Seabiscuit: An American Legend (Special Illustrated Collector's Edition)

Seabiscuit: An American Legend (Special Illustrated Collector's Edition)

by Laura Hillenbrand

Hardcover(Special Illustrated Collector's Edition)

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Seabiscuit was an unlikely champion: a roughhewn, undersized horse with a sad little tail and knees that wouldn't straighten all the way. But, thanks to the efforts of three men, Seabiscuit became one of the most spectacular performers in sports history. The rags-to-riches horse emerged as an American cultural icon, drawing an immense following and becoming the single biggest newsmaker of 1938 -- receiving more coverage than FDR or Hitler. Laura Hillenbrand beautifully renders this story of one horse's journey from also-ran to national luminary.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400060986
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/03/2003
Edition description: Special Illustrated Collector's Edition
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 8.30(w) x 10.27(h) x 0.91(d)

About the Author

Laura Hillenbrand has been writing about Thoroughbred racing since 1988 and has been a contributing writer/editor for Equus magazine since 1989. Her work has also appeared in American Heritage, ABC Sports Online, The Blood-Horse, Thoroughbred Times, The Backstretch, Turf and Sport Digest and many other publications. Her 1998 American Heritage article on Seabiscuit won the Eclipse Award for Magazine Writing, the highest award for Thoroughbred racing. She is currently serving as a consultant on a Universal Studios movie based on this book. Born in Fairfax, Virginia, Laura lives in Washington, D.C.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: The Day of the Horse is Past

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.

Nor were these the only obstacles. The asking price for the cheapest automobile amounted to twice the $500 annual salary of the average citizen‹some cost three times that much‹and all that bought you was four wheels, a body, and an engine. "Accessories" like bumpers, carburetors, and headlights had to be purchased separately. Just starting the thing, through hand cranking, could land a man in traction. With no gas stations, owners had to lug five-gallon fuel cans to local drugstores, filling them for 60 cents a gallon and hoping the pharmacist wouldn't substitute benzene for gasoline. Doctors warned women away from automobiles, fearing slow suffocation in noxious fumes. A few adventurous members of the gentler sex took to wearing ridiculous "windshield hats," watermelon-sized fabric balloons, equipped with little glass windows, that fit over the entire head, leaving ample room for corpulent Victorian coiffures. Navigation was another nightmare. The first of San Francisco's road signs were only just being erected, hammered up by an enterprising insurance underwriter who hoped to win clients by posting directions into the countryside, whose drivers retreated for automobile "picnic parties" held out of the view of angry townsfolk.

Finally, driving itself was something of a touch-and-go pursuit. The first automobiles imported to San Francisco had so little power that they rarely made it up the hills. The grade of Nineteenth Avenue was so daunting for the engines of the day that watching automobiles straining for the top became a local pastime. The automobiles' delicate constitutions and general faintheartedness soon became a source of scorn. One cartoon from the era depicted a wealthy couple standing on a roadside next to its dearly departed vehicle. The caption read, "The Idle Rich."...

Table of Contents

Part I
1.The Day of the Horse Is Past17
2.The Lone Plainsman41
3.Mean, Restive, and Ragged58
4.The Cougar and the Iceman83
5.A Boot on One Foot, a Toe Tag on the Other106
6.Light and Shadow131
Part II
7.Learn Your Horse153
8.Fifteen Strides172
10.War Admiral212
11.No Pollard, No Seabiscuit233
12.All I Need Is Luck258
14.The Wise We Boys298
15.Fortune's Fool323
16.I Know My Horse338
17.The Dingbustingest Contest You Ever Clapped an Eye On351
19.The Second Civil War384
Part III
20."All Four of His Legs Are Broken"407
21.A Long, Hard Pull425
22.Four Good Legs Between Us434
23.One Hundred Grand452

What People are Saying About This

William Nack

Laura Hillenbrand has written one of the best sports biographies in the history of the genre. Prodigiously reported, beautifully crafted and touched throughout with lyrical grace, the book is a marvelous narrative of non-fiction that reads like a novel. From the starting gate to the wire, Seabiscuit is one memorable read.
—(William Nack, author of Secretariat: The Making of a Champion)

Reading Group Guide

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 Laura Hillenbrand brilliantly re-creates a universal underdog story, one that proves life is a horse race.

From the Hardcover edition.

1. Seabiscuit grew so popular as a cultural icon that in 1938, he commanded
more space in American newspapers than any other public
figure. Considering the temper of the times as well as the horse's
early career on the racetrack, what were the sources of The Biscuit's
enormous popularity during that benchmark period of U.S. history?
Would he be as popular if he raced today? What did the public need
that it found in this horse?

2. TheGreat Match Race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral in 1938
evoked heated partisan passions. These passions spilled over on
radio and into the daily prints, with each colt leading a raucous
legion of followers to the barrier at Pimlico Race Course that autumn
day. What were the differences separating these two horses, and
what did each competitor represent in the American experience that
set one apart from the other?

3. All jockeys in the 1930s endured terrible hardships and hazards,
starving themselves to make weight, then competing in an exceptionally
dangerous sport. For George Woolf and Red Pollard, there
were additional factors that compounded the difficulties and dangers
of their jobs—diabetes for the former and half-blindness for the
latter. Why, in spite of this, did they go on with their careers? What
were the allures of race riding that led them to subject themselves to
such risk and torment?

4. What was the role of the press and radio in the Seabiscuit phenomenon?
How did Howard use the media to his advantage? How did
the media help Seabiscuit's career, and how was it a hindrance?

5. Seabiscuit possessed all the qualities for which the Thoroughbred
has been prized since the English imported the breed's three foundation
sires from the Middle East three hundred years ago. What
were those qualities? What made this horse a winner?

6. Horses of Seabiscuit's stature, from Man o' War in the 1920s to
Cigar in the 1990s, have always generated a powerful gravitational
field of their own, attracting crowds of people into their immediate
orbit, shaping relationships among them, and even affecting the
personalities of those nearest them. How did Seabiscuit shape and
influence the lives of those around him?

7. Red Pollard, Tom Smith, and Charles Howard formed an unlikely
partnership. In what ways were these men different? How did their
differences serve as an asset to them?

8. What critical attribute did Howard, Smith, and Pollard share? How
did this shared attribute serve as a key to their success?

9. In what ways was each man in the Seabiscuit partnership similar, in
his own way, to Seabiscuit himself? How did these similarities help
them cultivate the horse's talents and cure his ailments and neuroses?

10. What lessons can be drawn from the successes of the Seabiscuit
team? What does their story say about the role of character in life?

Customer Reviews

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Seabiscuit: An American Legend Special Illustrated Collector's Edition) 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
davevanl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I never thought a book could be written about thoroughbred racing and not make constant mention of win, place, show, exacta, and daily double odds and winnings. The mere fact that they were not mentioned helped make this one of the most pleasant books I have read in years. Hillenbrand truly brought out the relationships between Seabiscuit and the humans around him. A great read.
billyhill21 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
the wonderful story of seabiscuit. you wont find many books as good as this one. the movie was great also and is with this book
QUADCOWGIRL More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great "against all odds," true story about a mytholigical horse and the people who loved him. Bravo for all.
KsmithKS More than 1 year ago
I was skeptical at first about reading this book, but I'm so glad I did! It is such a heartwarming book about a can-do horse who had the odds stacked against him, yet he succeeded in the face of adveristy. This book is amazing; read it now!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an absolutely stunning work by a master storyteller. Laura Hillenbrand has brought to life one of American horse racing's greatest stories.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Never seen the movie, but don't feel that I even have to after reading the book. I've never been much of a horse racing enthusiast, but this book uncovers the world of jockeying and horse racing that many of us have never seen. It captured my attention and became an awesome read straight to the end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Three cheers for Seabiscuit and this amazing book! I never was a racing fan, but am now! A story that everyone can appreciate, and a main character everyone can relate to... even though he was a horse! Thank you Ms. Hillenbrand for sharing this wonderful story with me! I absolutely loved it, and was so sad when the story was over!!! Hope the movie lives up to the book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't like horses but this book was awesome. It was action packed and exciting. Better than the movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is the absolute best!!! I couldn't wait to finish the book. Seabiscuit is the horse that changed history, and he is my HERO!!! I was sooooooo sad when he died so young:(
Guest More than 1 year ago
Never before have I bothered to read in detail a book when I already knew the ending. This book has history, humor, sadness, victory and humanity on every page!
Guest More than 1 year ago
An exciting story about horses, humanity and the American dream. The author's talent for writing makes every paragraph a pleasure to read and discuss with fiends. Haven't enjoyed a book this much is a long time. Only problem, the book ends.......
Guest More than 1 year ago
This well researched book was psychologically fascinating and fascinating in the details it gave about the horse racing industry. It's appeal is about the underdog and how the spirit can win above all odds.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't wait until I read the last page, but was disapointed the story was over. Like reading Secrets in the Night, by annabelle Benton, and The Grapes of Wrath, I lived the stories.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading Seabiscuit and I learned so much about Horse racing.I have been to the track a couple of times but never really understood the relationship between the jockey and the horse, but now I do. I was so taken away with the story. It was like I was at each of those races and feeling the pain when Red would get hurt. I have not seen the movie yet, because I wanted to read the book first. The author did a great great job with this story. I would like to get the special edition now so I can see the pictures.
Guest More than 1 year ago
They say life is often stranger than fiction, and there is no better proof than Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit. In Depression-era America, three very different men and a scrappy little horse come together to accomplish the impossible. And where would they have been without each other? That's what made the biggest impression on me--four ordinary beings, leading separate lives, intersect and help each other, through respect and hard work, become extraordinary. This is a story for everyone, young and old, horse racing fans and people who just want a great read. The illustrated collector's edition brought the story even closer to me. I feel as though I know Charles Howard, Tom Smith, Red Pollard, George Woolf, and, of course, Seabiscuit, through their photographs.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a must read for all: horse lovers, history buffs and students. A more charming historical story I have never read, but that's not all. This book is about perserverance, faith in mankind and the American dream. It is a also a tale of what we can learn from horses and animals alike; that sometimes the loudest voice is no voice at all, a quiet and strong spirit. I bawled my eyes out when I was finished with this book. I cried because the ending is so poignant, the closing of an era that will never again be. And because it was one of the most well written books I have ever read, second only to Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. When finished I had nowhere to go, no book that could even come close to this; I mourned being finished. Each sentence provides an interesting kernal of information about horse racing, the human spirit and the Depression. You can't help but fall in love with Seabiscuit.
Guest More than 1 year ago
since, I was a child I used to read books (fiction) about horses. Loved horse back riding and very much of a horse enthusiast. Read this book ,and felt like iwas there. I smelt it, taste it hear surrounding background, never read a book that I actually felt like I was there, in 1938, also the tenseness of the race was in my bones. By the way I am 45 yrs old, and I did not know anything about this horse or the era. I bought this 2 years ago found out it was coming out in another month as a movie, and wanted to read it before, i saw the movie. I am sorry I didnt read this sooner, missed the documentary on pbs. but absolutely, loved this book, not sure i the movie will measure up, like all books usually the book is better, than the movie.