Seabiscuit: The against all odds champion racehorse

Seabiscuit (1933-1947) was a small ungainly champion thoroughbred racehorse whose rise to stardom galvanized a nation amidst the Great Depression of the 30s. The son of Hard Tack and Swing On, and grandson to the legendary Man O' War, Seabiscuit was nothing like his regal fathers. His thick body, knobby knees, and stunted tail did not tell a champion tale, but his dazzling performances as an older horse were enough to catapult him into thoroughbred racing stardom.

Seabiscuit was under the care of Hall of Fame horse trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons of the Wheatley Stable from a tender age. He showed racing promise, but his trainer deemed him lazy and lethargic, concentrating on other promising horses in his stable instead. As a 2-year-old, Seabiscuit was winless in 17 starts of the smaller races relegated to and was 5 of 35 that year.

He was soon sold to Charles Stewart Howard, an automobile entrepreneur. There, under the eyes of trainer Tom Smith, he would get back his winning touch. With a new rider in Red Pollard on the straps, the once sluggish Seabiscuit would win the U.S. Horse of the year award and become an inductee to the United States Racing Hall of Fame for his achievements at the racecourse.

Seabiscuit's Profile

  • Place of birth: Claiborne Farm: Paris, Kentucky

  • Date of birth: May 23, 1933

  • Date of death: May 17, 1947

  • Age at death: 14 years

  • Sex: Stallion

  • Owner: Charles Stewart Howard

  • Trainer: Robert Thomas "Tom" Smith

  • Sire: Hard Tack

  • Dam: Swing On

  • Jockey: Red Pollard

  • Record: 89: 33-15-1

  • Career earnings: $437,730, all-time leading money winner on his retirement.

Seabiscuit's Achievements

Under the ownership of the Wheatley Stables as a two-year-old, Seabiscuit ran a heavy schedule of races, 35 in total, winning five and coming second in seven. He showed some promise, winning some minor stakes races, but his trainer and owners never thought of him highly, culminating in his sale to Howard in August of 1936 at Saratoga as a 3-year-old.

Under Tom Smith, the unorthodox trainer who oversaw his rehabilitation, and Red Pollard, his Canadian jockey, Seabiscuit, was back on the racecourse on August 22, 1936, and was winning. In the tail end of 1936, he won the Scarsdale, Detroit Governor, Bay Bridge, and World Fair Handicaps.

The 1937 Hundred Grander, Santa Anita Handicap, would elude him. Pollard's error would see him lose by a nose to Rosemont in a devastating defeat to his connections. However, the disappointment didn't last for long, and he was back in winning ways again. He won his next race by seven lengths in a record time at San Juan Capistrano Handicap and followed this with three consecutive wins to become a fan favorite. He would win 11 of his 15 races in 1937, avenge his loss to Rosemont at Santa Anita by beating him at seven lengths and become the leading money winner that year. He was unlucky not to win the American Horse of the Year that year, which Triple Crown winner War Admiral won.

The 5-year-old Seabiscuit started 1938 with George Woolf at the reins because Pollard was injured. He lost to Stagehand in a photo finish at the Santa Anita Handicap but won his other race that year in a Pimlico Special against War Admiral, his fierce rival. In that race, he was out of the gates first and won by four lengths to spring an upset.

Seabiscuit stumbled and ruptured his suspensory ligament in 1939 and went for a long racing hiatus as a result. However, he would come roaring back and was third in his post-injury debut at the La Jolla Handicap. At the 1940 Santa Anita Handicap, a race he had not won in his past two attempts, he raced and won by a length and a half. He retired to stud that year on April 10, 1940, as a nation's favorite and all-time leading money winner. He died in 1947 due to a probable heart attack

Notable Remarks

  • The Seabiscuit name comes from his sire Hard Tack. Hardtacks were long-lasting and inexpensive flour and water crackers that were eaten during long migrations. On the other hand, sea biscuits were a variation of the hardtack cracker that sailors majorly ate.

  • To mark Seabiscuit's racing career and his against all odds win at the tail end of his career in the 1940s Santa Anita Handicap, a statue of Seabiscuit prominently stands at the Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, California. You will also find statues of the legendary Seabiscuit at the National Museum of Racing, Saratoga Springs, New York, and the Remington Carriage Museum, Cardston, Alberta.

  • Seabiscuit's story and achievements have been subject to portrayals in many films and books. Some of these books include Seabiscuit: The Saga of a Great Champion (1940), Come On, Seabiscuit! (1963), and Seabiscuit: An American Legend (2001). Some film adaptations for this legendary horse include The Making of Seabiscuit (2003), Seabiscuit (2003), The Story of Seabiscuit (1949), Porky and Teabiscuit (1939), and Stablemates (1938).

  • Seabiscuit's career at stud was not prolific, but he still sired some moderately successful racehorses including, Sea Sovereign, a Santa Catalina Handicap winner, and Sea Swallow.