Author(s): Christopher McGrath
Shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award In 1704 a bankrupt English merchant sent home the colt he had bought from Bedouin tribesmen near the ruins of Palmyra. Thomas Darley hoped this horse might be the ticket to a new life back in Yorkshire. But he turned out to be far more than that: and although Mr Darley's Arabian never ran a race, 95% of all thoroughbreds in the world today are descended from him. In this book, for the first time, award-winning racing writer Christopher McGrath traces this extraordinary bloodline through twenty-five generations to our greatest modern racehorse, Frankel. The story of racing is about man's relationship with horses, and Mr Darley's Arabian also celebrates the men and women who owned, trained and traded the stallions that extended the dynasty. The great Eclipse, for instance, was bred by the Duke who foiled Bonnie Prince Charlie's invasion (with militia gathered from Wakefield races) and went on to lead the Jockey Club. But he only became a success once bought and raced by a card-sharp and brothel-keeper - the racecourse has always brought high and low life together.
McGrath expertly guides us through three centuries of scandals, adventures and fortunes won and lost: our sporting life offers a fascinating view into our history. With a canvas that extends from the diamond mines of South Africa to the trenches of the Great War, and a cast ranging from Smithfield meat salesmen to the inspiration for Mr Toad, and from legendary jockeys to not one, but two disreputable Princes of Wales (and a very unamused Queen Victoria), Mr Darley's Arabian shows us the many faces of the sport of kings.
Shortlisted for William Hill Irish Sports Book of the Year 2016.
An excellent history ... McGrath is one of the finest sportswriters of this generation ... Brilliant -- David Walsh SUNDAY TIMES A racing book like no other - a book of remarkable scope -- Robin Oakley THE SPECTATOR Erudite, wry and astute ... extraordinary horses and a rich seam of cultural history woven into a fascinating book -- Melanie Reid THE TIMES, Book of the Week A vivid, sweeping history of impressive scope. McGrath's eye for a story and eloquent turns of phrase will delight -- Nick Pulford RACING POST The introduction made my arms tingle as McGrath recalls Frankels's win at the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in 2011... Racing life, social life and equine life are all neatly pulled together and expertly rendered into a compelling story. each chapter is a satisfying vignette of a Darley descendent, the jockeys, trainers, rakes and rank who were involved. Chance and Fortune, deals and dodging -- it's like Derby Day on the page -- Alexandra Henton THE FIELD A racy gallop ... a teeming, colourful survey [with] a great deal to inform and entertain -- Nicholas Clee OBSERVER A dark horse contender EVENING STANDARD Did I think I'd end up missing the whole of the Euro 2016 final in order to finish Chris McGrath's Mr Darley's Arabian? By no means, but I guess it's just that kind of book... Packed with the result of thousands of hours of painstaking research (the bibliography, in itself, is worth a read), the book never gets bogged down in any one horse or race and travels along at a pace that almost forces the turn of the next page. It also includes a quite ridiculous amount of sex, disgrace and utter debauchery. And unlike so many of the great betting coups related throughout, many of which quite spectacularly fail to deliver, it's an investment well worth making -- Will Hayler SPORTING LIFE Meticulous research and engaging writing... a book to be savoured, Mr Darley's Arabian is a triumph -- Richard Fahey RACING POST A good story ... from an award-winning journalist ... [McGrath is] at his best when he is conveying his love of racing -- Patrick Scrivenor LITERARY REVIEW Truly gripping...a finely crafted tome that insists on your uninterrupted attention from the start...A fascinating tale of horses and those who owned, trained and traded them. the story is peppered with enough scandal and adventure to fill the trashiest novel. Fortunately, Mr Darley's Arabian is very well written, its narrative racing along effortlessly - as you might expect of a thoroughbred author -- Pete Sharkey BIRMINGHAM POST, Sports Book of the Month A high-quality history of our sport, drawing on a cast that takes in aristocrats and nouveaux riches, playboy industrialists, Smithfield meat salemen and the rulers of Dubai GUARDIAN A colourful and engaging tale of scandals, adventures and fortunes lost and won HORSE MAGAZINE A real thoroughbred. a three century gallop through 25 generations of champions IRISH MAIL Entertaining and informative... a remarkable journey through three centuries, many countries and most of all 25 horses to trace the history of horse racing... [written with] a wonderful light touch. -- Bill Spence RYEDALE GAZETTE & HERALD The thoroughbred among new writers OXFORD TIMES A sprawling, colourful read, McGrath is an excellent writer and this is an ambitious and well-researched project... [Its readers] are on to a winner SPORT A brilliant read... excellent...if you have any interest in horse racing at all, this book is a must read BOOKBAG Brilliant...Mr Darley's Arabian has rightly received rave reviews -- Lee Mottershead RACING POST Extraordinary WILTSHIRE VIEW To the sound of pounding hooves, royalty and aristocrats, obsessive jockeys and trainers jostle with rogues and rascals. The author's understanding of breeding, racing and human foibles is thorough, his prose elegant. SUNDAY TIMES, BOOKS OF THE YEAR An enthralling cultural history of humans as much as horses THE TIMES, BOOKS OF THE YEAR A picaresque chronicle of horse racing ... ingenious storytelling... a pleasure GUARDIAN, BOOKS OF THE YEAR A sporty stunner... great COACH McGrath is an excellent writer and this is an ambitious and well-researched project Sport The most comprehensive and entertaining history of racing DAILY TELEGRAPH Brilliantly realised ... The depth of the research McGrath has undertaken is evident on every page but the difficult balance between being definitive and keeping the reader entertained is cleverly maintained ... There could be no better way for a newcomer to racing to absorb its rich history or a devotee to discover fresh depths Observor, 'The Sports Books that Made Our Writers' Year'
Chris McGrath was racing correspondent at the Independent for seven years and has won multiple awards, including racing journalist of the year. This is his first book.