There are many more excellent books on Thoroughbreds than any one person has time to read, much less review. The ones below are some of the many I've read and enjoyed over the years, and I recommend any and all of them to the Thoroughbred enthusiast seeking to build up a personal library. Each title is listed in alphabetical order below its author.
The Silver Anniversary Edition and Golden Anniversary Edition of The Blood-Horse are books covering American racing and breeding in the periods 1916-1940 and 1941-1965, respectively. The books contain many rare photographs as well as much invaluable information.
Derby Dreams (1996, Pelican Publishing Company) is a collection of 18 of Bolus' essays on the history of the Kentucky Derby. This volume contains some excellent pieces on some of the earlier and more obscure Kentucky Derby winners.
Derby Fever (1995, Pelican Publishing Company) is another sampling of Bolus' superb work, containing 18 essays covering everything that goes into the Kentucky Derby. Among the offerings are pieces on Secretariat's devoted groom Eddie Sweat, 1941 Triple Crown winner Whirlaway and the legendary Calumet Farm.
Derby Magic (1997, Pelican Publishing Company) features 23 of Bolus' superb essays on the horses and people that have made the Kentucky Derby the legendary event it is. Assault, Seattle Slew, and D. Wayne Lukas are just a few of the subjects brought together in this collection.
Kentucky Derby Stories (1993, Pelican Publishing Company) is the book that kicked off Bolus' series of collected essays on the Kentucky Derby and its history. The subjects of the 15 essays in this collection include the man who made the Kentucky Derby into a national event, Colonel Matt Winn; legendary Calumet Farm trainer Ben Jones; and the Affirmed/Alydar rivalry.
Remembering the Derby (1994, Pelican Publishing Company) is a collection of 15 fascinating essays on some of the horses and human characters that have played a part in the story of the Kentucky Derby. Sir Barton, Northern Dancer, Joe Hirsch and Ed Corrigan are among the subjects.
Royal Blood: Fifty Years of Classic Thoroughbreds (1994, The Blood-Horse, Inc.) is a must-have for any library thanks to its gorgeous illustrations by artist Richard Stone Reeves, whose commentary on each of his subjects is included. The fifty horses whose portraits are reproduced here are also the subjects of profiles written by racing historian Jim Bolus. It just doesn't get any better than this.
Run for the Roses: 100 Years at the Kentucky Derby (1974, Hawthorne Books, Inc.) is Bolus' chronicle of the first 100 years of Kentucky Derby history, providing a sweeping history of the Derby as well as more intimate portraits of some of the notable horses and people associated with the great race.
Bowen, Edward L.
Dynasties: Great Thoroughbred Stallions (2000, Eclipse Press) outlines the development of North American sire lines and profiles some of the most important stallions of the 20th century.
Legacies of the Turf: A Century of Great Thoroughbred Breeders is a two-volume set published by Eclipse Press in 2003 (Vol. I) and 2004 (Vol. II). Between them, the two volumes outline the careers of 39 breeders who helped shape Thoroughbred history in 20th-century North America.
Matriarchs: Great Mares of the 20th Century (1999, 2000, The Blood-Horse, Inc.) profiles 24 mares whose families have had a significant impact on breeding in North America.
Matriarchs, Volume II: More Great Mares of Modern Times (2008, Eclipse Press) takes up where Matriarchs leaves off, profiling another 22 influential matrons and their families.
Churchill, Jennifer; Reichard, Andrew; and Rogers, Byron
Great Thoroughbred Sires of the World (2006, The Australian Bloodhorse Review) is a massive reference work profiling 205 important stallions of the 20th century from around the world. Each profile contains a brief biography of the subject horse and a listing of the horse's important progeny, sire sons and contributions as a broodmare sire. There is also a reference section providing annual sire lists for most of the world's racing nations.
Cooper, Page and Treat, Roger L.
Originally published by Julian Messener, Inc., in 1950 and reissued in an expanded version in 2004 by Westholme Publishing, Man o' War tells the story of American racing's "Horse of the Century." In addition to providing a solid account of Man o' War's career as a racehorse, the book has a substantial amount of information on his stud career.
Daily Racing Form
The American Racing Manual is the annual almanac of Thoroughbred racing. Each book in the series is crammed with a wealth of information about a year's racing action in North America and the horses and people that made it happen. Published annually since 1906, each volume covers racing for the year immediately preceding its own date; thus, the 2015 edition covers the history of 2014. Beginning in 2021, the American Racing Manual was taken over by The Jockey Club and is now published annually as a PDF file.
Champions: The Lives, Times, and Past Performances of America's Greatest Thoroughbreds was initially published by the Daily Racing Form in July 2000. Each chapter provides an overview of a decade of American racing and some of its most memorable performances, followed by past performance charts of the champions active during that period. The revised version, published in 2005, contains a selection of past performance charts for champions of the period 1893-1929 and provides charts for all American champions active in 1930-2004.
Racing in America 1665-1865 and Racing in America 1922-1936 were both printed privately by The Jockey Club. They provide excellent surveys of the history of Thoroughbred racing in the United States during the periods they cover.
Hewitt, Abram S.
The Great Breeders and Their Methods (1982, Thoroughbred Publishers, Inc.) discusses the methods and contributions of 27 important breeders active from the Civil War era to the mid-20th century in North America or Europe.
Sire Lines was initially published in 1977 by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association; an updated version was made available through Eclipse Press in 2006. The book contains 86 profiles of stallions important to American breeding who entered stud from 1900 up through the mid-century.
No racehorse biography of modern times has had a wider impact than the superbly written Seabiscuit: An American Legend (2001, Ballantine Books). A surprise New York Times bestseller, it tells the rags-to-riches story of Seabiscuit, who became an icon of the Depression era thanks to his defeat of War Admiral in a widely publicized 1938 match race at Pimlico and to his comeback from crippling injuries to win the 1940 Santa Anita Handicap after narrow losses in that race in 1937 and 1938. The book became the basis for the 2003 movie Seabiscuit.
Hogan, Clio D.
Index to Stakes Winners 1865-1967 is a two-volume privately published reference listing all North American stakes winners within the subject period and the stakes races they won; their first, second and third dams; and their sires.
Kelly, Jennifer S.
Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown was published by the University Press of Kentucky in 2019. It examines the life and career of Sir Barton, now recognized as the first winner of the American Triple Crown, and is an excellent snapshot of racing as it existed in the years immediately following World War I.
The Foxes of Belair (2023, University Press of Kentucky) takes up the history of the Triple Crown where Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown left off. The stories of 1930 winner Gallant Fox and his son Omaha, the 1935 champion, are entwined with that of their breeder, William Woodward, whose career as the master of Belair Stud left a profound impact on racing in both the United States and England.
Kray, Fred M.
Broken: The Suspicious Death of Alydar and the End of Horse Racing's Golden Age (2023, Live Oak Press) is the story of one man's quest to unravel the mystery surrounding the untimely death of the great racehorse and leading sire Alydar. A taut blend of the true crime genre with the world of the high-end Thoroughbred industry, it also provides a close-up view of Alydar as an individual through the eyes of those who knew him well.
Leicester, Sir Charles
Bloodstock Breeding was initially published by J. A. Allen & Co. Ltd. In 1957. The same company released an updated and expanded edition revised by Howard Wright in 1983. Sir Charles' original work begins with an outline of breeding theory and practice before turning to the profiles of winners of England's premier Classic, the Derby Stakes, from 1900 up into the mid-20th century. Each profile includes a discussion of the victor's ancestry and impact on Thoroughbred breeding. The second edition adds the profiles of Derby winners up through 1981 and provides additional notes on earlier winners.
Livingston, Barbara D.
Old Friends: Visits With My Favorite Thoroughbreds (2002, The Blood-Horse, Inc.) and More Old Friends: Visits With My Favorite Thoroughbreds (2007, Blood-Horse Publications) are collections of photographs and essays by the Eclipse Award-winning photographer. Over 130 retired Thoroughbreds are featured in the two volumes.
Thoroughbred Stallions (1990, The Crowood Press) profiles 75 stallions important to European breeding in the latter half of the 20th century.
Man o' War: A Legend Like Lightning (2006, St. Martin's Press) is an intricate and impeccably researched work telling the story of the original "Big Red" and the humans and history surrounding him, bringing the racing world of a century ago back to life. Ours's book was a finalist for the first Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award.
Names in Pedigrees was originally published in 1939; a second printing was published by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association in 1974. The inspiration for Abram Hewitt's Sire Lines, this volume profiles 50 important English, French, Irish and American stallions of the 19th century.
This Was Racing (1953, Henry Clay Press) is a delightful collection of Palmer's writings regarding the many fine Thoroughbreds and colorful characters of the Turf that he covered during his many years as a racing writer.
Landaluce: The Story of Seattle Slew's First Champion (2022, University Press of Kentucky) is a fast-paced equine biography of Landaluce, a filly who transformed lives and wielded a remarkable influence on the careers of her trainer, Dr. Wayne Lukas, and her sire, Seattle Slew, as well as on the stature of racing on the West Coast during her brief, brilliant life. Testifying to the excellence of Perdue's work, Landaluce was a finalist for the 17th Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award.
Robertson, William H. P.
The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America (1964, William H. P. Robertson) covers racing in North America from the colonial period up into the early 1960s, providing a sweeping review of the important horses, breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys and events of that period.
Justify: 111 Days to Triple Crown Glory (2019, Triumph Books) is a fast-paced, hard-hitting history of Justify's 111-day run from his maiden victory to the American Triple Crown in 2018. Along the way, Shulman (a longtime writer and editor for The Blood-Horse) weaves in a tightly written picture of the modern American Thoroughbred industry at its top levels.
Simon (Fleming), Mary
A History of the Thoroughbred in California (1983, The California Thoroughbred Breeders Association) provides a panoramic view of racing and breeding in California up through the early 1980s, with plenty of attention given to the sport's most popular horses and people.
Racing Through the Century: The Story of Thoroughbred Racing in America (2002, BowTie Press) provides a decade-by-decade review of the horses, jockeys, trainers, owners, and other racing figures who made and defined American racing during the twentieth century.
Sparkman, John P.
Foundation Mares: How Outstanding Female Families Shaped America's Breeding Industry (2008, Thoroughbred Times Books) grew out of a series of articles published in the now-defunct Thoroughbred Times magazine. The book profiles 51 mares of the mid-20th century whose families have wielded marked influence on American and international breeding and racing.
Peerage of Racehorses (1994, Richard Ulbrich) is an encyclopedia providing summaries of the racing and breeding careers of literally thousands of stallions and mares appearing in the pedigrees of top-level racehorses around the world.
The Great Stallion Book (1986, Libra Books) contains biographical information on 600 influential Thoroughbred stallions foaled in 1950 and earlier. Most are European, but some American and Australian stallions are included.
"Cherry and Black": The Career of Mr. Pierre Lorillard on the Turf recounts the history of Pierre Lorillard's powerful racing stable, which was active in 1873-1901, and Lorillard's influence on the American turf. Privately published for Lorillard in 1916, it was re-issued in 1969 under the aegis of his grandson, Lorillard Tailer.
Racing in America 1866-1921 follows John Hervey's Racing in America 1666-1865 in recounting the history of American Thoroughbred racing. Like Hervey's work, it was privately published by The Jockey Club.
Lexington: The Extraordinary Life and Turbulent Times of America's Legendary Racehorse (2023, Ballantine Books) is the first complete biography of the great 19th-century American racehorse and sire Lexington.
Makers of the Modern Thoroughbred was originally published in England in 1984, with the American edition being released by the University Press of Kentucky in 1986. The book profiles the careers of nine important 20th-century breeders who wielded international influence.