Holiday Gifts for the Horse Lover: A Great Year to Give Books

Pop Culture
Artist Robert Clark catches many unforgettable 21st Century racehorse on canvas in this collection of portraits, with comments on each of the horses from historian Ed Bowen.

As we count down to the winter holidays, the world shifts into gift-giving mode. Whether you light a menorah, gather around a nativity scene, or simply look forward to quiet time with loved ones, the focus is on finding and sharing something special with those on your list. As you plan your holiday gifts, consider the ultimate consumable for the mind: books. 

Here are a few bookish ideas for the horse lovers on your list.


New for 2022

Each year, new books join the canon of literature on horse racing and 2022 saw the addition of stories about the names and the traditions that make the sport as we know it. Fiction or nonfiction, these titles make great gifts for anyone who loves all facets of racing, past and present. 

Leap of Faith, by Frankie Dettori 

Frankie Dettori arrived in England at age 14, speaking no English but brimming with the determination to succeed as a jockey. Nearly four decades later, the world’s most famous jockey shares his story in his autobiography. Relish every leap from the saddle as he recounts the highs and lows of his turns on the world’s greatest horses. 

Landaluce: The Story of Seattle Slew’s First Champion, by Mary Perdue

When Seattle Slew retired from the racetrack in 1978, he entered stud at Spendthrift Farm with high hopes that the Triple Crown winner could reproduce his immortal talents. From his first crop came the lovely bay filly Landaluce. She shined from the second she broke from the starting gate, stunning all who saw her run and promising much from this daughter of Seattle Slew. Tragedy left her potential unrealized, leaving behind the story of this fabulous filly and hinting at the greatness to come at stud from the Triple Crown winner. 

The Adventures of Crazy Cory: A Horse Racing Short Story Collection, by Dawn LeFevre

Dawn LeFevre shares the continuing adventures of characters introduced in her books, “Backstretch Girls” and “Racetrack Rogues,” which was a finalist for the 2021 Tony Ryan Book Award. Dive deeper into this finely drawn world and relish these stories of backstretch life with friends like Teegan, Anne, and, of course, Crazy Cory.

My Old Kentucky Home: The Astonishing Life and Reckoning of an Iconic American Song, by Emily Bingham

Author Emily Bingham explores the history behind the song “My Old Kentucky Home” from its origins in pre-Civil War Kentucky to the 21st Century re-exploration of its meaning. She recounts the song’s journey over the century and a half since it first became popular and wrestles with its place in modern American culture. 

A Day at the Races: The Horses, People and Races that Shaped the Sport of Kings, by Peter May

In 128 vignettes, Peter May encapsulates five hundred years of horse racing history, from King Henry VIII to the grand brilliance of a horse named Frankel. Touching on both English and American racing, May draws readers from both sides of the Atlantic into this recounting of some of the sport’s biggest days, an ambitious undertaking that promises to be a great read as we count down to a new year of racing. 

New York’s Greatest Thoroughbreds: A Contemporary History, by Allan Carter

New York has been home to horse racing since colonial times, when the first formal racecourse was built in Long Island. In the centuries since then, the sport has put down roots in places like Saratoga Springs and Elmont and has hosted countless battles between the sport’s greats. Now, writer Allan Carter recounts some of the Empire State’s greatest over the last 50 years, showing there is no shortage of great Thoroughbreds representing one of the sport’s first homes in America. 

Horse: A Novel, by Geraldine Brooks

Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Geraldine Brooks takes on a unique subject in “Horse,” the legendary foundational stallion Lexington. The book is fiction, but she does address the context of Lexington’s time on the racetrack and in the breeding shed, recalling the stallion’s tumultuous era and connecting it with our own moment in the 21st Century. Already a bestseller and one of Amazon’s top 20 books of 2022, “Horse” looks to be one of the most popular gifts for readers this holiday season. 

Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies, by Richard Eng 

Originally released in 2005, Eng updates this primer for the new bettor for 2022 and beyond. Perfect for someone eager to get into wagering, this book explores the different kinds of bets, what to look for as you plan your day’s wagers, and other tools available to anyone looking to maximize their day at the racetrack. 

The Fast Ride: Spectacular Bid and the Undoing of a Sure Thing, by Jack Gilden

Three short years after Peter Lee’s book on Spectacular Bid, Jack Gilden brings us his look at this gray juggernaut, the horse that promised to make it three Triple Crowns in a row until something happened that fateful day at Belmont Park. Gilden looks at the people behind the Bid, exploring the roles of trainer Bud Delp, jockey Ronnie Franklin, and owners Harry and Teresa Meyerhoff. “The Fast Ride” is another chance to explore the career of this record breaker and Hall of Famer. 

Kick the Latch, by Kathryn Scanlan

Published in late September, Scanlan’s novel is a new exploration of life on the backside told through the eyes of Sonia, a trainer who has spent years making a living with horses. Based on interviews Scanlan did with Sonia, the book promises an intimacy with this facet of sporting life rarely seen and intriguing to anyone who knows horse racing. 

Ashforth's Curiosities of Horseracing, by David Ashforth

Organized by category and designed for readers to experience in any order they choose, Ashforth’s book collects shorts about racing from around the world. From preserving Phar Lap to racing the wrong horse, this collection will share stories sure to entertain fans who enjoy a good turn of phrase and a bit of trivia about the sport we all love.


Coffee Table Gift Books

The scenes at the heart of the sport of horse racing make for thrills on the racetrack and off, as captured by the photographs and paintings seen in these collections. All make great gifts for the horse lovers in your life. 

Kentucky Horse Country: Images of the Bluegrass, by James Archambeault

Captured in photographs from famed photographer James Archambeault are some of the most iconic scenes of life in the Bluegrass. Whether they are peacefully grazing on a beautiful sunny day or powering down the stretch at the state’s historic racetracks, these animals draw the eye and evoke memories of the names that mean so much to us over our years in the sport. 

A Brush with Greatness: The Art of Thoroughbred Racing North American Horses From 2000 to Triple Crown, by Robert Clark 

Artist Robert Clark catches many a great 21st Century racehorse on his canvas, with 79 of those portraits collected here. From American Pharaoh to Zenyatta, experience their deeds in both word and paint, with historian Edward Bowen supplementing Clark’s artistry with his erudite observations of the horses captured on each page. 

The Kentucky Derby, by Bill Doolittle

A gorgeous full-color look at the country’s most iconic race, Doolittle’s coffee table book shows off the beauty and grandeur of Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. Experience the sights of more than a century’s worth of Derbys while also relishing images of Derby week in the 21st Century. This makes a wonderful gift for anyone who celebrates Kentucky Derby day as their own national holiday. 

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