Virginia Horse Racing: Triumphs of the Turf
By Virginia C. Johnson & Barbara Crookshanks

About the Book:

Virginia, mother of presidents, is also the mother of American horse racing. From the very beginning, Virginians have risked it all on the track as eagerly as on the battlefield. Follow the bloodlines of three foundation sires of the American Thoroughbred through generations of rollicking races and larger than- life grandees wagering kingly stakes, sometimes on horses not yet born.

How did the horse nicknamed Damn His Eyes get protection money from other horse owners? What did it mean to tap the claret to break a neck-and-neck tie? Why was Confederate cavalry so much better than Union–was it the riders, or was it the mounts?

All these and many more stories of horsemanship on and off the track fill the pages of Virginia Horse Racing: Triumphs of the Turf.

Virginia C. Johnson

Virginia Johnson is the online content librarian at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library’s website,, which includes a regional history page.

She has a B.A. in anthropology from the College of William and Mary and a Master of Library Science degree from the University of Maryland at College Park. She is an award-winning member of Virginia Professional Communicators, a division of the National Federation of Press Women.

Barbara Crookshanks

NOVEMBER 16, 1928 – SEPTEMBER 3, 2011

Barbara Crookshanks received a B.S. in Journalism from the University of West Virginia and is a freelance journalist who has worked for Ladies Home Journal, Fredericksburg’s The Free Lance Star, Fredericksburg / Tideland Times, and Fredericksburg Parent.


“I have NO special interest in horses or horse racing, and I was amazed to find out how very readable this book is! In fact, I found myself laughing out loud numerous times.

“While all the stories have horses, they go all the way back to the beginning of the New World. I was surprised to find out about such people as Jack Jouett, Virginia’s Paul Revere.

“There are also a remarkable number of photographs, considering the amount of time that has passed since some of them were done. MOST highly recommended!”

Amazon Review

D. Tyson

"A wonderful read, & outstanding source of information about the Thoroughbred industry in Virginia. Very well written and researched. Worthy of a 5 star rating.

Joanne G.

"I've loved fictional horses from the time I could read, and I've watched as many Triple Crown races as I find televised. On vacation several years ago, I had the opportunity to tour the Belle Meade Plantation, a former Thoroughbred farm, in Tennessee--a trip that would have been enriched if I'd read this book beforehand. Even so, I had no idea the impact racing horses had on the United States in terms of the social aspects, influence in the Civil War, and providing the genes for the cowboys' trusty Quarter Horse, for just a few examples. A book about racing would have been dull if relying solely on track times, but Virginia Horse Racing brings history to life through the owners, breeders, jockeys, and events of the time. The great breeding farms are visited as their famous horses are enumerated. It was interesting to learn the majority of famous Thoroughbred race horses in the U.S. could trace their lineage back to a handful of horses--all having derived from three particular stallions. Interspersed between the lineages and race results are historical stories and amusing anecdotes that wouldn't be compiled together except for their connection to racing horses. From George Washington, who owned and raced an Arabian stallion named Magnolia, to General George S. Patton, who was crucial in saving the Lipizzaners from certain butchery in World War II, there are connections to Virginia horse racing. I was reading Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian simultaneously, and I was delighted when a comment was made about a drink being bottled at the time American Eclipse was racing. I was able to use my newfound knowledge to surmise the time period. I love when my reading choices have such synergy. Note: I read this on my Kindle. Had I known it was chock full of illustrations and photographs, I would have opted for the print version. ”