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Seabiscuit: An American Legend (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – March 26, 2002
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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
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
With a keen sportswriters eye toward detail as well as broader context, Ms. Hillenbrand has written a vivid description of an amazing animal, the three men around him and an era in American sports and history. Seabiscuit was a fascinating creature, not only for his deceptive power but for his playful, competitive nature. Ms. Hillenbrand helps us understand this horse as a person - a person you instinctively root for. His owner, a self-made success in the automobile industry, displays concern for the horse as if it were a child. Seabiscuit's trainer embodied the western spirit and had an uncanny bond with the horse - he was a real-life horse whisperer. Finally, the harrowing, rough and tumble life of a jockey during the 1930's is painted here with unsympathetic accuracy, as we learn about the trials of Red Pollard. Seabiscuit was the hub of these three lives and their extraordinary accomplishment on the racetrack.
The book builds toward two climaxes - the match race against War Admiral (which Ms. Hillenbrand desribes in such wonderful detail) and the ever elusive Santa Anita Handicap. Although historical, the book has a novel-like suspense that keeps the uninformed reader rapt and engrossed. This book, which describes the regional split between east and west coast race horses, really describes the potential and scrappy nature of the American west. Thank you, Ms. Hillenbrand, for such a terrific read.
Tom Smith, perhaps the original "horsewhisperer", spends hours learning and understanding his horse. When Seabiscuit is first put into his care for training, the horse is nervous, paces incessantly, weighs too little, and suffers from a sore body. Tom spends time caring for Seabiscuit, showering him with affection and carrots, even sleeping in Seabiscuit's stall at night. A daily routine is introduced plus animal companionship. Before long, Seabiscuit has his own entourage: a cow pony named Pumpkin, the little stray dog Pocatell, and Jojo the spider monkey. Under Tom's care, the high-spirited Seabiscuit learns to trust, becomes calm, and, most importantly, starts winning horse races.
The triumph of Seabiscuit is ultimately the story of what any person (or animal) may accomplish when their talents are recognized, supported, and expanded. Seabiscuit, given his inauspicious start in life, could just as easily have faded away into non-existence running third tier races. However, the love and care he receives from his owner, jockey, and trainer have you cheering until the end of the book for Seabiscuit to keep running (and winning) with his heart. Not only does Seabiscuit capture the hearts of the misfit trio, he will capture yours.
When I first heard about this story, I wasn't sure about it - after all, I really know (or should I say "knew") very little about horse racing. Despite my misgivings, I soon realized that a major purpose of this book was not only to teach the reader about this sport via Seabiscuit's career but also to memorialize the amazing individuals (Charles Howard, Tom Smith, Red Pollard, George Woolf, etc.) who defied all odds to make such a successful racing career possible.
I especially liked the chapters dealing with the difficulties of life as a jockey - the way the jockeys punished their bodies to the extreme for the honor of participating in a harrowingly dangerous sport was truly unbelievable...and I thought ballerinas were harsh on their bodies when it came to weight loss! Red was my favorite character and I can't help wondering if the author felt a particular kinship with the jockey as a result of her own struggles with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - after all, she did have to push her own body beyond her normal physical limits to complete her research and write this amazing book!
Ms. Hillenbrand successfully incorporated the story of Seabiscuit's racing career into the historical context of the era. Seabiscuit was a much needed diversion for Americans who were suffering the depths of the Great Depression. ...And perhaps, through Laura Hillenbrand, Team Seabiscuit is still providing us all with an inspirational diversion from today's distressing headlines!Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What is it about Laura Hillenbrand? Her storytelling has lyric and substance and it truly finds its way into the heart of why humanity needs story. Read morePublished 10 days ago by L. Goodyear
Didn't know much about horse racing until I read this. It's a great introduction to the sport, as well as learning about the great legendary Seabiscuit! It was a fun and easy read. Read morePublished 10 days ago by Michael Brosius
bought as gift for a horse lover who also enjoys biographical novels & am told this is a treat.Published 13 days ago by charlotte roth
Amazing book. Love this author and the courageous people who made the story and the ornery, big hearted, lovable Seabiscuit.Published 13 days ago by Nichole
Absolutely amazing book! I love the author. I read Unbroken, which is an even more inspiring story, and I intend to read all books written by her.Published 14 days ago by Annette Choi
Loved this book! Very well written. Ive read it twice and will probably read it over again. I can never get tired of Seabiscuits amazing story!!!!Published 16 days ago by LG