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Book Review 1

Title: Nags to Riches - Tales of the Punt

Author: Keith Ray

Publisher: (Self published) Australia 2010

Reviewed by: Allen Windross - Former CEO TAB NSW

Keith Ray has brought together an excellent anthology of commentary and impressions of Australian horse racing. The selected works cover many decades and range from the sanguine views of Banjo Patterson to the disparaging ideas of Frank Hardy. This variety typifies the balance that Keith has achieved by his selections. There are pieces by humorists such as C. J. Dennis and Lennie Lower contrasted with items from more serious authors such as Xavier Herbert and Charles and Elsa Chauvel. Nat Gould is included and there is even a piece by Breaker Morant, the Australian soldier who represents the flaws of the Boer War to many.

A number of cartoons from the famous Emile Mercier illustrate the work. There is a glossary of racing and punting terms as well as a bibliography but this is not some heavy academic effort. While many of the articles describe the winning and losing of fortunes ‘on the punt’ it is not a text on how to pick a winner. There are lots of references to races where there were ‘shorteners’ and ‘blowers’ but nothing of how to do race mapping or to check if the handicapper gave the ‘topweight’ the right burden.

This is a work of Australiana that will appeal to anyone with even the slightest interest in horse racing or having a ‘little flutter’. It is a ready ‘page-turner’ that should be on any gift ideas list across the nation. Allen Windross July 2010.

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Book Review 2

Title: the Blood the Soil the Gold

Author: Tim Gard

Publisher: (Self published) Adelaide South Australia 2007

Web Page:

Reviewed by: Allen Windross - Former CEO TAB NSW

This book brings to mind the works of the punting guru Don Scott: Winning More, etc. The two authors followed some parallel paths in life. Both began tertiary studies at the University of Sydney, albeit in very different disciplines, and identically failed to complete. In their successful working lives they equally relied heavily on thoroughbred horse racing for their financial resources. The structure of Gard’s book also has some similarities to Winning More: there is an autobiographical style, frequently interlaced with anecdotes, and a significant attention to the history of horse racing.

Beyond this, however, the similarities cease for the Blood the Soil the Gold does not contain formulae as to how to select the next winner at Victoria Park or Rosehill Gardens. Nonetheless it does include a recommendation as to how to have a chance of buying a future champion at the horse sales. The work’s primary base is about breeding and includes a most interesting concept for identifying a sire’s line through colour coding.

The book incorporates many excellent photographs and a comprehensive Glossary of Terms. The latter being a feature too often omitted in racing and wagering texts. On the negative side the Bibliography and identification of sources is disappointingly somewhat shallow. In summary though the work is worthy of a place on the shelf of anyone interested in the ‘Sport of Kings’.



Book Review 3

Title: The gambler's ghost and other racing oddities

Author: Wayne Peake

Publisher: The Ascot Press, Sydney

Web Page:

Reviewed by: Allen Windross - Former CEO TAB NSW

Prose and poetry writing on the topic of horse racing has hardly been a neglected subject in Australia. Legendary names such as: Nat Gould, Frank Hardy, Henry Lawson and 'Banjo' Paterson are up towards the top of a lengthy list. Often the works from the list will be found to contain humour and examples of racecourse language or argot. None, however, could be considered to have approached the levels of entertaining diversion and the use of the vernacular achieved by Wayne Peake. Most of the slang in the work is easily followed but, in any case, there is a good glossary of terms at the back.

No one should open the book looking to find literary work to the standard of Gustav Flaubert or Ernest Hemingway. Readers though should expect to find ready parallels with humorists such as Damon Runyon and Lennie Lower. The opening tale in the book will also bring to mind crime and mystery personalities like Agatha Christie's Hercule Poriot, and Cliff Hardy from Peter Corris.

This is a work well capable of serious enjoyment for all. Well at least all those in the set from regular punters through to those that can recall that horses named Phar Lap and Black Caviar won some races.

Allen Windross July 2012






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