Tools of the Trade: Daily Racing Form Archive

When I started researching Sir Barton’s career, I knew I had to start with the individual races themselves before I worked to connect the dots between them. The best place to find all of the details of his starts was the Daily Racing Form, the source of form charts and articles about the previous day’s races and other news going back to 1894. The only problem? The Keeneland Library is five hours away! Yikes! How was I going to do this research? Cue the Daily Racing Form archive.

The archive houses digital scans of the DRF, a collection of 78,000 pages and 305,000 articles going all the way back to issues from late March 1896. You can look at issues by date or use the search to find a specific horse or human. Once you find what you need, you can even download the article and save it as a PDF. The best part? It’s FREE! As long as you have access to the internet, you can read about everything from Colin or Sysonby’s dominant careers in the early part of the 20th century to Exterminator’s surprise Kentucky Derby victory in 1918 to all 31 of Sir Barton’s starts from 1918-1920. The archive also has pages collecting the form charts and articles for the Triple Crown races covering nearly 60 years of racing history.

For me, the archive was the starting point for writing the first draft of Sir Barton’s story. I was able to write about each of his races with the form charts and articles from the archive and then understand where the gaps in my information were so that I could continue my research. As a writer, this resource is invaluable: it allowed me to conduct searches for information on Sir Barton and his connections from the comfort of my home. I was able to save every article I needed and return over and over to find more.

Now, for racing fans, this resource opens up the past, giving anyone the chance to find out more about their favorite racehorse. So far, the archive covers most of the first part of the 20th century, so if you want to find Man o’ War’s form charts, they’re all there; if you want to find Secretariat’s, those issues have yet to be scanned.

Take a deep dive into the history of racing through the Daily Racing Form archive. Marvel at the writing of Exile and other storied turf writers as you hunt for more on the horses you love. Let me know what gems you find buried deep in the archives.


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