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The Education of a Horseplayer

One of the things that I like most about racing is that the Education of a Horseplayer is a lifelong process.  Horse racing has so many facets and those facets are constantly changing.  So we have to strive to become more knowledgeable about handicapping, training methods, racing surfaces, jockeys, history, breeding, and marketing.


A good horse racing library is required to become well informed.  Here are some of the titles that I feel are essential to your book collection.


Beyer speed figures are one of the most important pieces of data in handicapping. How much each person uses the figs varies, but in any case it is vital to understand how the BSF’s are formulated. Thus, Andy Beyer’s Picking Winners, where he explains how to compute speed figures, is a required read. 


Another essential handicapping book is Steven Crist’s Exotic Betting (which also comes in DVD).  Crist’s innovations in multi-race wagering become more and more important as the big money Pick 4, 5, and 6 wagers sweep across the American racing scene. Further, he explains the most profitable ways to bet exactas, trifectas, and superfectas. I hope you no longer box horses in those wagers.


All handicappers should read Steve Davidowitz’s Betting Thoroughbreds which has been revised 2 or 3 times over the years.  Betting Thoroughbreds is a comprehensive guide to all the important angles of race analysis.


Since we all love to share the stories of how we got involved with horse racing, there is a lot to learn from the memoirs of important industry members. In Betting on Me, Crist talks about how as a Harvard student he went from the dog tracks to thoroughbreds and from the editorial page of the New York Times to being the sports section’s horse racing expert. In My $50,000 Year at the Races, Beyer’s betting adventures become legendary.


In your history section you must include Champions, which is published by the Daily Racing Form. This book covers every champion from 1893-2004, giving a narrative history and the lifetime past performances.  I use this text frequently when I write my blogs. Wait to buy this book until the DRF runs its annual sale and then it is a fantastic bargain.


All of us at HorseRacingNation.com love to make lists and rankings, so a great reference is Davidowitz’s The Best and Worst of Thoroughbred Racing, where he has Top 10 lists for every conceivable category.


One of my favorite books is the Decade of Champions by Richard Stone Reeves and Patrick Robinson. This beautiful text combines the renowned prints of Reeves with the historical accounts of Robinson as they describe the champions of what many consider to be the greatest decade in racing, the 1970’s.  I won my copy from the weekly NYRA television show that aired on New York’s WOR-TV.  My question was selected to be answered in the “Ask Frank Wright” segment and so I won the book and at fancy day at Belmont for my Dad and I.  The pictures are so amazing that I have the book jacket cover framed and hanging in my house.


Then you must have books about the famous thoroughbreds whether they are your favorites or not. Books about Secretariat and Seabiscuit have become popular movies, while the stories of Barbaro and Ruffian are both moving and tragic.  There are children’s books about these greats, too.


If you enjoy fiction there is plenty to read. My favorite is Stephen Dobyns, whose Charlie Bradshaw detective stories all have Saratoga in their title and are set in that racing town.


As much as horse racing changes so do the ways in which we keep abreast with this sport that we love. Today we have so much information that is available so quickly through the internet. We have all become part of this electronic Horse Racing Nation.  But let’s not lose sight of the importance of books and what they can teach us.


What are the essential volumes of your horse racing library? Which books do you pull out over and over again?


You can follow me on TWITTER @AndyScoggin.  My free selections for the Pick 5 and Place Pick 6 at Monmouth are available at AndyScoggin NJ.


ABC’s of the Monmouth Hall of Champions -Today Lady's Secret – The grey daughter of Secretariat raced 45 times winning 25 of those starts while earning $3,021,425. In 1986 she won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. Lady’s Secret ran at Monmouth Park six times winning the Regret, the Molly Pitcher, and two allowance races. Located behind the clubhouse facing the paddock, the Lady’s Secret Café is one of the most popular hangouts at Monmouth.  She joined the Racing Hall of Fame in 1992. Lady’s Secret ranks 3 in the Horse Racing Nation 250 Top Filles and Mares of All-Time and 23 in the 250 Top Horses of All-Time with an 8.84/10 rating.


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Older Comments about The Education of a Horseplayer...

Happy Birthday, RaTalk_Girl!
Thanks for the list. Luckily my bday is next month so I made my wish list based on your must have list :) Let me know if I should add anything else...LOL
Brian, that's why we love this game. I have learned a great deal from HRN this summer!
Lifelong process or pursuit is right! 40 years, and I still have so much to learn about all facets of the game.

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