Racing Books: What Should I Be Reading This Christmas?

Betting books that I have enjoyed reading and a request for suggestions from you, of what I, and others, should read next…

Below is a post I appear to repeat every year – a discussion on a few racing books of interest.

The original post is from 2015, and update from 2016 and I’ve also included some reader’s comments from last year’s post, with their recommendations…

Let’s crack on… (maybe by this time next year i’ll have read some more to add to the list!)



Every year come Christmas I usually like to buy a few racing books to keep me entertained- a mix of the fiction and non-fiction and anything in between.

Below I have repeated a very old post which touches on some of the books that I first bought. I have updated it with a few others of interest also. In truth I could do with reading some/all of these again I think!


I am hoping that you generous folk will pack out the comments section with suggested reading – these can be anything from autobiographies/biographies/fiction through to the ‘how to bet’ type books.

So, if you have read something superb, that you could happily recommend, please do tell us. I will add some of them to my own shopping list. A mix of those you can read for entertainment and those that require more in depth thinking would be superb.


(first published in 2015)

All I want for Christmas is…a racing book

So, what follows is a collection of those books I have most enjoyed reading…


Title: Betting For A Living

Author: Nick Mordin

Published: 1992

Without doubt the best racing ‘betting’ book I have read to date and I still refer to it regularly. Yes it was published in 1992 but the majority of the content is still relevant. Chapter discuss the following: speed ratings,the importance of pace and who will take the lead etc, the all-weather, the draw, distance,  class, what the horse looks like (fascinating insight), what the trainer says, fitness, ‘why you should ignore weight’ (superb piece and something I have taken on board), how to bet, how to use systems and most interesting the chapter called ‘What Performance Pattern Does the Horse Fit’. This chapter was my first introduction to ‘horse profiling’ and it’s something I will come back to in future.

Finally Nick puts his approach into practice and talks through many of his bets. His racing and betting diary is fascinating and you learn so much about race analysis. (Predominantly National Hunt)

All in all a must read in my opinion. A superb book that is both very informative and engaging.



Title: Winning Without Thinking: A Guide to Horse Racing Betting Systems

Author: Nick Mordin

Published: 2002, revised 2003

My only other book written by Mr Mordin but another must read if you are interested in systematic approaches to betting. In this book he talks about the importance of betting against the crowd, using pedigrees as a basis for systems, exploiting repeat patterns, the effect of weight on performance, using class, a chapter on international racing, the psychology of betting, how to interpret statistics, how hype distorts the betting market and much more. It is packed full of useful information and contrarian thinking which I certainly found enlightening.


Title: The Definitive Guide to Betting on the Horses

Author: Racing Post (expert series)

Published: 2011

If you are new to the Sport of Kings and want a book that provides a general, informative, introduction to racing then you could do much worse than read this. In fact even if you are an old hand at the game you may learn something new reading this. Every chapter has a different author including Paul Kealy, Nick Mordin (again!), Tom Segal and others. The book is split into two main sections (‘Finding Your Winner’ and ‘Choosing Your Bet’) and has seven parts covering the assessment of ability, assessing potential (race analysis, breeding, reading the signs), the key variables (draw, pace, knowledge) and then four parts on betting.

All in all another top notch book and a decent addition to anyone’s book shelf.


Title: Betting on Flat Handicaps

Author: Jon Gibby

Published: 2005 (third edition)


As you tell from the title this book has a specific focus on flat handicaps and predominantly, but not exclusively, sprint handicaps. In addition to trainer based systems and hose profiling my own betting approach on the flat is to focus on sprint handicaps and I found this book very informative. Many of the themes covered by the chapters are familiar (Horses style of running, draw and class) however there are a few that stand out. The first chapter is about the importance of being different, there is another on Jon’s own selection process and, much like Nick Mordin’s book, there is a chapter on the ‘Theory in Practice’. I really enjoy when the authors talk through their approach on a race by race basis and these chapters can be the most revealing of them all.

If you like your flat handicaps, and sprint handicaps in particular, then I think this is a must read and you are sure to learn something new.

(NOTE: I should probably dust this one off again after my flat season 2016!) 


Title: Against the Odds

Author: David-Lee Priest

Published: 3rd Addition 2008


This book is for those who would like to understand the complexities of betting and the language used. Its focus is more on the types of bets, numbers and statistics and the core theme that runs through the book is a look at profitable trends and how to bet them. The book is packed full of useful information and the 23 chapters cover everything from the philosophy of gambling, to sex, headgear, trainers, jockeys, fitness, jumping etc. If you are enjoy researching your own systems, angles or ideas this book is sure to spark your imagination.


Title: It Can Be Done

Author: Kevin Blake

Published: 2014, The Irish Field


A new book out this year from Kevin Blake who I am sure many of you will recognise from his regular stints on ATR. This is a great little book because you basically get an over the shoulder view of the approach of a Pro-Punter. It is interesting to see someone else’s approach, even more so when their standard stake is a £1000 win bet! Again the best part for me is the betting diary and talking through all of his bets during the course of the Irish Flat Season. What I learnt most from this book was the importance of race reading and learning about what Kevin looks for etc. The chapter on ‘The Importance of Inside Information’ is also reassuring – in essence Kevin thinks this is overblown/overstated part of horse racing. Certainly a lack of what you and I may call inside information is no barrier to punting success.


Other Books of Interest

Title: Enemy Number One

Author: Patrick Veitch

Published: 2009


Now this is just an entreating book to read t is great to read about a guy who made more than £10 million from betting on horses in an eight year period. You also learn a lot about his personal approach and what he considers when wagering. However, it is not written from a ‘how to bet’ perspective but it is still a great read. Quite simply it is just a fascinating insight into Veitch’s life of punting, horse ownership, and how he was dragged into the criminal underworld, being forced to go on the run.


Title: Paul Ferguson’s Jumpers To Follow 20XX-XX

Author: Paul Ferguson

Published: Every year at the moment, 2014-15 has been on sale for a few months.

I have met Paul a couple of times at Aintree and he lives and breathes National Hunt Racing, especially when it comes to unexposed horses that are open to improvement. This book is a labour of love for him and notes on next year’s version have already started. If you like tracking and following the development of National Hunt horses then this book is a must read at the start of every season. There are numerous fascinating chapters, in addition to the horses to follow including a Stable Round up section. Paul works hard to ensure that the book is pact full of quotes from connections and he always has a couple of interviews with jockeys and pundits asking for their horses to follow. At £10 it’s a bargain, and even though I rarely bet on non-handicap races, it’s a must read every year for me (and no, I don’t get any cut if you purchase a copy! – if you search on google you should be able to find it)



UPDATED November 2016


Title: The Inside Track : The Professional Approach

Author: Alan Potts

Published: 2002

Probably my new favourite book along with Nick Mordin’s betting for a living. I need to go through this again but I pulled out some of the content in my ‘Weight Doesn’t Matter’ post HERE>>> 

I will read and re-read this again a few times I think. It covers all three codes and gives you plenty to think about and apply to your own approach.


Title: Various books by Andrew Beyer

The American author has written some fascinating books especially around speed/ratings/race reading etc. His books are packed full of useful info and while written primarily for American racing, there is usually something in there to think about applying to our racing.


Title: One Jump Ahead, Mark Howard

I bought this book for the first time this year and it is packed full of information. I have yet to get to grips with how to profit/make use of books like this really. I think the race watching ‘tracking’ of horses etc is a specialism in itself and one that could easily take up all of your time. It is packed full of useful sections including the ‘talking trainers’ chapter.


Title: Skint Mob, Tales from the Betting Ring (Simon Nott) 

This is just a fun book to read and I enjoyed doing so while on holiday over the summer. To quote the blurb ‘it is a humorous and,at times, thoughtful look at Simon’s journeys around the betting rings of the UK’.

If you want something lighthearted that at times will make you smile and possibly reminisce if you are of a certain vintage 🙂  this is a good place to start. It is very light reading and the kind of book you can just dip in and out of every now and then, chapter to chapter. Great fun. 


To finish… Barney Curley’s autobiography is a good read also!


( i suspect you can find many of those above on Amazon say)



There are no doubt many great books I have yet to discover. So, please do share your own favourites in the comments below. I will add some of them to my shopping list!




Post Comments

Do join in the conversation below, we're a friendly bunch.. all questions welcome, and do share your selections or thoughts

21 Responses

  1. Another one I have bought the past couple of years is John Morris’s Jumping Prospects. Similar in context to what Mark Howard puts up but trainers interviewed do vary with some smaller yards like Kenneth Slack for example. I personally prefer the latter but its another source of useful information. This is the 25th year he has been doing this. He also has a follow up book out next week. That one I haven’t bought in the past so cannot comment on what added extra benefits you get with it (other than obviously the fact that we are now 2 months into the jumps season).

    On a side note with regards to tracking them I personally don’t back everything in the book but will use it as an information guide as an added tool to my research.

  2. I must have read literally hundreds of books over the years and in my opinion the best is a fairly recent one by Norton Howells originally titled “Horse racing is not about horse racing” more recently re-published as “addicted to horse racing”. it made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me scream with frustration at him but most of all I could relate to it. loved it.

  3. A book that I have had for about 35 years is “Always Back Winners” by Stewart Simpson, It is packed full of useful information and also a good laugh in parts. Worth having on the Bookshelf, I don’t know if it is still in print as mine is so old.

  4. Not about betting but I enjoyed How’s Your Dad by Michael Channon Junior so much I have bought 2 more copies for mates as Christmas presents.

    Hilarious and moving by turn.


  5. Similar to Tony’s choice mine dates back to 1990 being the third edition of a hard back book first published in 1983 so no doubt is now out of print. The title is “Braddock’s complete guide to Horse Race Selection & Betting”. For many years this was my betting bible and introduced me to what Braddock calls his “four cardinal principles – Form,Fitness, Class and Conditions”. 250 pages of pure joy!

  6. A book i have had since the 70’s and still use is, Horse Sense by Paul Major. I have slightly altered the race values,But is still going strong.Also Andrew Beyer, Beyer On Speed.

  7. For those who are looking for a deeper dive into alternative racing/handicapping methods, two books I can heartily recommend are:

    Betting Thoroughbreds for the 21st Century (Steve Davidowitz), and
    Winning More (Don Scott)

    The former is based on US racing and the reader will need to consider how to apply the principles to British fare. Likewise, the latter – which is also very expensive (available here – – for $180 Aus) – relates to Australian racing, but there is some excellent sense / ideas contained within its pages.

    One other, which is a great read and has some fascinating ideas, is Michael Pizzola’s Handicapping Magic. Again, it’s a US text, and again it’s out of print which means it costs plenty on the resell market (£57 is the cheapest copy I could find on Amazon –

    A bit left field, granted, but these are some pretty solid texts for those looking to integrate overseas angles into their play. (If you’ve never bought/read an overseas book, I agree with Josh’s recommendation to start with Andrew Beyer’s work, or maybe the brilliant Exotic Betting by Steven Crist).


  8. Horsetrader: Robert Sangster and the Rise and Fall of the Sport of Kings —— brilliant read focusing on the battles between sangster and the sheiks to buy the offspring of northern dancer ,available on amazon.

  9. Hi Josh,

    Thanks for posting your reading list. My kids always ask me what I’d like for Christmas and I just shrug my shoulders. You’ve given me a whole list of really interesting titles here that I’d be delighted to receive.
    I have one title that I’d recommend, ‘The Secrets of Pricewise’ by James Milton, 2012 (ISBN 978-1-908216-42-7).
    It’s really quite a light read but it makes some important points that may well tie in with the books you’ve suggested – the psychology of betting, contrarian thinking and mind-set. It’s also packed with amusing anecdotes about racing’s characters, heroes and big gambles landed.
    Best regards,

  10. Plenty to recommend,Josh
    e.g. Against the Crowd-Alan Potts,1995/6
    Biographies of Bird and Bull (Alex and Phil respectively)
    Calling the Horses by the one and only Peter O’Sullevan
    The Coup by Ken Payne
    The Gay Future Affair by Larry Lyons

    stacks more on my bookshelf waiting to be read !!

  11. If psychology is something your interested in,then you won’t go far wrong with thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman,its not a easy read by any means but it certainly changed the way I think & my approach to betting.

    The wisdom of crowds by James Surowiecki is another interesting book which I read a good few years ago.It got me thinking about how favourites in certain conditions can be very profitable over a relevant sample size and time frame.

    Currently reading Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed,more to do with mind set but really enjoying it so far.

  12. Words From The Wise.
    The collected works of Fenman, from the monthly magazine Racing Ahead. Wonderful book .


  13. If you are interested in breeding then you cannot better the books by Sarah Montgomery as comprehensive guide into what to look for in a race horse. American orientated and more focused on flat racing and a believer in the X rated heart theory i.e the larger the heart of a sire or brood mare then the more successful the race horse as the more oxygenated the blood the faster the horse (very simplified explanation!)..she has published three works: Vol 1 Thoroughbred Female Families That Have Dominated The Racing World. Vol 2. How To Breed Classic Racehorses…The Thoroughbred Sires That Have Dominated The Racing World… subtitled “How The Xh Large Heart Gene Has Been a Dominating Factor”..( Frankel for eg has a Large Heart pedigree and we all know what that horse achieved and why his progeny are sort after)..Vol 3. How To Breed Classic Racehorses..”Breeding For Solid Conformation”.. This last book is a slim volume of 133 pages but is an excellent visual guide in what to look for in a good race horse and will help in paddock watching…They are not cheap but worth the money and can be found on Amazon ( have not checked recently to see if they are still available but are definatley worth having as reference books and for anyone interested in breeding. For those interested in speed figures “Mordin On Time” by Nick Mordin is a must though it may be both difficult and expensive to get as it has been out of print and some copies have been put up for well over £50.00 on Amazon…Cheers John

    1. After checking Amazon and confirming the price quoted of around £45 – £50……

      I thought I had this book recommended by John (Nick Mordin’s Mordin On Time) and I rushed to the bookcase to confirm ownership and to see my new-found wealth…..not there

      Two others are on the shelves, Betting for a Living and Winning without Thinking……and I have never read either properly

      One is worth £0.46 on Amazon….the other around £30 so some value at least… should I read it for the knowledge it contains or just watch its value increase…..

      I also have the set of SAD KEN books, lots of old cuttings and pages from Weekender & the rest including some from the years when VDW was a boy writing his tantalising letters to “Racing Upto Date”….along with his booklets and all of them claiming profits so easily found but now difficult to research…..and a collection of Superform Annuals from the early 90’s…..marvellous Form Books….any Speed Figure buffs could find them interesting

      I should check everything on Amazon….to see if there is any value hiding on my dusty book-shelves because there’s not that much value in the Racing these days

  14. Hi Michael here,
    Two wonderful reads if you can get hold of them.
    NECK OR NOTHING The life and times of Bob Seiver.
    Also the life and times of Fred Archer .
    They take you into 19th and early 20th century racing.

  15. Hello Josh,

    Thank you for posting this great reading list!
    Most of those titles are simply great and worth the money.
    I have read ‘The Secrets of Pricewise’ – the one that were mentioned in the comments, as well.
    It is simply excellent.

    Now, the problem with most of those books is that it is a bit pricy to order them to Finland, where I live.
    But, in any case, it is super valuable for me.

    Thank you!

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