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Sumptuous tribute to finest racecourses around the world; BOOKS AND VIDEOS The World's Greatest Racecourses Paul Haigh (Highdown, pounds 99, limited edition of 1,000 numbered copies).

Byline: Robin Gibson

IT'S always a disappointment that compilers of coffee-table books have never taken the cue from Kramer, the Seinfeld character who produced a coffee table book, with little fold-out legs, that actually became a coffee table.

That aside, however, coffee-table books don't come much more richly flavour some than this gilt-edged, leatherbound tome by the Post's most discerning globetrotter (yes, he works for us, I work for us, and the book is published by us, but please don't use any of that as measure of the reviewer's objectivity).

Sumptuous is the word most often employed to describe such works and it wouldn't be ill-used here. The 240 fullcolour pages are stuffed like Mr Creosote tucking into a cheese-crust pizza with panoramic views of the courses of the title - many by the Post's Edward Whitaker - while the chunky, witty script by Haigh, really the meat of the book, is far more expansive than the captioneering prose that often adorns this type of thing.

Given the nature of the project, much of it is complimentary - it is, after all, a tribute - but Haigh is unfraid to dig beneath the turf to unearth a few sods.

On one hand he is perhaps too equivocal over concerns about the new Ascot outhouses, but on the other, Haigh being Haigh, he happily refers to the Ascot 'toffs' incovenienced by the new design as people "whose idea of the time of their lives is to dress up for five days as Edwardian undertakers". Fine stuff.

Each course has its 'Great races' section too, even Happy Valley, where "there aren't any". Haigh is well placed to comment on most of the tracks, as he has somehow luckily managed to visit most if not all over the years, and is as well informed about Moonee Valley as he is about Newmarket. His history is thoroughly entertaining.

Unfortunately, presumably because he has restricted his view to Flat courses, or those that at least feature Flat racing, Leopardstown and Nakayama make it, but Cheltenham doesn't. Why not? They have bumpers! Neither, even more unfortunately, does Brighton. But there are plenty of other books about all


The backdrop at Deauville as runners travel down the far side - one of the stunning images featured in 'The World's Greatest Racecourses'
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Dec 15, 2006
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