nelson symes

The Legendary Seabiscuit

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Picture of the statue of Seabiscuit on a 44 cent stamped envelope

Seabiscuit was an unassuming champion, who raised the hopes and spirits of a beleagured nation during the Great Depression with a series of unlikely victories. A small, dull brown horse, who ran perhaps his greatest race against just a single horse: the 1937 Triple Crown winner, War Admiral. The race was held on November 1, 1938, at Pimilco in Maryland. The race drew about 40,000 spectators and was broadcast on the radio to 40 million listeners across the country, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt. War Admiral, who was the favorite to win, ran his fastest time at the track, however, Seabiscuit won the race by four lengths and set a blazing track record in the process.

Seabiscuit in his early days failed to win his first 10 races, and most times finished back in the field. After that, training him was almost an afterthought and the horse was sometimes the butt of stable jokes.

The beginning of his success started in 1936/37. Seabiscuit won eleven of his fifteen races and was the leading money winner in the U.S. that year. Seabiscuit was “Horse of the year” for 1938.

While being ridden in a race, Seabiscuit faltered. The jockey, Woolf, said that he thought the horse only stumbled and continued the race. The injury was not life threatening, although many predicted he would never race again.

Over the fall and winter of 1939, Seabiscuit’s fitness seemed to improve by each day. By the end of 1939, Smith was ready to confound veterinary opinion by returning the horse to race training. On his comeback, by the third race, Seabiscuit was back to his winning ways.

On April 10, Seabiscuit’s retirement from racing was officially anounced. When he was retired to the Ridgewood Ranch near Willits, California. Seabiscuit was horse racing’s all-time leading money winner.

On June 23, 2007, a statue of Seabiscuit was unveiled at Seabiscuit’s home and final resting place, Ridgewood Ranch, Mendocino, California.

Seabiscuit became the subject of a 1949 film; The Story of Seabiscuit, a 2001 book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend, and a 2003 film, Seabiscuit, which was nominated for the Academy Award for best picture. In 2009 the United States Postal Service released the 44 cent stamped envelope in honor of Seabiscuit.

Story by Nelson Symes