Seabiscuit: An American Legend Paperback – Mar 26 2002
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He didn't look like much. With his smallish stature, knobby 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." Laura Hillenbrand tells the story of the horse who became a cultural icon in Seabiscuit: An American Legend.
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 demeanor 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 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 Delaney --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
HGifted 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 specimenD"His stubby legs were a study in unsound construction, with huge, squarish, asymmetrical 'baseball glove' knees that didn't quite straighten all the way"Dthe 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 spottyDand 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. (Mar.) Forecast: Despite the shrinking horse racing audienceDand the publishing adage that books on horse racing don't sellDthis book has the potential to do well, even outside the realm of the racing community, due to a large first printing and forthcoming Universal Studios movie. A stylish cover will attract both baby boomers and young readers, tapping into the sexiness and allure of the "Sport of Kings." Hillenbrand's glamorous photo on the book jacket won't hurt her chances, and Seabiscuit should sell at a galloping pace.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I won't tell you anything more about the book, other than to mention that Seabiscuit was the typical underdog (underhorse?) that Americans love to see win, and he didn't dissappoint. I enjoyed this book immensely, and would recommend it to anyone.
This is a magnificently well-researched, meticulously written account of one of sports' most surprising talents. The story is further developed by introducing a group of extraordinary, unconventional men who developed the unusual horse. Hildebrand has accomplished a superb effort in her telling of the story. She is undoubtedly one of the premier authors of our time!
She managed to make a horse more interesting than most writers could make a human being. There are some other extraodinary historical efforts: if you have not read Eric Larson's Isaac's Storm, about the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, or Devil In A White City, in which Larson alternates chapters between Daniel Burnham and celebrities like Thomas Edison at the 1893 World's Fair and a deranged serial killer who stalked the Fair Grounds, you are missing two masterpieces. And on the fiction side, a book that has gotten no attention from any critics but is quickly becoming the darling of readers, 1906, an extraordinary tale of the great San Francisco Earthquake by James Dalessandro, is not to be missed. Any reader will love how the Italian singer Enrico Caruso steals the show in 1906. Kudos to all of them.
Each had his own obstacles - the jockey's blind eye, the trainer's unorthodox methods, the owner's western roots - and that's not even mentioning the horse. Seabiscuit had even bigger problems. He didn't look like a champion, for starters. And he was raced far too much as a 2-year old, which stunted his progress and made him appear to be a joke to much of the racing establishment.
But once these men began to work with Seabiscuit, it was not long before his true promise came to be realized. Seabiscuit won numerous races, set many track records, and retired as the leading money winner of his time. Not bad for an "also-ran!"
Hillenbrand tells Seabiscuit's story while also managing to give many details about "big picture" stories as well - e.g., life in 1930s America, the trials and tribulations of jockeys, the up-and-down popularity of the sport of horse racing. Telling all of these while keeping the reader not only interested but riveted, Hillenbrand has written an exceptional book.
I did not know the story of Seabiscuit before this book came along; now, I will never forget it! His is one of the great "underdog" stories of all time.
Five stars. Absolutely fantastic!
Most recent customer reviews
Spellbinding! You race through this wonderful story just like the Biscuit in the stretch. Wonderful!Published 16 months ago by paul rothwell
all the parts that make up the story that is Seabiscuit woven together brilliantly.... It's a hard book to put down and you'll be sorry to reach the end.Published 16 months ago by kim winters
We all need reminders of how it is possible to overcome seemingly impossible challenges to reveal inherent greatness. Read morePublished 16 months ago by NPon
I got this book well packed and shipped two weeks ago,,and I already felt completly lost my self in reading this book often in this two weeks. Read morePublished 17 months ago by bhavesh
It feels like you're right there, living the action. Breathtaking!
Highly recommended for anyone who's into horses, horse racing, sports, etc.
I enjoy Hillenbrand's writing and research. Here she brings to light the life and determined attributes of man and animal in striving for a goal and their willingness to give... Read morePublished on Jan. 2 2014 by Nila Ipson
"SEABISCUIT" is not so much a story about a horse, but rather a story about the lives of the men which that horse changes.
Red is an orphan of the depression. Read more
This isn't the story of a great racehorse or a great jockey. That would be pretty formula. This is the story of a mediocre at best racehorse and a fairly unqualified jockey who... Read morePublished on March 2 2005
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