My brother-in-law, Chris Wade has created another book for children. This second in his series of creation is about winged creatures. Here is a sample:
As you can see Chris included a little green buddy of mine. For more information you can go to Amazon. You can visit Chris' website here.
Here is the Bach Partita for Flute BWV 1013 performed by Jean-Pierre Rampal.
Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book surprised me by being a very interesting account of a racehorse's life.
It surprised me because I am not particularly interested in race horsing, but Laura Hillenbrand deftly weaves human and animal lives together, I found myself looking forward to coming back to the book and finishing it easily because each chapter contained such fascinating information about all the players involved.
The first chapter focuses on the man who financially backed the horse. Charles Howard came to San Francisco from the East where he had a bicycle shop, but he was one of those people who was ambitious and knew how to make money. I am impressed with those kinds of people. They combine the ability to crunch numbers with risk taking and are will to lose a lot of money as they slowly but surely ascend towards greater and greater gains.
Howard became one of the most successful Buick salesmen of all time. He soon found something else to invest in: horses. Pretty soon, he was making good money at the race tracks. Eventually he bought for a song an unimpressive looking, smallish, crooked legged horse with a stubborn personality. His name was Seabiscuit.
Seabiscuit was under the training of the legendary "Sonny" Jim Fitzsimmons. Fitzsimmons spent a lot of time working with Seabiscuit but eventually gave up, considering the horse too lazy and too onery. When Howard bought him, he handed him over to his trainer, Tom Smith.
The second chapter tells us about Smith and his unorthodox training methods. Smith had been a mustang breaker and trainer. As the frontier vanished he turned to other work. He eventually found it training Thoroughbreds for Charles Howard. Smith believed in Seabiscuit and with patience and particular racing workouts, he worked the lazy out of Seabiscuit.
Smith paired Seabiscuit with Red Pollard, a jockey from Canada and the third chapter gives us a graphic and grueling description of life as a horse jockey. During the depression most jockeys were young boys who had run away from home or simply left because they were one of too many mouths to feed.
No one babied these kids. They starved themselves to stay underweight, they worked for pittance and were often seriously injured and barely received medical treatment and then only after all the races were run because no one could afford to lose time transporting someone to the hospital between races.
Many jockeys scrambled back to the race from the hospital, regardless of their condition because if they missed one of their races they'd get fired.
It makes you glad that eventually laws were passed to prevent this type of exploitation.
Yet at the same time, these half-starved underpaid kids still somehow managed to scrounge up money for alcohol and prostitutes, rather proving the adage no one got poor because they were good with money.
The rest of the book describes Seabiscuit's training under Smith and riding under Red and also another jockey named Woolf and the different races they ran.
This is a credit to Hillenbrand's superior writing skills that she can turn a race horse into a riveting experience. Seabiscuit won some, lost some, but won more and more and became the Depression era favorite. Hundreds of thousands of people packed the stadiums to see him run.
The climax came when he ran against War Admiral.
War Admiral was the sire of the infamous Man o' War who terrorized race tracks about twenty years earlier. Sea Biscuit was a grand sire, his parents being Hard Tack and Swing On, but his grandsire was Man O' War. This perhaps diluted some of the hellion spirit he might have inherited from Man o' War because he had none of the demonic temperament his grand sire was known and feared for. War Admiral, however, being a direct sire, very definitely inherited it. Apparently the hardest part of the race was getting him to walk to the starting gate without trying to trample the groomsmen.
It took a lot of obstacles, injuries, weather, but mostly the enigmatic stubbornness of War Admiral's owner, Samuel Riddle who perhaps thought it beneath his horse to run a "mere Western winner".
Finally, the race did take place and reading it was suspenseful. Both horses broke records but Seabiscuit finally broke out in the lead and won by at least one horse length. When I came to the end I cried a little and then felt foolish but I couldn't help it.
Seabiscuit went on to run more races and did well, but Smith finally retired him to the same ranch he retired to. They died within a couple of years of each other. Seabiscuit was only fourteen which is rather young for a horse, but he ran a long, hard road.
Before that he sired hundreds of "little Biscuits" most of unimpressive form but a few racers. War Admiral who was retired shortly after his race with Sea Biscuit had more success, siring forty stakes winners.
Hillenbrand is exhaustive in her research and compelling in her prose. Whether you're interested in race horses or not you will probably find her writing enjoyable.
Reading this book has inspired me to read others like it. Perhaps I need to read about the race from War Admiral's perspective.
View all my reviews
If you'd like to watch Seabiscuits famous race with War Admiral click here.