Girls Horse Club Blog

Seabiscuit: A Legend

Published by • Feb 14th, 2008 • Category: International Horse, Junior Blogger Archives, Junior Blogger Finals, Tributes

Junior Blogger Finalsby SB, age 13

No one could have guessed that a cultural icon would be born right in the middle of the Great Depression, a time when there wasn’t much joy and hope in the world. Seabiscuit was born on May 23, 1933, as the grandson of the great Man o’ War. Though he had great blood, the colt wasn’t much to look at. He grew to be barely over 15 hands, a regular bay coat with no distinctive markings, knobby knees, and a habit of sleeping and eating for extended phases. Failing to win his first three races, the little horse became the subject of many barn jokes.

When he turned three years old, his racing began to improve. Biscuit won five out of his 35 races and came in second place seven times. But even with that, he wasn’t reaching the potential that his trainers thought he could achieve. The legendary Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons even began to give up on him, spending more time with Omaha because he felt the colt was too lazy. The next racing season came less glamorous than the last, so the grandson of Man o’ War was sold to Charles S. Howard.

That was when The Biscuit’s luck turned around. Tom Smith was signed on as his unconventional trainer who was thought to be too old. Smith went around the country looking for the right rider for a horse that it seemed had no chances left during a time when even first chances were few. Finally he found Red Pollard, a Canadian who had gotten in a few fights and was near blind in one eye. Standing at 5’ 7”, Red was considered to be too tall to be a jockey.

Smith moved the horse to the California circuits where he hoped he would do better. Biscuit won his first race with his new partners during the Bay Bridge Handicap and continued racking up more wins. Even though he suffered losses, such as the fact that Red was blind in one eye, it was impossible to deny that people loved watching the little horse race. He was a big hit, even as he was moved into the elite Eastern races.

As a five-year-old, Seabiscuit continued to capture the hearts of racing fans across the country even without his faithful old Red, who had fallen underneath a horse, breaking his ribs and his arm. Once again, the taste of victory at Santa Anita Handicap was snatched away, this time with George Woolf in the saddle. Talk grew among the people of a Match Race against another legendary horse who was also an offspring of Man o’ War. War Admiral had recently won the Triple Crown and been given the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.

There were at least four attempts to put the two favorites in a match race, all of which were scratched until they decided on the Pimlico Special in Baltimore, Maryland on November 1, 1938. It was to be called the “Race of the Century,” which led over 40 million people to sit around their radios and listen to the commentary on the race. With War Admiral’s speed and the Biscuit’s staying power, Smith trained him to come out with a burst of speed at the start from the gate.

Race day came. Seabiscuit jumped from the gate as soon as the bell rang and led by more than a length after only 20 seconds. Shortly after, War Admiral began to cut down on the lead and pulled slightly ahead. Woolf remembered something Red had once told him and allowed Biscuit to look the Triple Crown champ in the eye and ask for more. The people’s horse shot ahead again to take the lead by four lengths.

That was the year that Seabiscuit was named for Horse of the Year. The race that had alluded him twice, the Santa Anita Handicap, offering the little horse another chance, this time with a recovered Red on his back. The famous team entered the legendary race with the winnings of $121,000.

Red and the Biscuit found themselves blocked at the start and began moving through the pack until the little bay was in the lead. In the blink of the eye, Seabiscuit was boxed back in third place, until Red pulled him onto the firmer ground by the rail which allowed them to reach the “Hundred Grander” by a length and a half. After that, the crowds were so thick that even Smith couldn’t get to his winning horse and rider.

On April 10, it was announced that Seabiscuit was being retired from racing. Biscuit sired 108 foals, including two that became relatively well known, Sea Swallow and Sea Sovereign. During the time that he spent at Ridgewood Ranch, over 5,000 people came to visit the great legend that had given the hopeless hope. When the little horse died, the Howards buried him in a secret place that is known, to this day, only to the family.

Since then, Seabiscuit has been immortalized in print and screen works, including the 2003 movie Seabiscuit. In this film, Tobey Maguire portrayed Red, saying, ”You know, everybody thinks we found this broken down horse and fixed him, but we didn’t. He fixed us. Every one of us. And I guess in a way we kinda fixed each other too.”

Seabiscuit was the horse of a nation that was going through hard times. He gave them hope that times would get better because he had achieved what was thought to be impossible. He was the horse that kept people standing in the rain just to see him run. They would tell their children, who would tell their children, who would tell their children, so that the story would continue for generations, and then you could die peacefully because you knew there were miracles on Earth.

Seabiscuit wasn’t only a horse, he was a miracle to the people that watched him and were with him all the way. He showed that the underdog wasn’t to be underestimated, and that a small horse could have a huge heart.

SB is one of several guest bloggers vying for a spot on our Junior Blogger team. Please read the blogs and stories from each candidate, then go to the poll on the blog sidebar and vote for the next Junior Blogger.

More blogs by SB: Fantasy vs. Reality, REVIEW: Phantom Stallion by Terri Farley

Loft Book Club stories by SB: Never Broken Thunder (2nd place winner, November 2007 Judge for Yourself competition), My Boy (2nd place winner, January 2008 Judge for Yourself competition), Brought Home (finalist, February 2008 Judge for Yourself competition), A Horse’s Eyes, Relics of the West, Waiting for River’s Path, Imagine If…, One Girl and One Horse, Race of the Century

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  1. You’ve definitely raised the bar for the Junior Bloggers Finalist voting! This blog has taught me things more than what I would have thought and known about Seabiscuit. It’s great to see also what positive comments you have posted on other finalist blogs- I find in competitions it kind of calms my nerves. All in all I love this blog, and good luck!

  2. you made me want to go and sit in front of my TV and watch the Seabuist DVD a BILLION times! i feel so… so… so… annoyed not to have been able to see him race in real life! wonderful blog! if you win it’ll be well deserved!!!

  3. Cool blog! I’ve never really thought about famous racing horses before!