Seabiscuit: An American Legend

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Seabiscuit was an unlikely champion: a roughhewn, undersized horse with a sad little tail and knees that wouldn't straighten all the way. But, thanks to the efforts of three men, Seabiscuit became one of the most spectacular performers in sports history. The rags-to-riches horse emerged as an American cultural icon, drawing an immense following and becoming the single biggest newsmaker of 1938 -- receiving more coverage than FDR or Hitler. Laura Hillenbrand beautifully renders this story of one horse's journey ...
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Overview

Seabiscuit was an unlikely champion: a roughhewn, undersized horse with a sad little tail and knees that wouldn't straighten all the way. But, thanks to the efforts of three men, Seabiscuit became one of the most spectacular performers in sports history. The rags-to-riches horse emerged as an American cultural icon, drawing an immense following and becoming the single biggest newsmaker of 1938 -- receiving more coverage than FDR or Hitler. Laura Hillenbrand beautifully renders this story of one horse's journey from also-ran to national luminary.

Second-place winner of Barnes & Noble's 2001 Discover Great New Writers Award for Nonfiction

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
What, you may ask, is a biography of a famous race horse doing in the Discover program? Well, if you take a look at Seabiscuit -- a good look -- you'll understand. Much as Sebastian Junger did in The Perfect Storm, Laura Hillenbrand has woven together the many strands of lives that improbably create a phenomenon -- in this case, no raging storm, but legendary racing history. The little horse, Seabiscuit, with his crooked legs and sad tail, was at first thought lazy, but with the help of a trinity of men -- his trainer, his owner, and a jockey -- would make racing history and find a place in the hearts of thousands of fans in Depression-era America. Laura Hillenbrand has done what only great writers can do: She has taken a story that in other, less capable hands would be fodder strictly for the racing crowd, and written as dramatic and informative a biography of a horse and of 1938 America as you'll find. When you read this book, an America mired in the Depression and searching for something to believe in comes alive. The faith of those Americans in the little horse with heart will awaken your own, and when you read Seabiscuit's racing scenes, even the most skeptical reader will find themselves jumping up and down, shouting at Seabiscuit to "Run!"
Jim Squires
[T]he story of this ragged-tailed racehorse [is] an allegory for Depression-era America. . . . [Hillenbrand's book] is a flawless trip, with the detail of good history . . . and the charm of grand legend.
New York Times
Mark Hyman
Hillenbrand, a contributing writer at Equus magazine, is a deft storyteller whose descriptions of such races are especially good, filled with images of pounding hooves and splattering mud.
Business Week
Deirdre Donahue
Seabiscuit brings alive the drama, the beauty, the louche charm and the brutality of horse racing. Hillenbrand makes the reader understand why Americans, crushed by the Depression, found so much hope, inspiration and pleasure in the story of a small horse who rose from obscurity to become a champion.
USA Today
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Gifted sportswriter Hillenbrand unearths the rarefied world of thoroughbred horse racing in this captivating account of one of the sport's legends. Though no longer a household name, Seabiscuit enjoyed great celebrity during the 1930s and 1940s, drawing record crowds to his races around the country. Not an overtly impressive physical specimen--"His stubby legs were a study in unsound construction, with huge, squarish, asymmetrical `baseball glove' knees that didn't quite straighten all the way"--the horse seemed to transcend his physicality as he won race after race. Hillenbrand, a contributor to Equus magazine, profiles the major players in Seabiscuit's fantastic and improbable career. In simple, elegant prose, she recounts how Charles Howard, a pioneer in automobile sales and Seabiscuit's eventual owner, became involved with horse racing, starting as a hobbyist and growing into a fanatic. She introduces esoteric recluse Tom Smith (Seabiscuit's trainer) and jockey Red Pollard, a down-on-his-luck rider whose specialty was taming unruly horses. In 1936, Howard united Smith, Pollard and "The Biscuit," whose performance had been spotty--and the horse's star career began. Smith, who recognized Seabiscuit's potential, felt an immediate rapport with him and eased him into shape. Once Seabiscuit started breaking records and outrunning lead horses, reporters thronged the Howard barn day and night. Smith's secret workouts became legendary and only heightened Seabiscuit's mystique. Hillenbrand deftly blends the story with explanations of the sport and its culture, including vivid descriptions of the Tijuana horse-racing scene in all its debauchery. She roots her narrative of the horse's breathtaking career and the wild devotion of his fans in its socioeconomic context: Seabiscuit embodied the underdog myth for a nation recovering from dire economic straits. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
A veteran thoroughbred-racing writer whose stories have appeared in American Heritage, Talk, and other magazines, Hillenbrand here takes readers on a thrilling ride through 341 pages on the back of champion thoroughbred Seabiscuit. This is a Cinderella story in which four creatures, united for a brief period of time (1936-47), spark the imagination of an entire country. Hillenbrand combines the horse's biography with a social history of 1930s and 1940s America and incisive portraits of the team around Seabiscuit. Charlie Howard, a car dealer, bought the crooked-legged, scruffy little horse; Tom Smith, a man who rarely spoke to people but who communicated perfectly with horses, became its trainer; and Red Pollard, a half-blind jockey, rode Seabiscuit to fame. Hillenbrand's extensive research compares favorably with that of Alexander MacKay-Smith's in Speed and the Thoroughbred (Derrydale, 2000). This story of trust, optimism, and perseverance in overcoming obstacles will appeal to many readers. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/00.] Patsy E. Gray, Huntsville P.L., AL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
This well-written and compelling book celebrates the life of a racehorse that just happened to be a descendant of Man O' War. It is a story of a huge talent that almost went unrecognized until the right people came along. According to descriptions, Seabiscuit was a runt, with stubby legs, an odd walk, and a lazy nature. However, he became so popular that he drew more news coverage than President Roosevelt, Hitler, or Mussolini. The atmosphere surrounding his historic match with War Admiral was so intense that FDR kept advisors waiting as he listened with the rest of the country to hear the outcome. Hillenbrand also tells the stories of owner Charles Howard, trainer Tom Smith, and jockey Red Pollard and the part each man played in the recognition and development of a racing legend. But the book is much more. Seabiscuit is a story of the times and it is a story of the hard and dangerous life of a jockey. Even readers with no interest in the sport will be hooked with the opening sentence of the book's preface. Hillenbrand does a wonderful job in bringing an unlikely winner to life.-Peggy Bercher, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The former editor of Equus magazine retells the riveting story of an unlikely racehorse that became an American obsession during the Depression. Like all heroes of an epic, Seabiscuit had to endure setbacks, dispel doubts about his abilities, and contend with formidable rivals. Hillenbrand deftly mixes arcane horse lore with a narrative as compelling as any adventure yarn as she introduces first the men who would make Seabiscuit great and then the horse himself. Racing was a popular, often unregulated sport in the 1930s, and wealthy men like Bing Crosby and his friend Charles Howard, who became Seabiscuit's owner, fielded strings of horses all over the country. Howard, a sucker for lost causes, took on as his trainer Tom Smith, a taciturn westerner down on his luck who studied horses for days until he took their measure. Both men were well suited to invest emotionally and financially in Seabiscuit, as were the two jockeys who would be associated with him, Red Pollard and George Woolf. Howard first saw Seabiscuit racing in 1936. The colt was a descendant of the famous Man o' War, but his body was stunted, his legs stubby, and he walked with an odd gait. Smith believed he had potential, however, so Howard bought him and took him back to California. There Smith patiently worked on Seabiscuit's strengths, corrected his weaknesses, and encouraged his ability to run faster than any other horse. When Smith thought he was ready, Howard began racing the colt. Seabiscuit broke numerous track records, despite accidents, injuries, and even foul play. His fame was secured with a 1938 race against his rival, War Admiral; their contest divided the country into two camps and garnered more media coverage than President Roosevelt, who himself was so riveted by the race that he kept advisers waiting while he listened to the broadcast. A great ride.
From the Publisher
“Fascinating . . . Vivid . . . A first-rate piece of storytelling, leaving us not only with a vivid portrait of a horse but a fascinating slice of American history as well.”
The New York Times

“Engrossing . . . Fast-moving . . . More than just a horse’s tale, because the humans who owned, trained, and rode Seabiscuit are equally fascinating. . . . [Hillenbrand] shows an extraordinary talent for describing a horse race so vividly that the reader feels like the rider.”
Sports Illustrated

“REMARKABLE . . . MEMORABLE . . . JUST AS COMPELLING TODAY AS IT WAS IN 1938.”
The Washington Post

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345465085
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/1/2003
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 4.17 (w) x 6.89 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Hillenbrand has been writing about Thoroughbred racing since 1988 and has been a contributing writer/editor for Equus magazine since 1989. Her work has also appeared in American Heritage, ABC Sports Online, The Blood-Horse, Thoroughbred Times, The Backstretch, Turf and Sport Digest and many other publications. Her 1998 American Heritage article on Seabiscuit won the Eclipse Award for Magazine Writing, the highest award for Thoroughbred racing. She is currently serving as a consultant on a Universal Studios movie based on this book. Born in Fairfax, Virginia, Laura lives in Washington, D.C.

Biography

Laura Hillenbrand has been writing about history and Thoroughbred racing since 1988 and has been a contributing writer/editor for Equus magazine since 1989. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, Talk, American Heritage, Reader's Digest, ABC Sports Online, The New York Post, The Week, Attache, The Blood-Horse, Thoroughbred Times, The Backstretch, and many other publications.

Her 1998 American Heritage article on Seabiscuit won the Eclipse Award for Magazine Writing, the highest journalistic award for Thoroughbred racing.

She served as a consultant on the Universal Pictures movie based on Seabiscuit as well as a PBS documentary on Seabiscuit's life. An alumna of Kenyon College, Laura lives in Washington, D.C.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

Good To Know

Days after Hillenbrand's literary agent first put out a proposal for Seabiscuit to publishers in August 1998, a Hollywood producer called her to talk movie rights; she hadn't written a word of the book yet.

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    1. Hometown:
      Washington, D.C.
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 15, 1967
    2. Place of Birth:
      Fairfax, Virginia
    1. Education:
      B.A., Kenyon College

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: The Day of the Horse is Past

Charles Howard had the feel of a gigantic onrushing machine: You had to either climb on or leap out of the way. He would sweep into a room, working a cigarette in his fingers, and people would trail him like pilot fish. They couldn't help themselves. Fifty-eight years old in 1935, Howard was a tall, glowing man in a big suit and a very big Buick. But it wasn't his physical bearing that did it. He lived on a California ranch so huge that a man could take a wrong turn on it and be lost forever, but it wasn't his circumstances either. Nor was it that he spoke loud or long; the surprise of the man was his understatement, the quiet and kindly intimacy of his acquaintance. What drew people to him was something intangible, an air about him. There was a certain inevitability to Charles Howard, an urgency radiating from him that made people believe that the world was always going to bend to his wishes.

On an afternoon in 1903, long before the big cars and the ranch and all the money, Howard began his adulthood with only that air of destiny and 21 cents in his pocket. He sat in the swaying belly of a transcontinental train, snaking west from New York. He was twenty-six, handsome, gentlemanly, with a bounding imagination. Back then he had a lot more hair than anyone who knew him later would have guessed. Years in the saddles of military-school horses had taught him to carry his six-foot-one-inch frame straight up. He was eastern born and bred, but he had a westerner's restlessness. He had tried to satisfy it by enlisting in the cavalry for the Spanish-American War, and though he became a skilled horseman, thanks to bad timing and dysentery he never got out of Camp Wheeler in Alabama. After his discharge, he got a job in New York as a bicycle mechanic, took up competitive bicycle racing, got married, and had two sons. It seems to have been a good life, but the East stifled Howard. His mind never seemed to settle down. His ambitions had fixed upon the vast new America on the other side of the Rockies. That day in 1903 he couldn't resist the impulse anymore. He left everything he'd ever known behind, promised his wife Fannie May he'd send for her soon, and got on the train.

He got off in San Francisco. His two dimes and a penny couldn't carry him far, but somehow he begged and borrowed enough money to open a little bicycle-repair shop on Van Ness Avenue downtown. He tinkered with the bikes and waited for something interesting to come his way.

It came in the form of a string of distressed-looking men who began appearing at his door.

Eccentric souls with too much money in their pockets and far too much time on their hands, they had blown thick wads of cash on preposterous machines called automobiles. Some of them were feeling terribly sorry about it.

The horseless carriage was just arriving in San Francisco, and its debut was turning into one of those colorfully unmitigated disasters that bring misery to everyone but historians. Consumers were staying away from the "devilish contraptions" in droves. The men who had invested in them were the subjects of cautionary tales, derision, and a fair measure of public loathing. In San Francisco in 1903, the horse and buggy was not going the way of the horse and buggy.

For good reason. The automobile, so sleekly efficient on paper, was in practice a civic menace, belching out exhaust, kicking up storms of dust, becoming hopelessly mired in the most innocuous-looking puddles, tying up horse traffic, and raising an earsplitting cacophony that sent buggy horses fleeing. Incensed local lawmakers responded with monuments to legislative creativity. The laws of at least one town required automobile drivers to stop, get out, and fire off Roman candles every time horse-drawn vehicles came into view. Massachusetts tried and, fortunately, failed to mandate that cars be equipped with bells that would ring with each revolution of the wheels. In some towns police were authorized to disable passing cars with ropes, chains, wires, and even bullets, so long as they took reasonable care to avoid gunning down the drivers. San Francisco didn't escape the legislative wave. Bitter local officials pushed through an ordinance banning automobiles from the Stanford campus and all tourist areas, effectively exiling them from the city.

Nor were these the only obstacles. The asking price for the cheapest automobile amounted to twice the $500 annual salary of the average citizen‹some cost three times that much‹and all that bought you was four wheels, a body, and an engine. "Accessories" like bumpers, carburetors, and headlights had to be purchased separately. Just starting the thing, through hand cranking, could land a man in traction. With no gas stations, owners had to lug five-gallon fuel cans to local drugstores, filling them for 60 cents a gallon and hoping the pharmacist wouldn't substitute benzene for gasoline. Doctors warned women away from automobiles, fearing slow suffocation in noxious fumes. A few adventurous members of the gentler sex took to wearing ridiculous "windshield hats," watermelon-sized fabric balloons, equipped with little glass windows, that fit over the entire head, leaving ample room for corpulent Victorian coiffures. Navigation was another nightmare. The first of San Francisco's road signs were only just being erected, hammered up by an enterprising insurance underwriter who hoped to win clients by posting directions into the countryside, whose drivers retreated for automobile "picnic parties" held out of the view of angry townsfolk.

Finally, driving itself was something of a touch-and-go pursuit. The first automobiles imported to San Francisco had so little power that they rarely made it up the hills. The grade of Nineteenth Avenue was so daunting for the engines of the day that watching automobiles straining for the top became a local pastime. The automobiles' delicate constitutions and general faintheartedness soon became a source of scorn. One cartoon from the era depicted a wealthy couple standing on a roadside next to its dearly departed vehicle. The caption read, "The Idle Rich."...

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Table of Contents

Preface 11
Part I
1. The Day of the Horse Is Past 17
2. The Lone Plainsman 41
3. Mean, Restive, and Ragged 58
4. The Cougar and the Iceman 83
5. A Boot on One Foot, a Toe Tag on the Other 106
6. Light and Shadow 131
Part II
7. Learn Your Horse 153
8. Fifteen Strides 172
9. Gravity 192
10. War Admiral 212
11. No Pollard, No Seabiscuit 233
12. All I Need Is Luck 258
13. Hardball 277
14. The Wise We Boys 298
15. Fortune's Fool 323
16. I Know My Horse 338
17. The Dingbustingest Contest You Ever Clapped an Eye On 351
18. Deal 366
19. The Second Civil War 384
Part III
20. "All Four of His Legs Are Broken" 407
21. A Long, Hard Pull 425
22. Four Good Legs Between Us 434
23. One Hundred Grand 452
Epilogue 467
Acknowledgments 484
Notes 497
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First Chapter

THE DAY OF THE HORSE IS PAST

Charles Howard had the feel of a gigantic onrushing machine: You had to either climb on or leap out of the way. He would sweep into a room, working a cigarette in his fingers, and people would trail him like pilot fish. They couldn’t help themselves. Fifty-eight years old in 1935, Howard was a tall, glowing man in a big suit and a very big Buick. But it wasn’t his physical bearing that did it. He lived on a California ranch so huge that a man could take a wrong turn on it and be lost forever, but it wasn’t his circumstances either. Nor was it that he spoke loud or long; the surprise of the man was his understatement, the quiet and kindly intimacy of his acquaintance. What drew people to him was something intangible, an air about him. There was a certain inevitability to Charles Howard, an urgency radiating from him that made people believe that the world was always going to bend to his wishes.

On an afternoon in 1903, long before the big cars and the ranch and all
the money, Howard began his adulthood with only that air of destiny and
21 cents in his pocket. He sat in the swaying belly of a transcontinental
train, snaking west from New York. He was twenty-six, handsome, gentle-manly, with a bounding imagination. Back then he had a lot more hair than
anyone who knew him later would have guessed. Years in the saddles of
military-school horses had taught him to carry his six-foot-one-inch frame
straight up.

He was eastern born and bred, but he had a westerner’s restlessness.
He had tried to satisfy it by enlisting in the cavalry for the Spanish-American War, and though he became a skilledhorseman, thanks to bad
timing and dysentery he never got out of Camp Wheeler in Alabama. After
his discharge, he got a job in New York as a bicycle mechanic, took up
competitive bicycle racing, got married, and had two sons. It seems to have been a good life, but the East stifled Howard. His mind never seemed to
settle down. His ambitions had fixed upon the vast new America on the
other side of the Rockies. That day in 1903 he couldn’t resist the impulse
anymore. He left everything he’d ever known behind, promised his wife
Fannie May he’d send for her soon, and got on the train.

He got off in San Francisco. His two dimes and a penny couldn’t carry
him far, but somehow he begged and borrowed enough money to open a
little bicycle-repair shop on Van Ness Avenue downtown. He tinkered
with the bikes and waited for something interesting to come his way.

It came in the form of a string of distressed-looking men who began appearing at his door. Eccentric souls with too much money in their pockets
and far too much time on their hands, they had blown thick wads of cash
on preposterous machines called automobiles. Some of them were feeling
terribly sorry about it.

The horseless carriage was just arriving in San Francisco, and its debut
was turning into one of those colorfully unmitigated disasters that bring
misery to everyone but historians. Consumers were staying away from the
“devilish contraptions” in droves. The men who had invested in them
were the subjects of cautionary tales, derision, and a fair measure of public loathing. In San Francisco in 1903, the horse and buggy was not going the
way of the horse and buggy.

For good reason. The automobile, so sleekly efficient on paper, was in
practice a civic menace, belching out exhaust, kicking up storms of dust,
becoming hopelessly mired in the most innocuous-looking puddles, tying
up horse traffic, and raising an earsplitting cacophony that sent buggy
horses fleeing. Incensed local lawmakers responded with monuments to
legislative creativity. The laws of at least one town required automobile
drivers to stop, get out, and fire off Roman candles every time horse-drawn vehicles came into view. Massachusetts tried and, fortunately, failed to
mandate that cars be equipped with bells that would ring with each revo-
lution of the wheels. In some towns police were authorized to disable passing cars with ropes, chains, wires, and even bullets, so long as they took
reasonable care to avoid gunning down the drivers. San Francisco didn’t
escape the legislative wave. Bitter local officials pushed through an ordinance banning automobiles from the Stanford campus and all tourist
areas, effectively exiling them from the city.

Nor were these the only obstacles. The asking price for the cheapest
automobile amounted to twice the $500 annual salary of the average citizen— some cost three times that much—and all that bought you was four
wheels, a body, and an engine. “Accessories” like bumpers, carburetors,
and headlights had to be purchased separately. Just starting the thing,
through hand cranking, could land a man in traction. With no gas stations,
owners had to lug five-gallon fuel cans to local drugstores, filling them for
60 cents a gallon and hoping the pharmacist wouldn’t substitute benzene
for gasoline. Doctors warned women away from automobiles, fearing slow
suffocation in noxious fumes. A few adventurous members of the gentler
sex took to wearing ridiculous “windshield hats,” watermelon-sized fabric
balloons, equipped with little glass windows, that fit over the entire head,
leaving ample room for corpulent Victorian coiffures. Navigation was another nightmare. The first of San Francisco’s road signs were only just
being erected, hammered up by an enterprising insurance underwriter
who hoped to win clients by posting directions into the countryside,
whose drivers retreated for automobile “picnic parties” held out of the
view of angry townsfolk.

Finally, driving itself was something of a touch-and-go pursuit. The
first automobiles imported to San Francisco had so little power that they
rarely made it up the hills. The grade of Nineteenth Avenue was so daunting for the engines of the day that watching automobiles straining for the
top became a local pastime. The automobiles’ delicate constitutions and
general faintheartedness soon became a source of scorn. One cartoon from the era depicted a wealthy couple standing on a roadside next to its dearly
departed vehicle. The caption read, “The Idle Rich.”

Where San Franciscans saw an urban nuisance, Charles Howard saw
opportunity. Automobile-repair shops hadn’t been created yet—and
would have made little sense anyway as few were fool enough to buy a car.
Owners had no place to go when their cars expired. A bicycle repairman
was the closest thing to an auto mechanic available, and Howard’s shop
was conveniently close to the neighborhoods of wealthy car owners.
Howard hadn’t been in town long before the owners began showing up on
his doorstep.

Howard had a weakness for lost causes. He accepted the challenge,
poked around in the cars, and figured out how to fix them. Soon he was
showing up at the primitive automobile races held around the city. Before
long, he was driving in them. The first American race, run around
Evanston, Illinois, had been held only eight years before, with the winning
car ripping along at the dizzying average speed of seven and a half miles
per hour. But by 1903, automotive horsepower had greatly improved—
one car averaged 65.3 mph in a cross-European race that season—making
the races a good spectacle. It also made for astronomical casualty rates.
The European race, for one, turned into such a godawful bloodletting that
it was ultimately halted due to “too many fatalities.”

Howard was beginning to see these contraptions as the instrument of
his ambition. Taking an audacious step, he booked a train east, got off in
Detroit, and somehow talked his way into a meeting with Will Durant,
chief of Buick Automobiles and future founder of General Motors.
Howard told Durant that he wanted to be a part of the industry, troubled
though it was. Durant liked what he saw and hired him to set up dealerships
and recruit dealers. Howard returned to San Francisco, opened the
Pioneer Motor Company on Buick’s behalf, and hired a local man to manage
it. But on a checkup visit, he was dismayed to find that the manager
was focusing his sales effort not on Buicks but on ponderous Thomas Flyers. Howard went back to Detroit and told Durant that he could do better.
Durant was sold. Howard walked away with the Buick franchise for all of
San Francisco. It was 1905, and he was just twenty-eight years old.

Howard returned to San Francisco by train with three Buicks in tow.
By some accounts, he first housed his automobiles in the parlor of his old
bicycle-repair shop on Van Ness Avenue before moving to a modest building
on Golden Gate Avenue, half a block from Van Ness. He brought Fannie
May out to join him. With two young boys to feed, and two more soon
to follow, Fannie May must have been alarmed by her husband’s career
choice. Two years had done little to pacify the San Franciscan hostility for
the automobile. Howard failed to sell a single car.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Copyright© 2002 by Laura Hillenbrand
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Reading Group Guide

Seabiscuit was one of the most electrifying and popular attractions in sports history and the single biggest newsmaker in the world in 1938, receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini. But his success was a surprise to the racing establishment, which had written off the crooked-legged racehorse with the sad tail. Three men changed Seabiscuit’s fortunes:

Charles Howard was a onetime bicycle repairman who introduced the automobile to the western United States and became an overnight millionaire. When he needed a trainer for his new racehorses, he hired Tom Smith, a mysterious mustang breaker from the Colorado plains. Smith urged Howard to buy Seabiscuit for a bargain-basement price, then hired as his jockey Red Pollard, a failed boxer who was blind in one eye, half-crippled, and prone to quoting passages from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Over four years, these unlikely partners survived a phenomenal run of bad fortune, conspiracy, and severe injury to transform Seabiscuit from a neurotic, pathologically indolent also-ran into an American sports icon.

Author Laura Hillenbrand brilliantly re-creates a universal underdog story, one that proves life is a horse race.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 328 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(249)

4 Star

(51)

3 Star

(14)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(9)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 329 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2009

    BEST BOOK IN THE WORLD!!!!!

    I happened upon this book by mere coincidence and only read it to get in the good graces of my English teacher who was unleashing a vicious wrath on those who disagreed with her book choices. She handed it to me with high reccomendations. With my gradess at stake, I struggled to maintain focus during the first few pages of interminable facts, but soon fell in love with the gripping tale of a quiet trainer, a garralous owner, and horse with both character and a huge heart.
    You don't need to be an animal lover to enjoy this enthralling tale though it helps.
    While this reccomendation may not have moved you, I hope that you will give this wonderful book a chance as my ability in writing reviews, this being my first, does not in any way reflect the ability of Laura Hillenbrand's amazing story telling ability.

    15 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2011

    A Heartening and Inspirational Tale YOU can NOT miss!

    In Laura Hillenbrand's heartening tale one horse lifts the country as he races to unlikely victories. The novel tells the tale of Seabiscuit, a doubted horse that despite all of his setbacks, rises and becomes, arguably, the best race horse of the century. All adding a dash of depth, Hillenbrand, connects us to the characters of, Tom Smith the quiet and wise trainer, Red Pollard the blind battered jockey, and the owner; a charming self made man, Charles Howard. It is inevitable the personal connection made with all the characters, but the connection to Seabiscuit even makes non-horse lovers fall in love with his comedic and stubborn personality. Hillenbrand brilliantly intertwines the hardships and poverty of the country with the main theme of perseverance to overcome. Using imagery, Hillenbrand, portrays the toll that racing had on not only Seabiscuit, but also his main jockey Red. As the horse and jockey became more beaten throughout the story their importance, perseverance, and unbreakable bond only grew greater. The novel also yields the message of teamwork and the importance of taking risks. As the economy crashed Howard's growing business as a car repairman halted and he, like so many other Americans, questioned what to do. Following his interest in the dying sport of horse racing he purchased Seabiscuit, the son of Hardtack (a miraculous race horse). With the combination of Seabiscuit, Red Pollard, and Tom Smith, Charles Howard hoped victory would proceed. Working as a team the unlikely horse rose to greatness, demonstrating that risks and hard work are essential to the success of any feat large or small. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, with the exception of the small portion of dry writing in the beginning, and I would indefinitely recommend this book to someone. It tells an uplifting and touching story of perseverance, relationships, and victory, that anyone would enjoy reading. Other inspirational novels such as Secretariat and Man O' War would be great additional reads to Seabiscuit. In 1938 every stride Seabiscuit made towards victory captured the hearts of Americans and now through every page of this novel he is capturing more.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2011

    From the horses mouth..

    I loved Unbroken and read that first. I decided to go ahead and read this story even though it isn't my usual type of book. Wow. This book was just as good as Unbroken which is high praise. I cannot wait to see what her next project will be...

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2012

    Good read.

    LH did a wonderful job of putting all of this together. It keeps you in want of the next page throughout. Incredible story, very well told.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2009

    Wonderfully researched.

    I will admit, I saw the movie first. However, this only made me enjoy the book more, for it is the amazing detail with which the author brings to life the story of Seabiscuit that makes it such a wonderful read. Yes, I cried. And I was in shock at reading of the horrors the jockeys would inflict upon themselves. Absorbing, wonderful...just wonderful. Some of the best written non-fiction out there.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2012

    Heart racing.

    The truly awesome story of an amazing horse with some of the most intense racing scenes I've ever read. Also the story of the owner, Howard; the trainer, Tom Smith; and the jockey, Red Pollard - all odd balls in their own way. Very moving. Loved it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2011

    Enjoyed every word!!!!

    After reading Unbroken, I was anxious to read another of Laura Hillenbrands books. Wasn't sure if I would enjoy it as much, but Seabiscuit was fabulous! I hated for it to end. The characters were well developed as were the racing events. Highly recommed it! Ms. Hillenbrand is a exceptionally gifted author. I pray that she will be able to bless us with more of her literary talents. Thank You Laura!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 19, 2012

    Spellbinding

    You can hear the hoofbeats and smell the sweat on every page. The movie is not enough!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2012

    Excellent, Fanstatic, Captiving

    Everything about this book is so good. I have seen the movie & now own a copy. This book about Howard, Smith, & Pollard and of course Seabisciut wants you to keep pulling for them all. Read this book even if you don't have a love for history, you won't regret it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2011

    Ok

    It is good not the best ever, but it is interesting if you like history about race horses

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2011

    Really great book, but not a childrens book, no way

    A really great book. No where close to a childrens book despite the serious cuss words and grusom visual images that are printed in your mind. TAKE THIS ADVICE BECAUSE I AM A CHILD HORSE LOVER, but anyway,great book!

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2003

    Was expecting more

    The book was slow to start, I felt like I had to read a 100 pg prologue to get to the story...Once I got to the story I just wanted to finish the book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2003

    Good book but exhaustive details slowed pace

    With all the relentless buzz surrounding the book and movie, I felt compelled to read the story of Seabiscuit, the plucky little horse who overcame adversity. He's a fascinating subject and author Laura Hillenbrand spares no small detail in her narration. In the end, I felt tired of the countless races and near victories. More editing would have helped the book. Sometimes less is more.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2003

    Not all it's cracked up to be

    I did not like this book, and I am apparently alone here. Though the storyline intrigues me greatly, I found the style of writing to be quite similar to a textbook I might have had in grade school. I still plan on seeing the movie, but prefer to stick with books that provide a little more emotional insight than this one.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2012

    Good book!!

    This book shows seabiscuts whole life! I found everything i need to know about him!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2011

    Awsome book

    A very emotional novel with great description.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Very inspirational, Definitely worth it

    This was an inspiring book of the will, perseverance, heart and determination of a magnificent horse and the three man whose lives revolved around him during Depression-era America. It's a great book for anyone, not just horse-people. I found myself rooting for Seasbiscuit even when it seemed like he couldn't do it. My heart raced alongside Seabiscuit. The feats of this brave little horse and his fearless jockey were so incredible and unbelievable, and they earned a place in my heart

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2011

    Great fun to read and good history.

    I absolutely loved this book. First because it's true history and a story of an "underdog" so to speak who won. The movie is also great, but you will get more details by reading the book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 14, 2010

    A Motivational Story, But I'm Not Motivated to Read It Again.

    This book was all about the rise of a great racehorse, Seabiscuit, an abused and bitter animal. He overcomes adversity and becomes a winner with the help of Mr. Smith (Seabicuit's owner) and Johnny (his jockey). The purpose of this book was to inspire readers to overcome their obstacles and be the best they can be. Personally, I thought that the author's writing style was dry and to the point. The only part of the book that sparked my excitement was when it was time for Seabiscuit to race. I thought that the book would be a little more energetic since it is about a sport, and I was disappointed. I didn't think this book was completely "user friendly", to a point where if there was no such thing as a dictionary, I wouldn't have been able to finish this book! Although, I did enjoy the amount of detail and purpose that the author put into her writing and how the information on the characters was enriching but not overwhelming. I would recommend this book to people who are more acquainted with the sport of horse racing and genuinely love horses. I wouldn't recommend this book for children and fans of action stories.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2008

    Great book.. Just not my type

    I was really disappointed in this book. I thought that it would be better than it actually was. I think that this book could have been made more teen-friendly and I would have loved it. I think that it was much to mature for me. This book was all about the rising racehorse, Seabiscuit, the U.S. and horseracing and horse's success and hardships, this book also included the hardships of Seabiscuit's owner, trainer and jockey. To me this book lackluster, I think it could have been much more exciting to the teenage eye. The book only really excited me when it was time for Seabiscuit to race. However, I did like the great amount of effort and detail Hillenbrand put into the book. She mentions everyone in the book so not to be confused with anyone else. She put in enough background detail about everyone to be enjoyable but not overwhelmed. I did stumble on a few words, here and there, which made the book a bit tough for me to understand. All in all, I think that anyone interested about racing horses would very much enjoy this book, but I would suggest that more knowledgeable fans read this and people that may be a little older. Again the book was very good but not so much teen-friendly.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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