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Racing Legends: Seabiscuit and Man o’ War

Seabiscuit and Man o’ War: Two Legends of Horse Racing

Horse racing has long been a beloved sport in the United States. Since the early 1900s, many horses have emerged as champions and captured the hearts of many, but few have managed to earn the reputation and legacy of Seabiscuit and Man o’ War.

These two horses, although from different eras, were remarkable in their own ways. This article will delve into the histories of Seabiscuit and his grandfather, Man o’ War, to examine their racing careers and legacies.

Seabiscuit: An Unlikely Champion

Seabiscuit was born in 1933, a year which saw a severe economic depression in America. His breeding was unremarkable, and his physical appearance was less impressive than other horses.

He had “bucked knees” that made him appear unsteady, and his cannon bones, which are the long ones below the knee, were longer than average. But these physical differences did not deter Seabiscuit from becoming a racing legend.

Seabiscuit’s Genetics and Conformation

Seabiscuit was the grandson of Man o’ War, one of the greatest racehorses of the twentieth century. Man o’ War had won several prestigious races, including the Belmont Stakes, the Preakness Stakes, and seven-track records.

He was also a sire of numerous successful horses, including Seabiscuit’s father, Hard Tack. Seabiscuit inherited his grandfather’s natural speed and high stamina, but he also had his own unique physical characteristics.

His long cannon bones allowed him to cover more ground with each stride, giving him a significant advantage on the track.

Seabiscuit’s Early Racing Career

Seabiscuit’s racing career began at the age of two.

He quickly gained a reputation for being lazy and uninterested in racing. During his first eight starts, he failed to win a single race.

However, in his ninth start, Seabiscuit won his first race by six lengths and went on to capture many more races for the next two years. In 1936, Seabiscuit won 11 of his 15 starts and earned his owners over $340,000.

Seabiscuit’s Training Techniques

Seabiscuit’s trainer, Tom Smith, had a unique approach to training. He believed in letting horses be themselves and responding to their needs.

Smith allowed Seabiscuit to relax and spend time with other animals like dogs, goats, and a blacksmith’s donkey. This helped Seabiscuit stay calm and relaxed when not racing.

However, Smith also knew when to push Seabiscuit and would keep him agitated before important races to ensure his best performance.

Seabiscuit’s Jockey and Match Race

Seabiscuit’s jockey, Red Pollard, was a talented and daring rider.

The two had an instant connection, and Pollard’s unorthodox riding style suited Seabiscuit’s racing style perfectly. In 1938, Seabiscuit raced against War Admiral, the American Horse of the Year and a triple crown winner, in what was known as the “match race of the century.” Seabiscuit won the race by four lengths, surprising everyone and cementing his place in history.

Seabiscuit’s Retirement and Legacy

Seabiscuit retired in 1940, and his owners moved him to Ridgewood Ranch in Willits, California. He spent the rest of his life there, receiving visitors and living the good life.

His legacy has endured, with books, movies, and documentaries chronicling his life and career. He has become a beloved icon in American racing history.

Man o’ War: The Grandfather of Seabiscuit

Man o’ War, Seabiscuit’s grandfather, was a racing legend of his own time. Born in 1917, Man o’ War was one of the most successful and celebrated racehorses of the twentieth century.

Man o’ War’s Racing Career

Man o’ War lived up to his name, winning 20 of his 21 races. He set several track records in the process and won the Belmont Stakes by a record margin of 20 lengths.

His only loss came in a race where he was delayed at the starting gate, causing him to fall behind early. He ended his racing career with a reputation as the best horse of his time.

Man o’ War’s Genetics and Influence

Man o’ War’s breeding and lineage were impressive. He was the son of Fair Play, who was also a successful racehorse and sire.

Man o’ War’s descendants also became champions. He was the sire of War Admiral, who would later face his grandson Seabiscuit in the match race of the century.

Man o’ War was also the grand sire of Citation, who became the eighth horse in history to win the triple crown.


In conclusion, Seabiscuit and Man o’ War were two horses who defied the odds and left lasting legacies in the world of horse racing. Although they came from different eras, they both had unique traits and characteristics that set them apart from other horses.

Their stories continue to inspire and captivate racing fans, and their names will forever be synonymous with greatness. Seabiscuit was an exceptional racing horse who went above and beyond with his racing achievements.

One of the most interesting facts about Seabiscuit is that his birth name did not follow the usual naming convention for racehorses. His unique name, however, proved to be quite fitting for his life and legacy.

Seabiscuit’s Unconventional Birth Name

Naming Convention in Horse Racing

Racehorses typically have names inspired by their ancestry, lineage, or contain playful puns. These names often relate to either the horse’s sires or some physical or behavioral aspects of the horse.

For instance, horses coming from prominent ancestry might receive names that somehow commemorate their parents. Additionally, playful names help make the horses more memorable, distinguishable, and marketable.

Seabiscuit’s Specific Naming Inspiration

Seabiscuit’s name did not follow the conventional naming convention. His parents were both named after tough crackers, but Seabiscuit’s name was not derived directly from his parents.

Instead, his owners, Charles S. Howard and Tom Smith, chose his name based on his underdog status.

Howard was a successful automobile dealer, and he named Seabiscuit after a popular brand of sea biscuits or hardtack, which was a cheap and often ridiculed snack, much like Seabiscuit himself.

Seabiscuit was born to Hard Tack and Swing On, who were successful but not of the highest pedigree.

The name symbolized the life ahead for the underdog horse and later became a source of inherent power and motivation.

Seabiscuit’s Unique Personality and Training Needs

Seabiscuit’s Quirks and Behaviors

Seabiscuit was difficult to train, lazy, and agitated.

These characteristics made him challenging to work with, and it took his trainer, Tom Smith, a long time to find the right approach to handling him. Seabiscuit’s laziness meant that he refused to go along with most training exercises, and he had a reluctance to run when not in the company of other horses.

This temperament posed a significant challenge to his racing career and almost led to his retirement.

Seabiscuit’s Relationship with Companion Animals

Pumpkin was Seabiscuit’s closest animal friend.

Pumpkin was a small pony with a feisty and confident attitude. Seabiscuit shared his stable with Pumpkin and allowed the pony to accompany him to his races.

Pumpkin’s presence helped to calm and focus Seabiscuit before races, and the two made such an unlikely pair that their relationship became famous.

Seabiscuit’s relationship with Pumpkin was not an isolated incident.

Early in his career, Seabiscuit stayed with a stray dog whom he had befriended. The dog slept with Seabiscuit at night and even accompanied him to some races.

The bond between Seabiscuit and the dog was so strong that Seabiscuit refused to race without him present.

Seabiscuit’s Sleeping Habits

Seabiscuit was known for his unpredictable sleeping habits.

He would often wait for hours, not wanting to be disturbed. He would become upset, even irritable, if he didn’t get his sleep or activity as per his preference.

This would mean that his trainers would have to be silent and cautious around him and respect his sleeping schedule. During his racing career, Seabiscuit had been known to be in an unpleasant mood before important races due to a lack of sleep or his environment not being suitable.

Seabiscuit’s temperament had required a specific approach, as he could become agitated and disinterested quickly.

In conclusion, Seabiscuit was not just an outstanding racehorse but also a horse with unique characteristics and a captivating personality.

His unconventional name, inspired by his underdog status, helped him exceed expectations. Seabiscuit’s relationship with companion animals such as Pumpkin and the stray dog reflects his sensitivity to his environment and state of mind.

These unique features of Seabiscuit became a notable part of his legacy as a beloved icon of horse racing.

Seabiscuit’s Early Racing Career

Seabiscuit’s career as a horse racer started with a rocky beginning.

Despite his potential, Seabiscuit’s physical quirks and reluctance to race turned him into an underdog. But with time and patience from his trainer and owners, Seabiscuit rose as a force to be reckoned with in the horse racing world.

Seabiscuit’s Two-Year-Old Season

Seabiscuit’s first career start was at the beautiful Hialeah Park in Florida, which was then one of the most popular horse racing tracks in the US. He was owned by Charles S.

Howard, who had a keen eye for exceptional horses, but Seabiscuit did not impress at first. He ran in 10 races, finishing second only once.

Despite Seabiscuit’s lack of immediate success, he was already showing he had the potential to be a great racer as he continued to improve in his 2-year-old season.

Seabiscuit went on to race in 35 races during his two-year-old season, which was a lot even for that time.

He did not win any of those races, but his performance began to show that he was a horse with some potential.

Seabiscuit’s Race Results and Earnings

In his first year of racing, Seabiscuit finished out of the money in 18 races.

His earnings were only $12,510, which was not a significant amount in those days. However, Seabiscuit’s fortunes changed in 1937.

During that year, Seabiscuit won 11 races, including four stakes races, and was named the leading money earner of 1937 with earnings of $376,640. His impressive victory in the Santa Anita Handicap was the turning point of his career.

His electrifying win by a nose against the mighty Rosemont had the racing world talking about this small bay horse with an explosive finish.

With this win, Seabiscuit started his journey to becoming the talk of the town in racing circles.

Seabiscuit’s Price and Claiming Races

The unconventional appearance and lack of wins for Seabiscuit made him an affordable horse to purchase. His owner bought him for $2,500 as a five-year-old in 1938, which was an astronomical amount to pay for a horse at that time.

It was a gamble that would soon pay off. As Seabiscuit’s performances improved, his ability to win races was not being reflected in his price.

Though his record improved, no one claimed him, which turned out to be a blessing for his owners as they realized his potential.

Seabiscuit’s Match Race with War Admiral

War Admiral’s Racing Career and Genetics

War Admiral was a Triple Crown winner who had won seven of his nine starts as a two-year-old and was an early favorite for the 1937 Kentucky Derby.

Despite his achievements, War Admiral was not the underdog in his match race against Seabiscuit.

War Admiral’s sires were sufficient reason to believe that War Admiral was a great horse.

His sire was Man o’ War, who was one of the best horses to have ever raced in the US. War Admiral was also known for being a front runner, making him a significant rival for Seabiscuit.

Seabiscuit’s Winning Streak and Match Race

Seabiscuit’s pace, along with his late acceleration, allowed him to gain an edge over his opponents.

Seabiscuit had won his last 10 races leading up to the match race and was considered the favorite horse by many horse racing enthusiasts.

The match race itself was held at Pimlico Race Course in Maryland and was termed the “Race of the century.” Seabiscuit defeated War Admiral by four lengths, and he was the first horse to defeat War Admiral since his two-year-old season.

Seabiscuit’s match race victory was the highlight of his career and firmly marked his place in racing history.

Seabiscuit and War Admiral’s Family Ties

Both Seabiscuit and War Admiral had family ties to Man o’ War. Seabiscuit was a grandson of Man o’ War, while War Admiral was a direct descendant of Man o’ War.

Seabiscuit’s sire, Hard Tack, was a son of Man o’ War, which made Seabiscuit War Admiral’s uncle.

The match race was seen as a contest between two horses with a shared bloodline and having a significant reputation to uphold.

In conclusion, Seabiscuit’s early career faced significant hurdles that he overcame through his tenacity and an unwavering spirit.

His match race with War Admiral proved to be the iconic event of his life and solidified his prominent place in history.

Despite his physical and temperamental quirks, Seabiscuit went on to become one of the most beloved horses in the world of racing.

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