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Seabiscuit–racehorse with a heart

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Seabiscuit: An American Legend

by Laura Hillenbrand

Seabiscuit is the story of an incredible racehorse who took the nation by storm at a time when people needed something positive. He lacked perfect conformation. It seemed like he never got a lucky break when it came to weather or rulings about the amount of extra weight added to his saddle for the races. What he had, however, was strength, speed, competitiveness, and the ability to give all that was asked of him. He also had a supportive team that never gave up on him.

Laura Hillenbrand had been writing about horses and racing in periodicals for years. In Seabiscuit she took that writing to a whole new level, researching, interviewing, delving into archives and corroborating the facts. Then she worked her magic as an outstanding writer to organize the information and make it come alive in word pictures that capture the reader’s heart and imagination.

Hillenbrand doesn’t just help the reader understand and come to love Seabiscuit as his fans did. She takes us into the life of Red Pollard, the jockey who knew Seabiscuit and his ways best. She introduces us to owner Charles Howard and trainer Tom Smith who were as unlikely to be part of his success story as Seabiscuit himself. We are treated to mini-biographies of those around Seabiscuit and the general nature of racing and betting in the 1930’s.

As a complete novice in the world of horse racing, I had to labor a little initially to follow the details, but I soon caught on and began chasing the powerful horse across the pages of this well written book. Hillenbrand’s words are chosen with care and create images in the mind and stir emotions in the heart making this a truly unforgettable piece of nonfiction.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Nonfiction, History

Notes: I purchased the Special Illustrated Collector’s Edition which contains more photographs than the original publication. I highly recommend this edition.

Publication: 2003—Random House

Memorable Lines:

Red Pollard and George Woolf had signed on to a life that used men up. But for all its miseries, there was an unmistakable allure to the jockey’s craft, one that both found irresistible….When a horse and a jockey flew over the track together, there were moments in which the man’s mind wedded itself to the animal’s body to form something greater than the sum of both parts….At the bottom of the Depression, when wrenching need narrowed the parameters of experience as never before, the liberation offered by the racehorse was, to young men like Pollard and Woolf, a siren song.

Seabiscuit seemed a cumbersome giant in comparison. At 1,040 pounds, he outweighed War Admiral by 80 pounds, with six feet of girth and a markedly wider chest. But the big body was perched on legs a full two inches shorter. His neck was thick, his head heavy, his tail stubby, his boxing-glove knees crouched….the mane plaits didn’t lie right and stuck out like quills. the horse stood straddle-legged, as if perpetually bracing himself against a strong wind.

A mournful hush fell over the barn, broken only by the long, low moans of a saddle pony who missed his absent stable companion. All evening long, the deep sad sound drifted out from the shed rows.


  1. WendyW says:

    What a fascinating story. I don’t follow horse racing at all, but I find it an interesting sport. Nice review, Linda!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is such a wonderful story. Didn’t they make a movie about Seabiscuit too? I am pretty sure I saw it years ago. Thank you for your review, I look forward to reading this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • lghiggins says:

      Yes. I remember seeing the movie and was surprised that I liked it. I think people during the Depression were particularly attracted to Seabiscuit because he was such an underdog. I just watched a 20 minute video on YouTube yesterday. It was an ESPN “classic” documentary and it included clips of an interview with the author (who is an underdog herself health wise) and with people who actually knew the jockey who was another underdog. It’s just an amazing story.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Cozynookbks says:

    I’ve had this book for years but have never read it. Thanks for your review. I just might have to take it off my bookshelf.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Jenna says:

    This sounds great Linda! I had a horse growing up and am a big fan of the Kentucky Derby, I look forward to reading this and learning more about the race horses~

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Gretchen says:

    I’ve always been intrigued by this book, but never picked it up. I like her writing style from the quotes you included. Great review!

    Liked by 2 people

    • lghiggins says:

      She is a good writer. I usually highlight things I might choose to quote, but I didn’t because so much of her writing is quote worthy. I felt like I could open the book anywhere and get a great example of her writing.


  6. This book has been on my to-read list for years. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Carla says:

    Wonderful review, Linda. I used to watch the triple crown races every year and it was great to watch them again this year. I know the name Seabiscuit, but not much else. I did google him after reading your review and was quite intrigued. I just reserved this book at the library, although it is the 2001 version. I am trying to read more non-fiction this year and this book definitely sounds like one I would enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

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