Under starter's orders - six nominees for Horse Racing Book of the Year


Given that it is Grand National day, the Sports Bookshelf's rundown of the nominees shortlisted in each category for the British Sports Book Awards 2012 begins with the spotlight on horse racing.

Appropriately enough, the six runners includes Chris Pitt's Go Down to the Beaten -- a collection of participant accounts of every Grand National since the Second World War -- one of three titles on the shortlist published by Racing Post Books.

The awards will be announced at the Savoy Hotel in London on May 21, after which sports book fans will be able to vote for one or other of the category winners to determine the overall Sports Book of the Year for 2012.

The Sports Bookshelf will be focusing on each category in turn over the coming days, so keep dropping by.

1 - Beyond the Frame: More Racing Photographs

Author: Edward Whitaker
Published by: Racing Post Books

No one captures the spectacle and the drama of horse racing quite like Ed Whitaker, the Racing Post photographer, whose work has won awards not only within his specialist area but among his peers across the broader sport spectrum.  This is his second collection of images, following on from In The Frame, produced in 2008.  "Summer, winter, night or day, at home or abroad, you will find him at the races... hurtling down the course or lying scattered with brushwood beneath vast fences, to catch the perfect shot,” writes Jilly Cooper in the foreword.

2 - Go Down to the Beaten: Tales of the Grand National

Author: Chris Pitt
Published by: Racing Post Books

A good journalist can find a new dimension to almost any story, even one that attracts as much attention as the Grand National.  In veteran racing writer Chris Pitt's history, the focus is not on the winners but the losers and the also-rans. Over a period of 10 years, for the most part ignoring the horse that finished first, he tracked down and interviewed a participating jockey from every Grand National since the Second World War, unearthing new angles even on the Devon Loch mystery and the Foinavon debacle, as seen by those who were not only there but took part.  A fascinating and charming read.

3 - In Search of Running Rein: The Amazing Fraud of the 1844 Derby

Author: Tony Byles
Published by: Apex Publishing

When Running Rein came home first in the 1844 Derby, it was the beginning of most scandalous episode in the history of horse racing, a tale of substitutions, false age declarations, nobbling and horse stealing that ended in a criminal trial itself scandalised by perjury and witness tampering. Inspired by a chance discovery by his daughter, Georgina, author Tony Byles set about uncovering the full story of the astounding subterfuge surrounding an audacious and near flawless plan to win the Derby and pull off a monstrous betting coup, and shows how the perpetrators came extraordinarily close to pulling it off.

4 - Ireland's Greatest Racehorses

Author: Brian O’Connor
Published by: Aurum

Racing -- and jump racing in particular -- would have a whole different feel to it if, somehow, the Irish had never taken an interest.  The great jockeys and trainers, and the great horses from the Emerald Isle are what gives the sport so much of its colour and vibrancy, especially at the great spring festivals of Cheltenham and Aintree. Brian O’Connor, racing correspondent of the Irish Times, offers a fine series of witty and trenchant portraits of 12 Irish horses of the last 100 years that he considers to be truly great devotes a chapter to each.

5 - A P McCoy: My Autobiography

Author:  A P McCoy
Published by: Orion

Having written two previous autobiographies, Tony McCoy risked the third being dismissed as not worth the reading but this one goes well beyond the superficial and deep into the mind of the multiple champion jockey. And there is a lot going on, not all of it nice.  Far from revealing the secrets of his success in glib self-congratulatory tones, the story is the platform for McCoy to bare his soul about the self-centred addiction to winning that led him essentially to become, in his own recollection, an obnoxious monster, especially in the way he treated the woman who, despite it all, was to become his wife.

6 - Winning It Back: The Autobiography of Britain's Biggest Gambler

Author: Gary Wiltshire
Published by: Racing Post Books

After getting his fingers burned more than once in his days as a punter, Gary Wiltshire sensibly defected to the bookmakers' side of the betting ring only to lose everything the day in 1996 that Frankie Dettori rode his historic seven winners.  His liabilities on Dettori's last mount cost him £800,000.  The law could not have touched him had he walked away without paying any of his winning clients but he would have been ostracised by the sport he loved.  So he sold the family home, his cars and anything else he owned of value and set about winning it all back.  This is how he did it.

Browse more racing books at The Sports Bookshelf Shop

The British Sports Book Awards shortlists in full

Coming soon:  The Sports Bookshelf's guide to the nominated titles in the Football Book of the Year category.


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