April 4, 2012 8:24 AM   Subscribe

tell me about great horses, racing and good writers

Recently discovered Aqueduct. Seems the track experience can be divided in 2 main parts; betting and racing. Betting is a large subject, lots of homework to do here, but the racing itself, love of horses, is the big draw. I know 'Seabiscuit', HBOs 'Luck', and this story of Kurt Vonnegut . Any suggestions?
posted by ebesan to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by ebesan at 8:34 AM on April 4, 2012

One to get you started:

The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved by Hunter S. Thompson
posted by vecchio at 8:34 AM on April 4, 2012

The Lord of Misrule.
posted by hermitosis at 8:44 AM on April 4, 2012

If you have the stomach for it, Bukowski did some articles and stories about the track. You can definitely find some in the collection The Most Beautiful Woman in Town. Enjoy the depravity.
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:41 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Dick Francis. Find a copy of his autobiography (try your library), and if you like fiction, read a novel or 40 of his. They cover flat, hurdle and steeplechase racing.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:42 AM on April 4, 2012

While it's a juvenile, I wouldn't rule out The Black Stallion. I've never read any of the sequels.
posted by Jahaza at 9:43 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Northern Dancer, Canada's finest export, is perhaps the most influential sire in the history of thoroughbred racing. Watching him joyfully lope to a win in the '64 Kentucky Derby still makes my heart swell in admiration.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 9:52 AM on April 4, 2012

The first and last segments of this Third Coast audio show, "Running," are about racehorses and the love of horses.
posted by tangaroo at 10:34 AM on April 4, 2012

Definitely read some Dick Francis, but be aware that at least a couple of his books, from around the late 1990s, were, uh, not so good. This was after his wife had died and his own health was failing. Later, his son Felix is listed as a co-author -- I haven't read any of those so I don't know if they got better. I'd suggest starting with any of the older books -- order doesn't really matter. Just don't start with one of the duds (I'm thinking of Second Wind, 1999 and Shattered, 2000) and decide you don't like him based on that. The early books are very fun and engaging, and you'll learn a lot.
posted by Corvid at 1:00 PM on April 4, 2012

The Black Stallion movie version is the best film about the romance of horses ever made, with a superb racing sequence.

You've mentioned Seabiscuit probably meaning the movie -- the book is absolutely wonderful.

Horse Heaven is all about every aspect of racing, with POVs from betters to horses.
posted by Erasmouse at 3:52 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

'The Colonel's Cup', chapter 6 of Siegfried Sassoon's Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, is a vivid account of a young man riding (and winning) his first race.

'Ruidoso', one of the essays in John McPhee's Pieces of the Frame, tells the story of 'the world's richest horse race' (as it was then), the All American Futurity in Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico.

I haven't read it, but Ann Hagedorn Auerbach's Wild Ride: The Rise and Tragic Fall of Calumet Farm, American's Premier Racing Dynasty is highly praised by Elizabeth Hardwick in this review from the NYRB. The review is itself a small work of art.
posted by verstegan at 4:09 PM on April 4, 2012

Old Bones the Wonder Horse - I loved this as a kid, haven't read it in years, so take that for what it's worth.

I similarly remember liking John Taintor Foote's short stories.

Not by a Long Shot
is a more current non-fiction book about Suffolk Downs that's had good reviews, but I have not read it.

In trying to fresh my memory I found a whole blog devoted to horse racing books. Post on "best books on racing" (go to the first couple links)
posted by sepviva at 4:26 PM on April 4, 2012

Not as contemporary, but if you like poetry have a look at the work of Adam Lindsay Gordon. His life was intertwined with racing, riding, horsebreaking and was generally accepted as a splendid horseman. He was kicked out of the Royal Military Academy for loving the trappings of the racing lifestyle too much.

While Gordon wrote in a range of poetic forms, he is best remembered for his ballads, which often used horse riding – whether on the racetrack or in the Australian bush – as their main narrative action.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 7:13 PM on April 4, 2012

There is a great tradition of sports journalism and writing about horses and horse racing. Here are some of my favourites:

"The Fireside Book of Horse Racing", ed. David F. Woods. Published in 1963 and out-of-print, but worth tracking down. Includes short stories by the likes of D.H. Lawrence and Damon Runyon, alongside articles by Joe Palmer and Grantland Rice. Also includes profiles of some of the greatest horses of the 20th Century (eg. Whirlaway, Discovery, Count Fleet), and perhaps the best insight into the horseplayers' mind I've ever read: Ernest Havemann's "My Big $61,908 Ordeal".

"A Hoofprint on my Heart", by Jim Coleman. Reminiscences of horse-racing across Canada, from the 1930s to the 1960s, by one of Canada's greatest sportswriters.

"A Fine Place for Daydreaming", by Bill Barich. An American ex-pat in Ireland discovers the world of steeplechasing. His other racing book "Laughing in the Hills" is supposed to be a classic, but I have yet to read it.

"Racing Days", by Henry Horenstein (photos) and Brendan Boyd (text). Photos with accompanying essays, documenting both the glamorous and seedy sides of racing.

"Secretariat: The making of a champion" (a.k.a. "Big Red of Meadow Stable"), "Ruffian: A racetrack romance", and "My Turf" (includes non-racing pieces as well), by William Nack.

"Man O' War: A legend like lightning" by Dorothy Ours.

"Horse of a Different Color", and "Headless Horsemen", by Jim Squires.

"Blood Horses" by John Jeremiah Sullivan.

"My Year of the Racehorse", by Kevin Chong. Just published, the book documents Chong's part-ownership of a bottom-lever claiming horse at Hastings Racecourse (my hometown track).

There's more (lots more) but those are my top picks at the moment. Enjoy!
posted by e-man at 9:43 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

A great, rich vein of links! thanks. keep them coming.
posted by ebesan at 5:50 AM on April 5, 2012

One thing to watch for: The Black Stallion has been revised many times. The wording has been modernized ("radio announcer" to "sportscaster") and also the reading level was lowered by changing interesting words to simpler words. Personally, I feel like the older editions have a lot more character.

I also like the first eight sequels to The Black Stallion, after which point they start getting a little odd... With the exception that I also like The Horse Tamer and Man o' War. (I haven't see any of the movies.)

I'll also add a couple of Margurite Henry books... King of the Wind (about the Thoroughbred foundation stallion the Godolphin Arabian) and Gaudenzia, Pride of the Palio (about a slightly different kind of racing).
posted by anaelith at 7:56 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

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