Now the Point-to-Point season nearly upon us again, we must content ourselves with summer jumping and some of the highlights of the flat season, including the Arc this weekend.
But if truth be told, many Jumps enthusiasts put the sport to one side for the summer and return when the leaves are turning brown. Were it not for Covid restrictions, we'd all be rushing abroad for some hot sun and sangria. And I always top up my racing library during the summer with new and old publications to enjoy with my feet up.
Here are a few personal favourites among recently published books and one not so recent:
The Sure Thing (Nick Townsend)
To say Barney Curley was a legend in his own lifetime is no exaggeration. Loved by racing folk for his mentoring and feared by bookmakers used to outwitting punters, Curley, who died last month, was the archetypal bookie basher.
In the summer of 1975 the late lamented trainer and charity worker, a fearless and renowned gambler, masterminded one of the most spectacular gambles of all time with a racehorse called Yellow Sam. It cost the bookmakers millions of pounds. They said that it could never happen again. But in May 2010, thirty-five years after his first coup, Curley staged the ultimate multimillion pound-winning sequel. The Sure Thing tells the complete story of how he managed to organise the biggest gamble in racing history - and how he then followed up with yet another audacious scheme in January 2014.
In the Shadow of Cleeve Hill (Bernard Parkin)
Bernard had already been Official Photographer at Cheltenham for yonks when I appeared at Cheltenham as a fresh-faced youth in my twenties in 1988. Every bar, every award we ever gave, was full of images he had captured since the fifties. He's Cheltenham-bred through and through, growing up in a time when Prestbury and Woodmancote were training powerhouses in their own right, and Cleeve Common was a veritable Newmarket Heath at a certain time of the morning.
Bernard's imagery, captured through his trusty Leica, extended to Ascot and other courses too, to the extent he received a royal warrant. It was only his reluctance to adopt digital cameras that allowed others to supersede his dominance of the scene.
This entertaining gallop through life in Woodmancote, racing and plenty else is a perfect trip down a memory lane of great Cheltenham events of the past 70 years.
Steeplechasing (John Hislop)
Even allowing for the difference in riding styles nowadays, this is essential reading for any aspiring rider over fences. With illustrations by John Skeaping, the book is the nearest the sport has to a textbook of how to learn the art of race riding. A definite must-have for any entrant to the sport despite the 51 years since its first publication.
For wannabe flat riders, there's a companion book entitled Flat race Riding.
Thrills and Spills: celebrating Irish Jump racing (Donn McClean)
Given Irish dominance of the Festival and for that matter Aintree too, this may be too sore a topic for British racing fans. However, Sunday Independent writer Donn McClean, erudite as ever, has teamed up with the photographic luminary of the Emerald Isle, Pat Healy to produce this selection of 200 magical Irish jump racing moments. Nostalgia eat your heart out; this is yet another advertisement for the charm and ambiance of the Irish scene.
Enjoy your reading!
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