Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand


Audiobook.  What a perfect book for listening.  Thanks to this book and the subsequent movie, people are aware of this amazing horse.  It is interesting that such a media phenomenon in his time (1936-1942) was forgotten until the 2001 book caught on.  He received more coverage in the late 30s than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini.  Perhaps this means that in a few years, everyone will assume that Paris Hilton was known as a member of the hotel magnate family.  Happy thought.

What makes this such a fun book is that all three of the men involved in the transformation of Seabiscuit from a horse at the bottom of the racing hierarchy to such a successful winner had compelling stories.  The owner at the time of his ascent was Charles Howard, a former bicycle repairman who became very successful selling cars in San Francisco after the earthquake.  The trainer was Tom Smith, a man who rarely spoke and never smiled except to his horse.  And the rider who best understood the complicated Seabiscuit was Red Pollard, an Emerson-quoting, self-educated jockey who had more than one accident on other horses that seemed to eliminate him from riding.

Though Seabiscuit was the grandson of the beautiful Man of War, he was an ungainly horse who was slow and not inclined to work too hard.  Tom Smith recognized something in him and could always figure out how to get what he wanted from the horse.  Eventually Seabiscuit became very competitive; when he was training or racing, he loved to slow down so he could see his nearest competitor and then leave him in the dust with a burst of speed.  Most other thoroughbreds would become so discouraged, they wouldn't train with him.  He had two dogs and a horse named Pumpkin who always traveled with him.

The stories of all the important races were intense and I never tired of them.  Although his best known race was probably the one-on-one match with War Admiral (whose sire was Man of War), one of the sweetest victories was the Santa Anita $100,000 race that came at the end of his career when he came back from what was assumed was a career-ending injury.

Add comment



Recent Posts


Blogs I Like