A Guide to the Classics: Or How to Pick the Derby Winner by Guy Griffith and Michael Oakeshott

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A Guide to the Classics: Or How to Pick the Derby Winner by Guy Griffith and Michael Oakeshott

Category: Sport
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Peter Magee
Reviewed by Peter Magee
Summary: A perceptive analysis as relevant today as it was in the 1930s when it was written.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 130 Date: June 2017
Publisher: Amphora Press
ISBN: 978-1845409371

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It's not often that you get a glimpse into the personal, youthful interests of one of the greatest Conservative philosophers of the twentieth century, but A Guide to the Classics co-authored by Michael Oakeshott is a light-hearted look at how to pick the Derby winner. Originally written in 1936 it is, amazingly, as relevant today as it was then. In fact, the techniques and analysis employed by the authors were way ahead of their time and have only come into general use relatively recently.

For example a strict analysis of the breeding of the sire of a racehorse will give many clues as to whether their progeny are likely to be able to stay the testing Derby distance of 1½ miles. One only needs to look at the Classic successes of the sons and daughters of Galileo to illustrate the point perfectly in current terms. Griffiths and Oakeshott attack the systems employed by people they regarded as charlatans and instead used hard-headed and factual analysis to arrive at their conclusions.

You would be mistaken if the name 'Oakeshott' led you to the conclusion that this book was simply a dry analysis of statistical information to arrive at a conclusion: Oakeshott and Griffith's work over the winter months prevented the authors from, as they describe it, going mad if there was nothing else but Christmas and the House of Commons to occupy the mind. Furthermore they say you should choose your filly as you would choose your wife and if all else fails, saying a prayer might help. There's solid information and guidance here, leavened with some impish humour.

The Derby is not the only classic race covered, although the other races are mentioned more briefly and the principles already arrived at will apply to all races. The book is intelligently written and wide ranging considering that this is a slim volume. There's much that's still of relevance to the twenty-first century racing enthusiast and the reissue is welcomed, particularly as the original text is supplemented by a new preface and foreword by Sean Magee and Peter Oborne.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For more on the subject of breeding we can recommend Mr Darley's Arabian: High Life, Low Life, Sporting Life: A History of Racing in 25 Horses by Christopher McGrath.

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Buy A Guide to the Classics: Or How to Pick the Derby Winner by Guy Griffith and Michael Oakeshott at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Guide to the Classics: Or How to Pick the Derby Winner by Guy Griffith and Michael Oakeshott at Amazon.com.


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