The true story of three men and their dreams for a racehorse – Seabiscuit – which encompasses a pivotal moment in American history: its resurrection from the Depression.
In 1936, as Margaret Mitchell’s ‘Gone with the Wind’ was published, the habits of 19th-century America were finally consigned to history. In their place, modern America was born.
But what defined this new era? Nothing more than the story of Seabiscuit, a stunted colt with asymmetrical knees that had for two years been hacked around no-good race tracks. Yet by 1937 Seabiscuit could draw crowds of 60,000 and had more newspaper column inches devoted to him than Mussolini, Hitler or Roosevelt.
During an appearance at the Santa Anita Handicap, his popularity peaked. America had gone to the races for the first time since the Depression and fallen in love with a misshapen colt of great character. Now it wanted a winner.
‘Seabiscuit’ tells the tale of one horse’s fluctuating fortunes, and the three men who devoted so much time to the dream: Tom Smith, a former Wild West Showman and Seabiscuit’s trainer; Red Pollard, who was abandoned by his poverty stricken family at a race track but became Seabiscuit’s rider; and Charles Howard, a pioneer car manufacturer in San Francisco in the 1920s who financed the entire project. These three combined to create the legend of Seabiscuit and epitomise a dream for the emerging new America.
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Laura Hillenbrand tells the story of the horse who became a cultural icon in Seabiscuit: the Making of a Legend. He didn't look like much. With his smallish stature, knobbly knees, and slightly crooked forelegs, he looked more like a cow pony than a thoroughbred. But looks aren't everything; his quality, an admirer once wrote, "was mostly in his heart".
Seabiscuit rose to prominence with the help of an unlikely triumvirate: owner Charles Howard, an automobile baron who once declared that "the day of the horse is past"; trainer Tom Smith, a man who "had cultivated an almost mystical communication with horses"; and jockey Red Pollard, who was down on his luck when he charmed a then-surly horse with his calm demeanour and a sugar cube. Hillenbrand details the ups and downs of "team Seabiscuit" from early training sessions to record-breaking victories, and from serious injury to "Horse of the Year"--as well as the Biscuit's fabled rivalry with War Admiral. She also describes the world of US horseracing in the 1930s, from the snobbery of Eastern journalists regarding Western horses and public fascination with the great thoroughbreds to the jockeys' torturous weight-loss regimens, including saunas in rubber suits, strong purgatives, even tapeworms.
Along the way, Hillenbrand paints wonderful images: tears in Tom Smith's eyes as his hero, legendary trainer James Fitzsimmons, asked to hold Seabiscuit's bridle while the horse was saddled; critically injured Red Pollard, whose chest was crushed in a racing accident a few weeks before, listening to the San Antonio Handicap from his hospital bed, cheering "Get going, Biscuit! Get 'em, you old devil!"; Seabiscuit happily posing for photographers for several minutes on end; other horses refusing to work out with Seabiscuit because he teased and taunted them with his blistering speed.
Though sometimes her prose takes on a distinctly purple hue ("His history had the ethereal quality of hoofprints in windblown snow"; "The California sunlight had the pewter cast of a declining season"), Hillenbrand has crafted a delightful book. Wire to wire, Seabiscuit is a winner. Highly recommended. --Sunny DelaneyReview:
'A rip-roaring narrative from a cobwebbed chapter of the Depression…Hillenbrand tells the story of the triumphs and tribulations of her cast of misfits with flair and skill, relishing the larger than life characters who inhabited this forgotten demimonde.' Stuart Wavell, Sunday Times
'Most readable…a wonderful tale.' Geoffrey Wheatcroft, Daily Mail
'A literary sensation.' Mark Steinberger, Financial Times
Great horse, great name, great story, very good book…this one could run and run.' Observer
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Book Description Harper Collins Publ. UK, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 7241747
Book Description Harper Collins Publ. UK, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0007241747
Book Description Harper Collins Publ. UK 2007-01-01, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. (Reissue). 0007241747 We guarantee all of our items - customer service and satisfaction are our top priorities. Please allow 4 - 14 business days for Standard shipping, within the US. Bookseller Inventory # TM-0007241747