Seabiscuit: An American Legend

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9780375502910: Seabiscuit: An American Legend

Laura Hillenbrand, author of the runaway phenomenon Unbroken, brilliantly re-creates a universal underdog story in this #1 New York Times bestseller.

Seabiscuit was one of the most electrifying and popular attractions in sports history and the single biggest newsmaker in the world in 1938, receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini. But his success was a surprise to the racing establishment, which had written off the crooked-legged racehorse with the sad tail. Three men changed Seabiscuit’s fortunes:

Charles Howard was a onetime bicycle repairman who introduced the automobile to the western United States and became an overnight millionaire. When he needed a trainer for his new racehorses, he hired Tom Smith, a mysterious mustang breaker from the Colorado plains. Smith urged Howard to buy Seabiscuit for a bargain-basement price, then hired as his jockey Red Pollard, a failed boxer who was blind in one eye, half-crippled, and prone to quoting passages from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Over four years, these unlikely partners survived a phenomenal run of bad fortune, conspiracy, and severe injury to transform Seabiscuit from a neurotic, pathologically indolent also-ran into an American sports icon.

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Review:

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

From the Back Cover:

Praise for Seabiscut

“A captivating story . . . with the detail of good history, the blistering pace of Biscuit himself and the charm of grand legend.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Remarkable . . . memorable . . . just as compelling today as it was in 1938.”
The Washington Post

“Dazzling . . . [ Seabiscuit] does for the world of horse racing what Into Thin Air did for mountain climbing. . . . In daredevil prose that sprints along at a breakneck pace, Hillenbrand tells the incredible tale of Seabiscuit. . . . Like a brilliant jockey, Hillenbrand suspensefully manages her champion of a story. In the final stretch, it hurtles towards its climax.”
—Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air, NPR

“It’s a terrific story, but it’s more than just a horse’s tale, because the humans who owned, trained and rode Seabiscuit are equally fascinating. . . . Even if your interest in horses goes no further than hansom cabs, you’ll find this book engrossing.”
Sports Illustrated

“Terrific . . . Illuminating a forgotten piece of American history, Seabiscuit brings alive the drama, the beauty, the louche charm and the brutality of horse racing.”
USA Today

“Good sports books are few and far between, good books on racing even more so. So it is hugely refreshing when one as fine as this one comes along. The research is meticulous, the writing elegant and concise, so that every page transports you back to the period. . . . This is a remarkable tale well told by a writer who deftly blends history and sport. Seabiscuit should capture a new generation of readers beyond the world of horse racing.”
The Economist

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Book Description Random House Trade, United States, 2001. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Laura Hillenbrand, author of the runaway phenomenon Unbroken, brilliantly re-creates a universal underdog story in this #1New York Times bestseller. Seabiscuit was one of the most electrifying and popular attractions in sports history and the single biggest newsmaker in the world in 1938, receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini. But his success was a surprise to the racing establishment, which had written off the crooked-legged racehorse with the sad tail. Three men changed SeabiscuitÂs fortunes: Charles Howard was a onetime bicycle repairman who introduced the automobile to the western United States and became an overnight millionaire. When he needed a trainer for his new racehorses, he hired Tom Smith, a mysterious mustang breaker from the Colorado plains. Smith urged Howard to buy Seabiscuit for a bargain-basement price, then hired as his jockey Red Pollard, a failed boxer who was blind in one eye, half-crippled, and prone to quoting passages from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Over four years, these unlikely partners survived a phenomenal run of bad fortune, conspiracy, and severe injury to transform Seabiscuit from a neurotic, pathologically indolent also-ran into an American sports icon. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780375502910

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Book Description Random House Trade, United States, 2001. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Laura Hillenbrand, author of the runaway phenomenon Unbroken, brilliantly re-creates a universal underdog story in this #1New York Times bestseller. Seabiscuit was one of the most electrifying and popular attractions in sports history and the single biggest newsmaker in the world in 1938, receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini. But his success was a surprise to the racing establishment, which had written off the crooked-legged racehorse with the sad tail. Three men changed SeabiscuitÂs fortunes: Charles Howard was a onetime bicycle repairman who introduced the automobile to the western United States and became an overnight millionaire. When he needed a trainer for his new racehorses, he hired Tom Smith, a mysterious mustang breaker from the Colorado plains. Smith urged Howard to buy Seabiscuit for a bargain-basement price, then hired as his jockey Red Pollard, a failed boxer who was blind in one eye, half-crippled, and prone to quoting passages from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Over four years, these unlikely partners survived a phenomenal run of bad fortune, conspiracy, and severe injury to transform Seabiscuit from a neurotic, pathologically indolent also-ran into an American sports icon. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780375502910

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