Racing Books: What Should We 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, an 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.


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 x1 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)



Recommendations from previous reader’s comments…

  • John Morris’s Jumping Prospects.
  • Norton Howells originally titled “Horse racing is not about horse racing” more recently re-published as “addicted to horse racing”
  • “Always Back Winners” by Stewart Simpson,
  • How’s Your Dad by Michael Channon Junior 
  • “Braddock’s complete guide to Horse Race Selection & Betting”.
  • Horse Sense by Paul Major
  • Betting Thoroughbreds for the 21st Century (Steve Davidowitz), and
    Winning More (Don Scott)
  • Michael Pizzola’s Handicapping Magic
  • Exotic Betting by Steven Crist
  • Doped by Jamie Reid 
  • Horsetrader: Robert Sangster and the Rise and Fall of the Sport of Kings
  • The Secrets of Pricewise’ by James Milton
  • 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
  • thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • The wisdom of crowds by James Surowiecki
  • Colin Tinklers autobiography. Think it is called “The Final Furlong” or similar.
  • Words From The Wise. The collected works of Fenman
  • 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.
  • NECK OR NOTHING The life and times of Bob Seiver.
  • Also the life and times of Fred Archer .



There are no doubt many great books I have yet to discover. So, please do share your own favourites in the comments below.




Post Comments

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

8 Responses

  1. Has anyone read or have any views on Soba To Moldova?
    Have dropped enough hints to people that’s something I’d like for a Christmas present so who knows?
    Do agree with most of the above mentioned books so I couldn’t add anymore other than did enjoy Alistair Downs book Cheltenham Et Al
    Will certainly go a purchase the Kevin Blake book mentioned as I do enjoy listening to him and his views and there are not many I can say that about who appear on ATR


    1. Soba To Moldova was OK in my opinion. I thought that the author talked about himself too much and his attitudes to non betting related subject. Although I though Dave Nevison did that also. I guess that the book was not really written for us data driven horse race punters?

      The specific Beyer book I like is ‘Beyer on Speed’, which obviously talks about the importance and relevance of pace in races.
      Another book I liked was ‘Betting Thoroughbreds’ by Steve Danowitz or something like that.
      A good read is the Robert Sangster story ‘Horsetrader’. The hard copy is expensive and so get the ibook for peanuts.

  2. The Sure Thing – The Greatest Coup in Horse Racing History by Nick Townsend
    The tale of Barney Curley’s first multiples raid on the bookies, plus it covers much of Curley’s earlier exploits. I know he’s not to everyone’s tastes, but it is good holiday reading.

  3. I decided to tackle my lack of knowledge of horse racing pedigrees this year and read 3 excellent books on the subject. Thoroughbred Pedigrees Simplified by Miles Napier is the best place to start, it gives a history from the 3 original Arabian horses onwards including family tree diagrams and it really helped me to get a good grounding in the lines and history of the modern thoroughbred. There’s even section on National Hunt breeding lines.

    I then moved onto Mr. Darley’s Arabian: High Life, Low Life, Sporting Life: A History of Racing in 25 Horses by Christopher McGrath and it is just brilliant. There are so many amazing tales of success, failure, sex, life, death, addiction and redemption in there that it could pass off as a Jackie Collins (not that I’ve ever read any, ahem). It’s as entertaining as it is informative and a real labour of love from the former Times and Independent racing correspondent.

    My final read has been recommended elsewhere Horsetrader: Robert Sangster and the Rise and Fall of the Sport of Kings. This is very cheap if you’ve got a kindle if I remember rightly and tells the story of Vernon’s pools heir and the explosion and implosion of the bloodstock industry in the ’70s and ’80s. It also shows how John Magnier built (with Sangster and Vincent O’Brien) the Coolmore and Ballydoyle bussinesses that dominate flat racing Today.

    As for future racing reads I’ve got Cornelius Lysaght’s World Racecourses coming from Santa at Xmas. More of a coffee table book but the quick sneak I had at it suggests it looks well worth thumbing through. Though this is coming from a man who thinks Simon Inglis’s Football Grounds of Britain is one of the greatest sports books ever written! I’ve also ordered the homage to Cue Card by Lee Mottershead, got to love that horse.

  4. Hi Josh, great article as usual. I highly recommend One Jump Ahead by Mark Howard. Lots of great info on the Irish and English point to point horses. Trainer horses to follow and lots of “tit bits” about there horses in training.
    Have a nice Xmas everyone.

  5. I have nearly finished reading Patrick Veitch book Enemy Number One, that I bought several months ago. As mentioned previously it’s a very good read.

    Another book I will recommend is The Druid’s lodge Confederacy by Paul Mathiru. It’s a true story. A syndicate of 5 gentlemen gamblers. A stud owner, a Royal vet, 2 city financiers and a Master of Foxhounds. They built a racing stables near Stonehenge. They recruited a young Irish trainer and enforced secrecy by locking up the stable lads and censoring their post. The men who made racing pay.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

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