The "Scots and the Turf" by Alan Yuill Walker tells a fascinating story which many, even amongst horse racing aficionados, might be surprised to find is actually there to be told. Within these covers you will find a wealth of information about the history of horseracing in Scotland and the influence of people with Scottish ancestry on horseracing elsewhere in the UK and beyond. This book should be considered essential reading for any Scot with an interest in thoroughbred horseracing.
The story starts with King James VI of Scotland and I of England, the first Stuart monarch to rule over England. He was responsible for founding Newmarket as a centre for field sports and it was his grandson, Charles II, whose building of a palace at Newmarket led to the town becoming the centre of English horseracing. The last of the Stuart monarchs, Queen Anne, went on to establish horseracing at Ascot. Queen Anne may be stretching the concept of Scottishness a little, and the author discusses what he means by Scottish ancestry and influence early in the book.
Another early chapter charts the progress of horseracing within Scotland itself, discussing the racecourses and their origins, and the important horse training areas. Much of the book provides a series of case studies of the role of individual Scots in various eras within horseracing, and it is here that the reader, even the relatively expert reader, will find themselves discovering much they did not previously know.
With the better part of thirty chapters devoted to these individual stories the picture that emerges is a highly diverse one. The range and variety of the coverage is a revelation, and serves to ensure that the reader is always kept interested. The stories of Scottish trainers, owners and jockeys down the years are told in an engaging way. The book is further enlivened by the inclusion of accounts of particular incidents, such as the 1974 betting coup involving the horse Gay Future, which resulted in a court case in 1976. The book concludes with a long and particularly valuable appendix giving a page or so of biography for each of a large number of Scots involved in horseracing who are not covered in more depth in the body of the book.