6 Horse Racing Books Every Serious Horseplayer Should Read

Horse Racing Books
Becoming a successful horse player does not happen overnight and the learning process never ends.  I was introduced to the sport of thoroughbred horse racing by my father and learned how to handicap using his methods.

After a few years of recreational handicapping with occasional success I decided to take my new found weekend hobby more serious.  The goal was to find out if long term profits were possible.

To do this I began reading all the horse racing books on betting strategies and handicapping I could get my hands on.  As you can see from the picture of my bookshelf above I have amassed a decent size collection.

The results have been positive.  In the last four years my betting ledger is in the black with two very positive years and two years with minor losses.

My handicapping has improved dramatically after reading all of the books you see above.  I would recommend reading every book on horse racing betting strategies and handicapping you can get your hands on but reading 40+ books is probably not feasible for most people.

After sifting through my collection I came up with a group of  books I recommend that anyone wanting to become a serious horseplayer should read.  In no particular order here are six that I would highly recommend.

Exotic Betting#1 – Exotic Betting by Steve Crist: Handicapping the races is only half the battle, betting them is the other.  In Exotic Betting Steve Crist outlines the strategy he uses for playing each type of exotic bet, from Exacta’s to the Pick 6 and every wager in between.  The multi-ticket A-B-C method of playing the Pick 4 and Pick 6 alone are worth the read and have been an integral part in increasing my profits at the racetrack.

Money Secrets at the Racetrack#2 – Money Secrets at the Racetrack by Barry Meadow:  Money management is a weakness of many horseplayers and can often be the difference between a winning and losing horseplayer.  Money Secrets at the Racetrack is far and away the best guide to proper money management and optimal value betting strategy.


Modern Pace Handicapping

#3 – Modern Pace Handicapping by Tom Brohamer:  Pace makes the race is one of the oldest sayings you will hear at a racetrack and Modern Pace Handicapping is the definitive book on Pace Handicapping.  For beginners the chapter on running style will provide insight into how the race will be run and which horses will benefit from the likely pace scenario.  For experts the chapters on the Sartin Methodology will provide a never before seen method of analyzing the pace scenario of a race.  I have read this book a half a dozen times and would rank it at the top of my list of most influential books on handicapping a horse race.

The Handicapper's Condition Book#4 – The Handicapper’s Condition Book by James Quinn:  Class is an often hard to describe factor in horse racing.  A horse that wins a Maiden Special Weight may be able to step up and win an Allowance race or may need to drop into a Claiming race.  In The Handicapper’s Condition Book the winning profile for each Class level is laid out for the reader and the chore of separating contenders from non-contenders is made drastically easier.

Betting Thoroughbreds for the 21st Century#5 – Betting Thoroughbreds for the 21st Century by Steve Davidowitz:  Ever look at the past performance of a horse and wonder what is this horse doing in this race today?  In Betting Thoroughbreds for the 21st Century the answer to that question and many more will be answered.  This book covers a diverse set of topics from track bias to trainer intent and is a must read for beginning horseplayers and a welcome refresher for experienced horseplayers.

The Best of Thoroughbred Handicapping#6 – The Best of Thoroughbred Handicapping by James Quinn:  Over 40 handicapping ideas/methods are presented in this anthology of horse racing.  From betting strategy to pace handicapping to visual analysis of the horses in the paddock this diverse collection of writings is useful to every type of handicapper.  If you are looking for a well rounded book on handicapping methodologies you will not find one better then The Best of Thoroughbred Handicapping.

Each of these horse racing books is available through the links provided above via Amazon.com.  Please note that if you decide to purchase one or more of these books through the links provided above I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.


  1. Keith bishop says:

    I have them all in my book shelf and have read them more than once. I can’t think of a single handicapping book better than these six. May I suggest “Six Secrets of Successful Bettors” and some of the work by Mark Cramer who is very entertaining and quite enlightening.

  2. Agree with the guy above me about Mark Cramer. “The Odds On Your Side” by Cramer is one of my favorite horse racing books.

    “Ainslie’s Complete Guide To Thoroughbred Racing” is another one. It may have been written in 1986 but we are still playing the same tracks that Ainslie played. The game is the same. A lot of the data available is different and training methods have changed but it’s still a very relevant book.

  3. Thank’s Lenny

    I will look that book up.


  4. Agree with Larry (12/6/12) about the Ainslie book. It’s so chock full of interesting nuggets and angles that the occasional horse player would never think of. But I always take his advice with a grain of salt given it’s 25 years old. That’s one book they should come out with an updated edition of!

    Absolutely yes on the the Davidowitz, as well. His updated edition, with the individual track profiles, are invaluable, albeit it seems with many of those profiles he only scratches the surface (no pun intended).

    The Brohamer book is interesting too. I actually prefer his 1991 edition over the 2000 one, which has so many typographical, mathematical, and formatting errors it was really frustrating to read. Whoever proofed/edited that latter edition must’ve been hitting the sauce while doing so.

    Informative site. Thanks.

  5. A must read is one of Andy Beyer’s early books in order to learn how speed figures were created.

  6. Read most of those and agree for the most part. The “Best of” book by Quinn is a great one because it introduces you to so many ideas. I was introduced to the works of Cramer, Fotias, Dr. Z, and the Litfin (very underrated book) among many others. Quinn can’t go in depth in his compilation, but it sets you up to explore what’s out there if you have a thirst for knowledge.

  7. All of the six books listed are pretty good, but they won’t put you in the winner’s circle. Davidowitz, especially, is rather derivative. The glaring omission here is “Winning at the Races”, by Dr. William Quirin. If I could only read one book, that’s the bible of handicapping. I also agree with other posters, that Mark Cramer’s books, notably”Kinky Handicapping”, is a wellspring of creativity and inspiration. I have a few “Kinky” plays that are so counterintuitive but amazingly profitable.
    But, nothing substitutes for good record keeping, creating your own database, and continually studying what is successful for you.

  8. Lenny,
    I’ve read several good comments on “Calibration Handicapping” by Jim Lehane. Have you read it and, if so, what is you opinion of it?

    • Race to Wire says:

      Do you want to learn more? or just be a race fan.. Calibration Handicapping is by far the Gold Nuggets.. using this on your daily racing will help you a lot.. but there is no easy money! it take hard work and dedication to survive in this game.. If your just a fan it does not matter but if you want to be the player then learn all that you can. buy any book that will help you, this is self learning no one will teach but you.. you can if your heart is on it.. Good Luck.

  9. I know most people will say it’s too basic of a book but if you don’t know the basics or if you over analyze you probably won’t win. Paralysis of Analysis in other words. So if i had to pick one book to learn handicapping it would be Handicapping 101 by Brad Free. Mr. Free emphasizes handicapping by 4 factors over anything else: Form, Class, Pace & Speed. Other factors can be important too, like the trainer but these four in particular sets the motion of making an intelligent betting decision. And for a beginner I think he is right without bogging the mind with too many factors…. Just four basic ones. It is also a good book for experienced handicappers. Back to basics in other words especially if you are going downhill with losing bets…

  10. All of the above are good books. A couple that I really got a lot of ideas from, “Thoroughbred Cycles” by Cramer, and “Inside the Claiming Game” by Steve Collison. Collison’s book gave me a whole different outlook on claiming races, and I use some of his suggestions. Has really helped the bottom line.

  11. which is the best book for starters

    • I would start with the Handicappers Condition Book because it will teach you what type of horse to look for in various races.

      • Are there any cheaper options than Handicappers Condition Book. I am looking for it as a gift, and $60 seems a little high.

  12. Race to Wire says:

    Racing School is In.. For those of you who read this learn this simple tip: Tip #. 1 never follow the general public bet what you feel and not what the next guys choice. Is the guy next to you will pick the winner? Tip #. 2 learning the game will give you edge over the just “Fan” want to drink beer? this what fan wants to do, nothing wrong with that. but want to make money instead then be a Player .. which one are you? Tip #. 3 All the book here is a good learning, I have spend a lot getting the books I see in the book store.. you on the other hand must buy the book you think that will help you. It will cost you but you will be rewarded for learning $$$ get it? Tip#. 4 watching the race either by the track or online will teach you a lot, things the other player don’t see.. like what? each person is different but if you don’t see or learn something by watching race then this game is not for you. Tip#. 5 Halfhearted effort will result in failure! Your Effort must be 100% learn the game, hard work will pay of.. want to Win? follow this Tip + Effort = winner!

  13. TheRealBigD says:

    Another book I would suggest is The Winning Horseplayer by Andrew Beyer. Beyer popularized speed figures in such early works as Picking Winners (also a classic) and My $50,000 Year at the Races. The contribution of The Winning Horseplayer is the explanation of the relationship between trips and speed figures. Speed figures are a great tool, but should not be taken at face value; the key is to understand how the figure was earned. Harness handicappers know that trips are extremely important, and they are quite important in thoroughbred handicapping as well.

  14. Any of Cramer’s books are good, but if read before you’re grounded in the basics you’ll lose a lot of time sitting on a mountaintop contemplating your naval as some of it can be pretty esoteric. Henry Kuck’s Winner’s File and Dave Litfin’s Expert Handicapping are both underrated. Any of Dick Mitchell’s books are worth reading if you can find them and his video series was excellent. Lastly, the Holy Grail of handicapping books – years ahead of its time – is E.W. Donaldson’s Consistent Handicapping Profits.

  15. Jerry Murphy says:

    Don’t remember the title but William L Scott’s books should be looked at. I’m familiar with the books on the list and Cramer’s stuff, but Scott’s internal fraction angle at route races has been invaluable from a handicapping perspective. Without solid handicapping selections, betting is moot.

  16. Nice choices. For years I’ve been using the Barry Meadows AB system. $110 Pick Six 2S 2H 4H 4H 5H – ( 2A must win ) and my adaptions to the P5 and P4. With some success, I’ve come to the conclusion, you need way more AB coverage. After re reading Steven Crist Exotic Betting, I’m sold on the multi ticket, multi ABC, ticket system. Ouch in the bankroll! Another book that I found interesting, Total Victory at the Track ,William Scott. Expect to roll your sleves up and sharpen your pencils. Good Luck

  17. Have you read The Blue Jay Factor by James Sanders

  18. Marcie Loffredo says:

    Wow, so many books….gotta get them and start reading! Thank you all for all the great ideas! I’m a fan who now wants to be a serous horse player, especially since my husband and I are now in a thoroughbred racing partnership!

    • Larry Rivera says:

      If I were you I would start with Handicapping 101 by Brad Free . That to me is the bible for beginner’s and even experienced horse players. The books above are a little advanced for beginners in my opinion. 101 gives you a good foundation before tackling any other books. You can buy fairly cheap used on Amazon.

      • Marcie Loffredo says:

        Thank you Larry. As a matter of fact, that is one of the books I ordered on Amazon.
        I appreciate your advice.

        • Anonymous says:

          Another bit of advice is if you have Facebook, join handicapping or thoroughbred racing Facebook Groups. I belong to the Homeless Handicappers Group. They have over 3,000 members. But that is one of many on Facebook. Would love to chat with you and your husband via FB sometime about handicapping. Last Saturday I won two bets at Belmont. A win bet and a trifecta using what i learn from the 101 book…

      • Anonymous says:

        hey, i am new relatively new to horse handicapping, always done it for fun but trying to take it more seriously. I am from Australia and was wondering if Handicapping 101 or any of the books mentioned will benefit the racing over here? Thanks in advance

        • Anonymous says:

          Yes, 101 can benefit you in your country except you will have to adjust it to what Racing Form they use where you live. The book uses as examples races from the DRF (Daily Racing Form) which is the prevalent publication here on race days to handicap races. But other than what Racing Form is used in your country all else in the book is relevant. The main four topics in the book are: Form, Class, Speed and Pace. But it also has secondary topics to complement the main four topics… hope this helps.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Thanks mate that’s brilliant appreciate it

  20. dave brownfield says:

    Lenny: I am assuming it is a divorce. You won’t be the 1st or the last. The reason isn’t important what ever the situation. It is the recognition of the issue. There is a song about a father that had neglected his son’s life as he grew up and there is a part of the song that says “that he grew up just like me”. It is the recognition of the “truth” what ever that may be and the sharing of a very personal story. Gambling, drugs an any addictive behavior that destroys lives by deceit, lies, lack of priorities and trust is doomed to failure. I hope that this chapter will pass and a new beginning will get you back on track. Your comments will be missed. I hope the future is brighter. Best of luck. Dave

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