(May 23, 1933â€”May 17, 1947)
was a champion Thoroughbred racehorse in the United States. From an inauspicious start, Seabiscuit became an unlikely champion and a symbol of hope to many Americans during the Great Depression.
On November 1, 1938, Seabiscuit met War Admiral and jockey Charles Kurtsinger in what was dubbed the "Match of the Century." The event itself was run over 1 and 3/16 miles (1.91 km), and the Pimlico Race Course,
from the grandstands to the infield, was jammed solid with fans. Trains
were run from all over the country to bring fans to the race, and the
estimated 40,000 at the track were joined by some 40 million listening
on the radio. War Admiral was the prohibitive favorite (1-4 with most
bookmakers) and a near unanimous selection of the writers and tipsters,
excluding the California faithful.
Head-to-head races favor fast starters, and War Admiral's speed from
the gate was the stuff of legend. Seabiscuit, on the other hand, was a
pace stalker, skilled at holding with the pack before destroying the
field with late acceleration. From the scheduled walk-up start, few
gave him a chance to lead War Admiral into the first turn. Smith knew
these things, and had been secretly training Seabiscuit to run against
this type, using a starting bell and a whip to give the horse a Pavlovian burst of speed from the start.
When the bell rang, Seabiscuit ran away from the Triple Crown
champion. Despite being drawn on the outside, Woolf led by over a
length after just 20 seconds and soon crossed over to the rail
position. Halfway down the backstretch, War Admiral started to cut into
the lead, gradually pulling level with Seabiscuit, and then slightly
ahead. Following advice he had received from Pollard, Woolf had eased
up on Seabiscuit, allowing his horse to see his rival, and then asked
for more effort. Two hundred yards from the wire, Seabiscuit pulled
away again and continued to extend his lead over the closing stretch,
finally winning by four clear lengths despite the fact that War Admiral
ran his best time for the distance.