Friday, February 27, 2009

A Legend, but Not a Hero

"Our horse is too small. Our jockey's too big. Our trainer's too old. And I'm too dumb to know the difference!" ~Charles Howard

In the movie, Charles Howard made it sound as if the connections in the Seabiscuit story were misfits in the racing world, and in real life, they were.

The Howard's were new in the racing industry trying to make an effort at owning their own racer.

Trainer Tom Smith was, at the time, a ranch hand who was known for having a good way with horses but not really in the horse racing industry.

John Pollard, better known as Red, was a fiery jockey that few people wanted to work with. Despite his poor personality, he was also much too tall for your typical jockey.

Seabiscuit himself was a short, built poorly, and replaced his lazy temperament for a very aggressive one after training. He was a broken runner, but with the help of his other racing misfits, he would make history.

He was off to a wonderfully start, beating horse after horse, but most of the racing world would not accept him as a champion until he beat reining horse of the year, War Admiral.

In 1938 the Pimlico Special, the two titans faced off and America's horse, Seabiscuit, defeated the Admiral.

The Biscuit did it. Not only was he a legend, but he was the hero of the common man, the hero of the Great Depression.

But what about War Admiral? Today he is known as a racing legend, but was never a racing hero.

I feel the Admiral has the making of a hero. He won twenty-one of his twenty-six races, three of which was the Triple Crown. Yes, the boy won the Triple Crown. An amazing feat for any horse and he made it effortless. He also went on to win the Jockey Gold Cup which is another important race in the North American racing circuit. With the Jockey Gold Cup and the Triple Crown under his belt he was the best in the racing world, and was given the honor of 1937 horse of the year. Over his career he won a total of $273,240 which was a decent amount of cash in the 1930s, let alone during the depression.

All the success led him straight to the breeding shed after retirement. In the shed the Admiral did just as well as he did on the track. His prodigy was so strong he was deemed leading sire and eventually leading juvenile sire making his legacy as strong as he had been.

Look at him. He is the picture of a perfect race horse (aside from being almost as short as his rival), and he nearly was. One major loss to another amazing animal haunts him to this day. He will forever be a champion, a legend, but Seabiscuit still holds the title of being the hero.

Don't misunderstand my intentions with this entry, Seabiscuit was a wonderful horse with amazing speed, power, and the biggest desire to be first. War Admiral, however, did just what he was bred to do, he won and he won a lot. On the Top 100 Horses of the 20th Century, Blood Horse magazine placed Seabiscuit twenty-fifth, whereas War Admiral was placed thirteenth.

The Admiral is the bigger champion, but the Biscuit is the bigger hero.

War Admiral is a legend, and no horse can take that from him. However, despite all his wins, awards, and winning prodigy, he will always be a champion, a legend, but never America's Hero.

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