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Sports Books for Christmas

Part Four -- Five from the Turf


Ruby: The Autobiography


Not unusually, Ruby Walsh is injured. The Irishman, winner of two Grand Nationals and two Cheltenham Gold Cups, has suffered 12 breaks or dislocations in his career. At different times, the occupational hazards associated with his sport have left him with an ankle, a leg, both hips, both shoulders, his left arm, both wrists, a collarbone and several vertebrae effectively in bits. For good measure, he had to have his spleen removed in 2008 after a horse kicked him in the stomach. At the moment, the tibia and fibula in his right leg are undergoing repairs. But Walsh is philosophical. He points out in this honest and revealing life story, co-written with Irish journalist Malachy Clerkin, that you can’t ride half-ton horses at 50kph and expect not to get injured. But he has also ridden more winners at the Cheltenham Festival than any other jockey in history.  He describes many of these, with fascinating insights into riding tactics, in an engaging autobiography.


McCoy: A Racing Post Celebration

Ruby Walsh might have achieved even more had his career not coincided with that of his great friend, Tony (“A P”) McCoy, the winner of a staggering 15 jockeys’ championships, and whose Grand National victory on Don’t Push It in 2010 enabled him to achieve one of the few targets that had proved elusive to him, having already won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the King George VI Chase.  The Ulsterman is favourite to be named the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Award -- never previously won by a jockey -- and the Racing Post has trawled its archives to celebrate his career, aided by the excellent Brough Scott, whose words both introduce the story and set the various reports in context.



McCoy on Denman and Walsh on Kauto Star were both upstaged by Imperial Commander when the two met head-to-head for the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup in what was meant to be the ultimate turf showdown between two great jockeys on two brilliant horses. Nonetheless, despite this deviation from the intended script, Jonathan Powell’s story of this famous jump racing rivalry, which has been likened to Bjorn Borg’s epic struggle for tennis supremacy over John McEnroe and Seb Coe’s efforts to get the better of Steve Ovett on the athletics track, makes a strong contribution to the history of National Hunt racing.  Powell, who also helped Paul Nicholls -- trainer of both Denman and Kauto Star -- write an outstanding autobiography, Lucky Break, is a racing journalist of 40 years’ experience.

Frankincense and More: The Biography of Barry Hills


Robin Oakley may have made his journalistic name as the political correspondent of the BBC, where he occupied that position from 1992 to 2000 between John Cole and Andrew Marr, but he has a long-standing interest in horse racing and has written the Turf column for The Spectator magazine since 1994. His cleverly-titled biography of Barry Hills, who funded his establishment in a training yard at Lambourn in Berkshire with the proceeds of a gamble on Frankinsense in the 1968 Lincoln Handicap, charts the career of one of the sport‘s most enduring figures, describing the ups and downs of a career encompassing six decades and Hills’s 20-year battle with cancer.

Enemy Number One: The Secrets of the UK's Most Feared Professional Punter


Every horse racing fan at some point indulges thoughts of making a living off the backs of the bookmakers, exacting revenge on the gleeful retainers of incalculable losing bets and doing so not once but time and again.  Patrick Veitch, a former Cambridge University maths prodigy, has stung the bookies so many times there are virtually none left who are prepared knowingly to accept a bet from him.  Mind you, given that he has won more than £10 million in a mere eight years, it is hardly surprising that even the likes of William Hill and Ladbrokes tremble at the mention of his name.  In fact, he is still taking them to the cleaners, thanks to a network of agents employed to place his bets for him. His story reveals not so much his secrets as his incredible story, which involved being on the run for a year after a Cambridge gangster demanded a share of his winnings in exchange for not breaking his legs.


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