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Book Review

Insider's Guide to Horseracing
by T.A. Landers
from Westholme Publishing, May 2005, 175 pages softcover
cover photo by Cindy Pierson Dulay

To its loyal followers, horse racing is one of the most exciting sports to get involved in. The skill in selecting horses and wagering on them, the formal atmosphere of the racetrack steeped in traditions, the beauty of the horses, and the thrilling stretch runs are what keeps long-time fans coming back for more. However, to a neophyte the track is a mysterious world, apparently difficult to understand. In his first book, long-time New York horseman Ted Landers sets out to explain this great sport to the masses, so that they won't feel so lost the first time they walk through the grandstand gates and out into the stands of a racetrack.

Most books aimed at new fans of racing focus on the gambling side of the business, with the assumption that the only reason a new fan would set foot in a racetrack is to bet. Landers disagrees, instead focusing on the sport itself allowing fans to appreciate the beauty and innate talent of the horses, and the skill of the horsemen to turn them into winners. Drawing on his years as a horseman on the prestigious New York circuit, he takes you on a behind-the-scenes look at how the sport is run. The reader learns about the many different people involved in putting on the spectacle that is horse racing. He goes into detail about racing equipment and race-day medications, and includes many photographs of the equipment, allowing the reader to easily spot those items in person at the track. Landers also gives a brief lesson on the history of the sport, so that the neophyte knows about past greats and who to compare today's horses with.

Once his lessons on the operation of the sport is complete, Landers now moves into the realm of the betting windows. He very quickly goes through the various factors one uses to handicap a race (class, speed, pace, etc), so that in one brief chapter the reader has enough basic understanding of handicapping to make an initial try at the past performances. Obviously, the reader need look elsewhere for more advanced lessons on the art and science of racehorse selection, but with his lessons the reader is already well armed to make an informed betting choice and not a purely random one. He also touches on standardbred racing, quickly explaining how harness races are conducted and illustrating the two gaits, pacing and trotting.

To close out the main text, he lists the major horse races and racetracks in North America that a reader is most likely to attend, and spends the final chapter going into racehorse ownership, so that the new fan who may be considering getting into the business in this way will understand the costs and risks involved. Landers ends off with useful appendix including a glossary, conformation diagram, and help with reading past performance data.

Clearly, this is an excellent book for the truly uninitiated racegoer, as it gives quick lessons on the sport in general in hopes of encouraging the potential fan to make the first step into a racing facility to enjoy the spectacle that is horse racing, and to conduct further research into the horses, horsemen, and handicapping. Seasoned veterans of the sport would find this to be a very basic review of what would be considered common knowledge, but will find it an excellent gift for friends or family who don't understand their obesession.

Insider's Guide to Horseracing has a list price of $14.95 and is available from for $10.17.

Rating:     4/5

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