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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

SEABISCUIT - looks down from Animal Heaven

With an informative book and movie out about Seabiscuit, you undoubtedly know a lot about this amazing horse and his story. Horse stories are wonderful, especially when they are true! As you watched the end of the video about the match race at Pimlico did you notice the jockey, The Iceman, on Seabisuit turn back after he crossed the finish line and yell something to War Admiral's jockey? I wish I knew what he said! When the two horses were head to head, Woolf said, "So Long, Charlie!" and Seabiscuit took off. Let me back "track" and give you some background on this famous horse: Seabiscuit was born on May 23, 1933. He was the son of Hard Tack and the grandson of Man 'O War. His name came from his father's, both of which stand for the crackers eaten by sailors. He grew up on Clairborne Farms in Paris, Kentucky and was owned by Gladys Mills Phipps. He had a rather inauspicious start in life. He was small and knobby kneed and his only desire in life was to eat and sleep. (Party Hardy in the second book of The Mist Trilogy: Mists of Darkness is like that!) He failed to win his first ten races. As a two year old he was raced 35 times. (Readers of this blog know how I feel about that!) Even with such a hard race schedule, he managed to still win five times and come in second seven times. In the great scheme of things, that is very good. However, he didn't catch any one's eye. Three of those races were "claiming" races where he could have been purchased for $2,500. No one claimed him. Seabiscuit was sold as a three year old to auto entrepreneur, Charles S. Howard for $8,000 who saw something in the awkward, lazy colt that he liked. He hired washed-up and unconventional trailer, Tom Smith. Smith, in turn hired Canadian Jockey, Red Pollard. Their formula worked for Seabiscuit. His fame spread as he began winning races under ever increasing amounts of weight. In 1937, Seabiscuit was the leading money winner, winning eleven out of fifteen races. That was also the year the beautiful War Admiral won the triple crown. (As I wrote The Mist Trilogy, I pictured the evil unicorn Hasbadana looking like War Admiral!) In 1938, Pollard was badly injured while racing another horse so his friend George Woolf, nicknamed the Iceman, was selected to ride the "Biscuit." Throughout 1937 and 1938, while the country suffered under the effects of the Great Depression, speculation was rampant about a match between Seabiscuit and War Admiral. While the west coast favored the Biscuit, the rest of the country put their money, if not their hearts, on War Admiral. The long anticipated "Match of The Century" was held on Nov. 1, 1938. The grandstands and infield were packed with 40,000 people while 40 million more listened over the radio. The video shows you the results of that race! Seabiscuit was named the 1938 "Horse of the Year" and the little brown colt became the national symbol of hope through hard work...something we need now! Not long thereafter, Seabisuit tore a suspensory ligament in a race. He and his friend, Red Pollard went to Charles Howard's ranch to recover together. Slowly, they both learned to walk and run again. Against all odds, Seabiscuit, with Pollard aboard, did race and win again. Their big comeback was in the 1940 Santa Anita Handicap where they walked away with the $121,000 purse. Seabiscuit was retired on April 10 and lived out his life at Ridgwood Ranch in Willits, CA. He received 500,000 visitors a year! A statue of Seabiscuit was erected at the ranch on June 23, 2007. Side note: There was an earlier movie about Seabiscuit filmed in 1949/50 titled "The Story of Seabiscuit" staring Shirley Temple! All of you Shirley Temple fans should check it out!
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