Cover image for Seabiscuit : an American legend
Title:
Seabiscuit : an American legend
Author:
Hillenbrand, Laura.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : [Random House], [2001]

©2001
Physical Description:
xiii, 399 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Reading Level:
990 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 7.5 21.0 68777.

Reading Counts RC High School 9 25 Quiz: 33987 Guided reading level: NR.
ISBN:
9780375502910

9780449005613
Format :
Book

Available:*

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Summary

Summary

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.


Author Notes

Laura Hillenbrand was born in Fairfax, Virginia on May 15, 1967. She studied at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, but was forced to leave before graduation because she contracted chronic fatigue syndrome. She has been writing about history and thoroughbred racing since 1988 and has been a contributing writer and editor at Equus magazine since 1989. Her work has appeared in many other publications including The New Yorker, American Heritage, ABC Sports Online, Thoroughbred Times, Talk, and The Backstretch. Her 1998 American Heritage article on Seabiscuit won her an Eclipse Award for outstanding feature article. In 2004, she won the National Magazine Award for the New Yorker article, A Sudden Illness.

Her first book Seabiscuit: An American Legend won the Book Sense Nonfiction Book of the Year Award and the William Hill Sports Book of the Year in 2001. She served as a consultant on the Universal Pictures movie Seabiscuit, which was based on her book. Her second book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, a biography of World War II hero Louis Zamperini, was also made into a movie.

She was honored by the Turf Publicists of America for her contributions to the sport of thoroughbred racing with the 36th annual Big Sport of Turfdom award, making her just the fifth woman to win the award.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Booklist Review

There have been numerous biographies of famous horses, but this one is the best by open lengths, partly because Hillenbrand expands the scope of her project to include owner Charles Howard, trainer Tom Smith, and jockey Red Pollard, whose boom-and-bust and boom-again careers are fascinating in themselves. But Seabiscuit's rags-to-riches story is unparalleled in a sport known for its longshots. A nondescript little bay, Seabiscuit ran 50 races without distinction on the lowest rungs of racing's class ladder before dominating the sport in the late 1930s, when he reached a level of popularity that is utterly inconceivable today. Hillenbrand's detailed and dramatic re-creation of Seabiscuit's life and times is a remarkable testament to what four years of meticulous research and a writer's gift for storytelling can accomplish. And it's mighty good reading, even if you're not a racing fan. --Dennis Dodge


Library Journal Review

Quick, name the hero who received more news coverage in 1938 than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini. It's Seabiscuit, a Thoroughbred who went from last place to racing legend. Based on the author's award-winning magazine story for American Heritage. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-This well-written and compelling book celebrates the life of a racehorse that just happened to be a descendant of Man O' War. It is a story of a huge talent that almost went unrecognized until the right people came along. According to descriptions, Seabiscuit was a runt, with stubby legs, an odd walk, and a lazy nature. However, he became so popular that he drew more news coverage than President Roosevelt, Hitler, or Mussolini. The atmosphere surrounding his historic match with War Admiral was so intense that FDR kept advisors waiting as he listened with the rest of the country to hear the outcome. Hillenbrand also tells the stories of owner Charles Howard, trainer Tom Smith, and jockey Red Pollard and the part each man played in the recognition and development of a racing legend. But the book is much more. Seabiscuit is a story of the times and it is a story of the hard and dangerous life of a jockey. Even readers with no interest in the sport will be hooked with the opening sentence of the book's preface. Hillenbrand does a wonderful job in bringing an unlikely winner to life.-Peggy Bercher, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Charles Howard had the feel of a gigantic onrushing machine: You had to either climb on or leap out of the way. He would sweep into a room, working a cigarette in his fingers, and people would trail him like pilot fish. They couldn't help themselves. Fifty-eight years old in 1935, Howard was a tall, glowing man in a big suit and a very big Buick. But it wasn't his physical bearing that did it. He lived on a California ranch so huge that a man could take a wrong turn on it and be lost forever, but it wasn't his circumstances either. Nor was it that he spoke loud or long; the surprise of the man was his understatement, the quiet and kindly intimacy of his acquaintance. What drew people to him was something intangible, an air about him. There was a certain inevitability to Charles Howard, an urgency radiating from him that made people believe that the world was always going to bend to his wishes. On an afternoon in 1903, long before the big cars and the ranch and all the money, Howard began his adulthood with only that air of destiny and 21 cents in his pocket. He sat in the swaying belly of a transcontinental train, snaking west from New York. He was twenty-six, handsome, gentlemanly, with a bounding imagination. Back then he had a lot more hair than anyone who knew him later would have guessed. Years in the saddles of military-school horses had taught him to carry his six-foot-one-inch frame straight up. He was eastern born and bred, but he had a westerner's restlessness. He had tried to satisfy it by enlisting in the cavalry for the Spanish-American War, and though he became a skilled horseman, thanks to bad timing and dysentery he never got out of Camp Wheeler in Alabama. After his discharge, he got a job in New York as a bicycle mechanic, took up competitive bicycle racing, got married, and had two sons. It seems to have been a good life, but the East stifled Howard. His mind never seemed to settle down. His ambitions had fixed upon the vast new America on the other side of the Rockies. That day in 1903 he couldn't resist the impulse anymore. He left everything he'd ever known behind, promised his wife Fannie May he'd send for her soon, and got on the train. He got off in San Francisco. His two dimes and a penny couldn't carry him far, but somehow he begged and borrowed enough money to open a little bicycle-repair shop on Van Ness Avenue downtown. He tinkered with the bikes and waited for something interesting to come his way. It came in the form of a string of distressed-looking men who began appearing at his door. Eccentric souls with too much money in their pockets and far too much time on their hands, they had blown thick wads of cash on preposterous machines called automobiles. Some of them were feeling terribly sorry about it. The horseless carriage was just arriving in San Francisco, and its debut was turning into one of those colorfully unmitigated disasters that bring misery to everyone but historians. Consumers were staying away from the "devilish contraptions" in droves. The men who had invested in them were the subjects of cautionary tales, derision, and a fair measure of public loathing. In San Francisco in 1903, the horse and buggy was not going the way of the horse and buggy. For good reason. The automobile, so sleekly efficient on paper, was in practice a civic menace, belching out exhaust, kicking up storms of dust, becoming hopelessly mired in the most innocuous-looking puddles, tying up horse traffic, and raising an earsplitting cacophony that sent buggy horses fleeing. Incensed local lawmakers responded with monuments to legislative creativity. The laws of at least one town required automobile drivers to stop, get out, and fire off Roman candles every time horse-drawn vehicles came into view. Massachusetts tried and, fortunately, failed to mandate that cars be equipped with bells that would ring with each revolution of the wheels. In some towns police were authorized to disable passing cars with ropes, chains, wires, and even bullets, so long as they took reasonable care to avoid gunning down the drivers. San Francisco didn't escape the legislative wave. Bitter local officials pushed through an ordinance banning automobiles from the Stanford campus and all tourist areas, effectively exiling them from the city. Excerpted from Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
Part I
1. The Day of the Horse Is Pastp. 3
2. The Lone Plainsmanp. 19
3. Mean, Restive, and Raggedp. 31
4. The Cougar and the Icemanp. 49
5. A Boot on One Foot, a Toe Tag on the Otherp. 65
6. Light and Shadowp. 83
Part II
7. Learn Your Horsep. 99
8. Fifteen Stridesp. 113
9. Gravityp. 127
10. War Admiralp. 141
11. No Pollard, No Seabiscuitp. 155
12. All I Need Is Luckp. 173
13. Hardballp. 183
14. The Wise We Boysp. 199
15. Fortune's Foolp. 217
16. I Know My Horsep. 229
17. The Dingbustingest Contest You Ever Clapped an Eye Onp. 239
18. Dealp. 251
19. The Second Civil Warp. 265
Part III
20. "All Four of His Legs Are Broken"p. 281
21. A Long, Hard Pullp. 295
22. Four Good Legs Between Usp. 303
23. One Hundred Grandp. 317
Epiloguep. 329
Acknowledgmentsp. 341
Notesp. 349
Indexp. 385

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