying themes…

From the list:

The best mysteries set on ships and trains

Or, view all 22 books about horse racing

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