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 Seabiscuits 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.
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
couldnt 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 wasnt 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 wasnt 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.
If you liked Seabiscuit, try these:
The strange, compelling, sparkling, and mysterious universe of horse racing is depicted with such verve and originality, such tenderness, such clarity, and, above all, such sheer exuberance.
Erik Larson's gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.
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