If you are an owner, trainer, jockey, spectator and/or bettor, you will enjoy an excursion around the racing world with David Hedges and Photographer Fred Mayer. Their exhaustive, well-illustrated book Horses and Courses (Viking, $22.50) explores in detail thoroughbred racing in virtually every country where the sport is offered, and David Hedges is surely qualified to conduct such a guided tour. He was for many years a racing journalist and handicapper for English newspapers and is now in racing public relations.
Having been to the races in many parts of the world myself, I agree with Mr. Hedges that one can pick up horseplayers and put them down at any track and find them "at home"—horseplayers look and act very similarly from Moscow to Phoenix, Ariz. Mr. Hedges, though thoroughly English, starts his racing Baedeker where racing is at its best—in France. The tiercé (which requires one to pick the first, second and third horses in order) has made French racing profitable, and the breeding and choice of races at many distances on magnificent tracks make it attractive. Britain, as Mr. Hedges points out, though offering great racing, suffers from the prevalence of betting shops and course bookmakers who contribute very little in revenue to the sport that maintains them. "The so-called 'colour' provided by the bookmakers on the course [is] probably the most expensive colour that any entertainment industry has ever tolerated," Mr. Hedges observes.
"Small stature, small bones and small parents," are Mr. Hedges' qualifications for jockeys. Strong hands, a quick mind and honesty are others. None of these are required of owners, trainers or bettors. Methods and systems of betting vary. Just as no two people have the same fingerprints, no bettor is quite like any other. Robert Morley, the British actor and horseplayer, has his rule of course: if an owner is surrounded by children, don't back his horse, but if he "is accompanied by a beautiful lady not his wife plunge to the hilt." And in India, from what Mr. Hedges writes, one gathers that astrology is a handmaiden of the bettor.
One chapter in Horses and Courses covers the criminal element in racing. These persons are often ingenious but are finding it harder to make a living since protective associations have been organized to guard against stable substitutions, drugging and antepost betting.
With the perfection of the jet, horses and horsemen have become truly international travelers and the latter could do no better than to consult Horses and Courses, whether racing is their hobby or their business.