Christmas books - Galloping through the pages of racing’s top inside stories

BARRY Geraghty – a jump jockey who became a more than worthy adversary to the now retired Sir AP McCoy and Ruby Walsh – was destined to hang up his riding boots in 2020.

The now retired Barry Geraghty after his Champion Hurdle win on Epatante. He has now written a candid memoir entitled True Colours.

He had defied many to recover from a badly broken leg suffered riding over the unique Grand National fences in 2019 and his Champion Hurdle win this year on the electrifying Epatante more than vindicated his decision.

Little did he – or anyone else for that matter – realise that racing would be suspended just a week later due to Covid-19 and that racegoers in Britain and Ireland would be denied the chance to see one of their favourite, and most celebrated, sons in action for the final time.

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That said, it gives them even more reason to appreciate Geraghty’s compelling memoir True Colours (Headline, £20) in which the jockey opens up about the physical pain, and mental torment, that he endured during a roller-coaster career which saw him win virtually all of the major races on both sides of the Irish Sea.

Epatante's win in the Champion Hurdle was a fitting note for Barry Geraghty to bow out of racing.

Candid about the high-jinx that is an essential element of the weighing room’s unique camaraderie, this book reveals how jockeys as accomplished as Geraghty invariably become more exercised about the races they should have won rather than those that they did.

Just over a year after Geraghty was defeated on dual Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, True Colours offers a glimpse of the lingering self-doubt after Middleham jockey Henry Brooke, now injured himself, conjured a winning front-riding out of the unfancied Cornerstone Lad for Middleham trainer Micky Hammond and owner Mary Lofthouse.

It was split-second perfect – a photo-finish was needed to separate the two horses.

It is 10 years since a little-known horse, albeit one with a phenomenal reputation on the gallops, won a modest three-runner race at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting.

An ailing Sir Henry Cecil strokes Frankel after the horse's win in the 2012 Juddmonte International at York - Simon Cooper's new book Frankel charts the horse's career from foal to stallion.

That colt was Frankel, who would go on to enjoy a 14-race unbeaten career – no photo-finish was ever needed because of his superiority – and, on tide of sentiment, help to sustain his trainer, Sir Henry Cecil, through his heroic fight with cancer.

Fittingly, the Simon Cooper-written Frankel (William Collins, £20) provides a wonderful insight into this equine colossus from his foal to tentative first races to racecourse debut, mesmeric wins on the track and then a successful second career as a stallion.

All racing fans should be blessed that Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms breeding empire – outgoing York chairman Teddy Grimthorpe is racing manager to the Saudi prince – provided such access so racing fans canappreciate what it took to train Frankel.

They include the Doncaster race and Cecil’s inclination that the journey from Newmarket to Town Moor would help Frankel to cope with the demands to travel – little did he realise that the hardest part was persuading the horse to consent to leaving his box.

The latest book in the Racing Post Legends series now celebrates Enable, a dual winner of the Yorkshire Oaks under Frankie Dettori.

It is also testament to the prowess of Juddmonte Farms that they would, within years, have another superstar in the wonderfully elegant Enable.

Justifiably, the Racing Post Legends series on equine greats now includes a fitting and fulsome tribute to Enable that includes her final season and the story of her ultimately unsuccessful quest to win a historic third Arc.

Entitled Enable: Queen of the Turf (Racing Post Books, £19.99), this exquisitely produced book pays homage not just to a horse for the ages who won two Yorkshire Oaks, but trainer John Gosden, jockey Frankie Dettori, who treated her like a family pet, and all those who played a part in her success on the track where the margins between greatness and super-stardom are so slender.

The most ingenious racing book of 2020 is Sean Magee’s In Praise Of Famous Horses (Weidenfeld & Nicolson £16.99) which is an A-Z of the most celebrated horses in culture, myth and sport over two millennia. A real labour of love that canters, for example, from Falada, the talking horse in Grimms’s fairytale, on one page to Foinavon, arguably the luckiest Grand National winner, on the next.

Foinavon and John Buckingham clear the final fence of the 1967 Grand National in solitary isolation, a feat recorded in Sean Magee's new A-Z compendium of famous horses.

Finally, the Racing Post Annual (Racing Post Books, 14.99) is simply worth the cover price for the evocative essays charting the past 12 months of action – notably, from a Yorkshire perspective, Brian Hughes on becoming champion jockey, Kevin Stott on his heart-stopping Royal Ascot win on Hello Youmzain and the irascible Mick Easterby.

He is described as “Britain’s oldest trainer” with a lifetime of stories and scams to brighten and enliven any review, and this year more than most.

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