“This brief, highly readable, paperback volume covers highlights of Virginia turf history in just over 150 pages. An unusual feature is the focus on five of the Great North-South Match Races not usually covered in similar volumes. The book is attractively produced with both the expected and unexpected illustrations in ten brief chapters. It begins with the arrival of six mares and a stallion at Jamestown in 1611, which unfortunately were eaten by the settlers during the starving time.
The story proceeds telling of the foundation sires and a discussion of the bloodlines and the leaders who imported, raced, and bred Thoroughbreds. The usual figures are here – John Randolph of Roanoke, William Ransom Johnson of Chesterfield County, the Taylor family of Mount Airy, John Hoomes, John Baylor, and Francis Thornton, all of Caroline County, the Lees of Westmoreland County, Ralph Wormeley of Middlesex County, Mann Page of Gloucester County, William Fitzhugh of Stafford County, Alexander Spotswood of Spotsylvania County and legendary trainer, Green Berry Williams. Portraits as well as discussions are provided for some of these men as well as their places of abode, their horses, and their personal relationship to the turf. Currier & Ives prints and illustrations of horses from the American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine are reproduced in the book.
“Having begun at Jamestown, the story continues through the cavalry during the Civil War, the establishment of the Jockey Clubs, and the standardization of the racing records. Finally it concludes with steeplechase races, Colonial Downs, and Secretariat.
“This little volume could be given to someone largely unaware of the subject in order to stimulate interest. The story is really brought to life, not falling to earth with stultifying racing statistics. The authors make good use of sources and tell the story simply enough that they might consider a children’s book as well. The illustrations are an important feature and the twenty dollar price is very reasonable.”
–Pegram Johnson, III. National Sporting Library Newsletter (Spring 2009)
“Kentucky may be the site of the world’s most renowned horse race, but Virginia is no slacker in the field, as Virginia C. Johnson and Barbara Crookshanks show in Virginia Horse Racing: Triumphs of the Turf (160 pages, The History Press, $19.99).
“The authors begin their story with the arrival of six mares and a stallion in Jamestown in 1611 and run through the opening of Colonial Downs in New Kent County. Along the way, they tell fascinating tales that will interest not only equine enthusiasts but also history buffs.
“Johnson is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and is Web-content librarian at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library in Fredericksburg. Crookshanks, a freelance writer in Fredericksburg, has worked for the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star and as the longtime editor of Fredericksburg Times magazine.”
— Jay Strafford —Richmond Times-Dispatch
“This is a book I’ve been waiting for! Virginia Johnson and Barbara Crookshanks’s Virginia Horse Racing: Triumphs of the Turf helps me to place ‘horse history’ straight into the midst of our broader history—and it’s great fun to read! Buy it! Read it!”
–John N. Pearce
Director, James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, University of Mary Washington