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Sixty Years of Jump Racing By Robin Oakley & Edward Gillespie

Release date: 06th April, 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury Sport

List Price: £24.99
Our Price: £19.99
You Save: £5 (20%)
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The world’s greatest horse race takes place at Aintree on Saturday when a global audience of more than 650 million will tune in to watch the field tackle huge fences, the names of which have become synonymous with the sport. Beechers, the Chair, the Canal Turn; it could only be the Grand National.

Enormously popular races such as the National and festivals such as last month’s Irish-dominated bash at Cheltenham have contributed to a resurgence in interest in steeplechasing and for the sport’s burgeoning army of followers wishing to consult a well laid-out, easy-to-read, but none the less comprehensive history, Sixty Years of Jump Racing is highly recommended.

Moment’s including Devon Loch’s spectacular fall, Crisp’s last-gasp surrender to Red Rum in 1973 and Foinaven’s unlikely National win a few years earlier have each been covered in depth elsewhere and while Messrs Oakley and Gillespie touch upon all three, they (rightly) avoid detailed analysis of such incidents. Nevertheless, the book is sprinkled with informative and often amusing anecdotes that act as historic waymarks, guiding readers from Arkle to McCoy. A particular favourite references the head-to-head between Crisp and Red Rum at Doncaster in 1974 when the pair ran carrying the same weight (this made Crisp’s load 23lb lighter than he had carried at Aintree the year before) and not surprisingly, the Australian horse won by 8 lengths.

It’s also good to see a section dedicated to the Great Pardubice, the Czech-based steeplechase contested annually since 1874, which features the infamous Taxis Ditch, a truly colossal fence that is negotiated just once a year (the second Sunday in October) and which wouldn’t look out of place at Aintree on Saturday.

The authors have also found space to accommodate a short chapter on race betting, a tacit acknowledgement, perhaps, that the gaming industry effectively underwrites horse racing.

People bitten by jump racing after watching the National, the Champion Hurdle or the Cheltenham Gold Cup will find this book a useful guide to a sport with deep roots. Whether it will help them pick out winners is another matter…

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