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Book Review

The American Racing Manual 2004
Edited by Paula Welch Prather
Daily Racing Form Press, 2,116 pages, June 2004, hardcover

This annual Bible of racing statistics is back with even more information than before. As was done last year, the new color slipcover is back once again, this time depicting 2003 Horse of the Year, Mineshaft, but traditionalists are again taken care of with the timeless cover design that has been used for years. This year the cover is green, with the usual embossed gold lettering. Publisher Steve Crist made returning the Manual to its former self a top priority when he took over the Daily Racing Form in 1998 and he has done an admirable job since it return to print in 2000. After several years with Steve Davidowitz at the helm, this year Daily Racing Form's Special Projects Editor Paula Welch Prather took over the editing of the Manual.

At a record 2,116 pages, 100 more than the 2003 edition, this massive volume covers racing for 2003 and incorporates most of the favorite features of the previous versions. This edition includes full charts for all North American graded races in 2003, past performances and three-cross pedigrees for all Eclipse Award winners, lifetime past performances for graded stakes winners plus the 20 greatest Thoroughbreds of all time, lifetime records for the top money-winning horses, jockeys, and trainers, world and North American time records, fastest clockings at each distance run at North American tracks, performance records for every horse, jockey, and trainer in North America, histories of all North American graded stakes including winning Beyer figures since 1992, and an expanded 2003 Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup review and historical records section, track diagrams and info for all North American tracks and some European, and much, much more.

If you are looking for statistics on speeds, Beyer figures, wagering, auctions, track records, or just about anything else statistical regarding horse racing you can imagine, it is likely in this book. Also included are informational sections like the "Rules of Racing", pari-mutuel takeout by state, and a directory of racing organizations.

Prather put her stamp on this ongoing project by introducing some new features into this year's manual. These include a recap of the year's best horses by DRF's National Handicapper Mike Watchmaker, a complete listing of all-time winningest jockey Laffit Pincay's career stakes wins, as well as lists of the progeny of the leading broodmare sires and leading horses by races won dating back to 1975. Prather also revived a number of long-defunct features, including the year's necrology, a list of all-time leading horses in wins, and leading horses by money won in Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East.

Once again the extensive data is accompanied by the Year in Review section, with comprehensive articles written by Jay Privman (covering American racing), Bill Tallon (Canadian racing), Alan Shuback (foreign racing), Karen Johnson (steeplechasing), and Glenye Cain (breeding and sales). As well, handicapper Davidowitz helps out new fans in his "Handicapping Principles and Wagering Strategies" section.

Sold at $60 for years, this year's edition, like last year's, has a list price of just $40, a price point which makes it affordable to more fans and a response to competing products that sell for even less but lack the long tradition and volume of data the venerable ARM commands. You just cannot get more bang for your buck, and we strongly recommend this volume for all racing fans. It truly is an invaluable resource for research in many areas, and belongs in the personal library of any follower of racing.

The American Racing Manual 2004 has a list price of $40.00 and is available from Amazon.com for $27.20 with free shipping in the US.

Rating:     5/5

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