Sadly, every day doesn’t bring about a horse race, but you can read books about horse racing just about any time you want! If you’re looking for a book about horse racing to read, you’re pretty spoiled for choice.
Since the sport’s invention in the 12th century, many stories have been told about the world of horse racing. Luckily, most of these stories are available in paperback form, so you can read about them anywhere!
In this guide, you’ll find a list of what I believe to be the most insightful and captivating books about horse racing. Each book in our selection details a different aspect of modern horse racing and transports you to the race track.
Here are the best horse racing books you can easily pick up today:
1. Best New Horse Racing Book – Kick the Latch by Kathryn Scanlan
Kick the Latch is the best horse racing book released in recent years. Since hitting the shelves in 2022, Kathryn Scanlan’s funny and insightful book takes a unique look at the world of racing horses. The premise revolves around interviews with Sonia, a fictionalised version of a real-life female horse trainer and racer from Iowa.
Through Sonia’s accounts, the reader is transported to the inner world of Mid-West horseracing. Topics covered include the local lingo, fashion, and the world of horse racing from a woman’s perspective.
Although the book may exaggerate certain aspects of the sport, Kick the Latch is fun, unforgettable, and totally unlike any other book you’ll find on the topic of racing horses.
2. Best Historical Novel About Horse Racing – Sea Biscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
This is the book you should read if you’re looking to find out everything about America’s greatest horserace hero: Sea Biscuit. In case you didn’t know, Sea Biscuit was a thoroughbred racing horse who lived between 1933 and 1947. In his lifetime, Sea Biscuit reached celebrity status by winning 33 out of 89 races, which was record-breaking. He became a top money winner in the US bookies – a true legend.
Sea Biscuit was at the peak of his career during the Great Depression of the twentieth century, which added to his legend and special status.
This novel by Laura Hillenbrand captures both the darkness and excitement of the era through the story of the horse. The character studies of the people around the horse, such as his riders and trainers, also make for an entertaining read. It provides the reader with a fascinating look into how the sport was run at the time.
Besides providing insightful historical details, Sea Biscuit also serves as a universal underdog story that can be enjoyed even by people who don’t like racing horses.
3. Best Crime Novel About Racing Horses – Odds Against by Dick Francis
Dick Francis was a steeplechase jockey. Not only that, but he was the British National Hunt’s champion jockey and he won over 350 races – very impressive!
After he retired, he turned his hand to writing crime novels. Clearly not ready to leave the world of horse racing behind him, basically all of his books are based around the race track (write about what you know, I suppose). Francis’s racing horse past lends these books a certain air of authority, leading many readers to believe that the events actually happened.
Out of all of Francis’s horse racing crime novels, I believe his best to be Odds Against.This is an earlier novel which came out in 1965 that takes readers on a deep dive into the world of racing horses. Specifically, it looks at the risks and dangers that jockeys face every race day.
An honourable mention would be Forfeit (1968), which examines doping in racing.
4. Best Horse Racing Book About the Doping Scandal – Doped: The Real Life Story of the 1960s Racehorse Doping Gang by Jamie Reid
On the topic of doping in horse racing, this book by Jamie Reid provides all the gritty details about the horse doping scandal that engulfed the horse racing scene in Britain in the 1960s.
This work of non-fiction centres around a criminal horse racing gang getting exposed for attempting to dope a royal horse. The police then uncover a far-reaching and complicated criminal network associated with the horse racing sport, as well as the corruption of the racing horse industry itself.
This book looks at the methods used for doping horses, explores the gang members and jockeys involved, and takes in the public reaction to the scandal at the time.
If you’re interested in modern racing and want to better understand sports history more widely, Doped is essential reading.
5. Best Book About Modern Horse Racing History – American Pharoah: The Untold Story of the Triple Crown Winner’s Legendary Rise by Joe Drape
American Pharoah: The Untold Story looks at one of the most legendary stories in recent horse racing history. It follows a thoroughbred horse called American Pharoah from birth to training, to the horse’s professional racing career. American Pharoah became significant in 2015 when the horse became the first Triple Crown Winner in 37 years.
What makes a horse a Triple Crown? Well, American Pharoah won three of the US’s most significant horse races. The three horse races are the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.
What does it take to breed a horse like that? This book reveals all. Not only does it examine the story of the horse, but also the jockeys and the rest of the team that helped train American Pharoah. It perfectly captures the excitement and frustration of horse racing, as well as the reaction of fans to American Pharoah’s achievements.
6. Best for Casual Reading – McIlvanney on Racing by Hugh McIlvanney
McIlvanney on Racing is an anthology of the best columns written by legendary racing journalist Hugh McIlvanney. During his career, McIlvanney gained a name for himself through his eloquent and insightful sports writing. He was famed for his analysis and reflections on the sport and garnered many dedicated readers over the years.
The reviews found in McIlvanney on Racing are taken from several publications, including the Observer, the Sunday Times, and the Times. Although some of the reviews may be six decades old, McIlvanney’s captivating writing style transports you right to the race track on the day that he’s talking about.
From McIlvanney’s excellent writing, many people have formed their opinion on racing: what they expect from quality horse racing, or how to analyse a race. This influence still works on people reading his work today.
Given that it’s a collection of columns, it’s a great book to pick up and put down as needed. In fact, it’s better to read it slowly over time to really appreciate the beauty of McIvanney’s prose.
7. Best Easy-to-Read Book About the Racing World – A Day at the Races: The Horses, People and Races that Shaped the Sport of Kings by Peter May
If you’re looking for some light reading, this book by Peter May works as a comprehensible guide to the whole history of the racing establishment. Peter May has selected 128 key moments that shook the world of racing to its core. While each of these events is explored in depth, they are written about in an easy-to-read style, allowing you to immerse yourself in the entire history of the sport.
Once you’ve finished reading A Day at the Races, you’ll know how the sport evolved throughout the centuries, and how it became what it is today. You’ll learn about famous races, legendary jockeys, and, most importantly, iconic horses.
If you’re looking to brush up on your horse racing trivia, this book is for you. It’s bedside table-worthy for all horse lovers.
8. Best Humorous Book – Racing Crazy: The Best of David Ashforth by David Ashforth
As far as horse racing books go, none will leave you laughing as much as Racing Crazy: The Best of David Ashforth. David Ashforth was actually a college lecturer of modern history with a PhD prior to becoming a horse racing journalist. This academic background lends his work an analytical appeal, although it’s still very easy to read.
In this compilation of Ashforth’s columns, the writer’s humour shines through. While these articles provide you with great insight into the sport, they serve primarily to entertain. They’re super fun to read and rarely boring. So, if you struggle to read drier books on the topic, but still want to learn more about the sport, this book is recommended.
The columns are pulled from a wide range of publications that Ashforth contributed to. This includes the Racing Post, the Sporting Life, the Times, At the Races, and the Daily Mail.
9. Best Scientific Book About Horse Racing – The Racing Tribe: Portrait of a British Subculture by Kate Fox
The Racing Tribe is a book which details the research of British Racing by anthropologist Kate Fox. Fox seeks to paint an accurate picture of the horse racing scene. In the book, she examines the customs of both horse racers and racing fans, the secret language used by those in the scene, and the social dynamics that are at play.
While this may not be the most interesting read for those looking for facts about the sport, it does provide a totally unique look at horse racing and helps readers better understand their love and appreciation for the sport.
The writer’s anthropological background allows her to expertly analyse betting practices, superstitions, and interpersonal relationships between jockeys and fans. Overall, this 1995 book explores the horse racing industry as a cultural phenomenon that will likely continue to fascinate for centuries to come.
10. The Best How-To Guide – Horse Racing Manual by Tom Peacock
If you’re looking for a straight-up comprehensive guide on how to train and keep a racing horse, then the Horse Racing Manual by Tom Peacock will do the trick. In a brief 192 pages, Peacock takes you through the process of training and maintaining a professional horse. He breaks down this process into four main categories: owning, training, racing, and following.
On top of providing a behind-the-scenes look at the world of horse racing, this racing book doubles up as a guide on how to conduct yourself at a horse racing event. It breaks down how the typical race day is structured, what’s acceptable to wear at horse racing events, and how to place a bet. It also looks at all the technical jargon that you’ll encounter at the races, so you can attend future events as an expert.
If you’re totally new to the world of horse racing, then the Horse Racing Manual can act as your ticket to understanding key elements of the sport.
What is the most popular horse racing publication in the UK?
Racing Ahead is the biggest and most popular horse racing magazine. This monthly publication keeps fans of the sport informed about upcoming races and up-and-coming horses and riders. Other popular publications include Horse & Rider, which focuses more on tips for horse racing and riding. You also have Horse and Hound, which is a weekly magazine that details upcoming events.
Who wrote about horse racing?
The most famous horse racing author is Dick Francis, who wrote over 40 books. Each book he wrote combined elements of crime with insider knowledge of how the horse racing world works. Prior to becoming an author, Dick Francis was a former jockey himself. He is the most famous author to write about horse racing because he wrote so widely about the sport.
What is the oldest book about horse training?
The oldest book about horse training was written by Kikkuli of the Mitanni Kingdom in 1360 BC. Interestingly, this book was only formally published in 1931. Prior to 1931, the treatises of Xenophon were thought to be the oldest publication about horse training, which was written in 355 BC.