Sea Biscuit Summary

Topics: Seabiscuit, National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, Santa Anita Park Pages: 9 (3229 words) Published: February 14, 2011
aChapter 1: The Day of the Horse is Past
In 1903, Charles Howard leaves his home and family in New York and travels west to seek his livelihood. Arriving in San Francisco with twenty-one cents in his pocket, he uses his charm to borrow enough money to open a small bicycle repair shop. Soon, locals who had been foolish enough to purchase a new contraption—the horseless carriage, or automobile—appear at Howard's door, seeking his advice on repairing the machines. A visionary, Howard notes the advantages the steel beasts have over the current mode of transport, the horse. He travels to Detroit to convince Will Durant, the chief of Buick and future founder of General Motors, to give him the company's automobile sales franchise for San Francisco. On April 18, 1906, the San Francisco earthquake, registering 7.8 on the Richter scale, alters the course of Howard's life. The earthquake causes hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, fractured streets and roads, and major fires. Horses and people flee. Snatching opportunity in the midst of adversity, Howard offers his previously useless Buicks as ambulances and transport, proving the worth of the automobile and eventually creating enormous wealth for himself. Chapter 2: The Lone Plainsman

Tom Smith is an archetypal cowboy, an original against which all others are compared. He is a man of the open plains who drifts from job to job and is more comfortable in the company of horses than he is with humans. While working for the garrulous and gargantuan Charlie Irwin, owner of the largest racing stable in the country, Smith learns that the horse with the fastest breakout from the starting gate is usually the winner. Irwin notes Smith's way with animals and makes him a trainer. After Irwin's untimely death in an automobile accident, Smith drifts from job to job until he is introduced to Charles Howard. Chapter 3: Mean, Restive and Ragged

Howard wants to increase his thoroughbred holdings, but he is more intrigued by spirit than by breeding. In 1936, he sends Smith east to scout for horses. After attending several auctions and discounting numerous possibilities, on June 29, Smith is standing by a paddock when the perfect horse finds him. An unlikely descendant of champion lines, the horse surveys the trainer with haughty indifference, and Smith knows he has found his winner. The horse has attitude. The horse's current trainer, James Fitzsimmons, is, according to Hillenbrand, "the only man whom Smith ever regarded with awe." Fitzsimmons had trained Hard Tack, a Triple Crown winner and the son of the legendary Man o' War. Consequently, he had inherited Hard Tack's sons, Grog and Seabiscuit, both of which had little resemblance to their sire. Fitzsimmons notes the two things Seabiscuit did best were sleep and eat; his assessment of the animal's ability is that he is lazy. But Smith, and later Howard, see potential. The sale is finalized and they begin searching for a jockey. Chapter 4: The Cougar and the Iceman

The candidate for jockey is almost as unlikely as the steed. Johnny Pollard, dubbed Red for his carrot-colored hair, is an oversized intellectual who, Hillenbrand remarks, "is one of the worst riders anywhere." After a rocky start, Pollard signs on as an apprentice jockey or "bug boy," so named for the asterisk beside a novice's listings in the race program that looks like a bug. During this time, most bug boys are young runaways or orphans who are overworked, barely paid, and bulimic in order to maintain weight requirements. They are frequently traded, sold, or lost in card games without their consent. As Pollard's skill with difficult mounts becomes obvious, his lack of skill as a rider is overlooked and he is viewed as a specialist who could ride any steed offered to him. In addition to a growing reputation, Pollard gains his first real friend, veteran jockey George Woolf, nicknamed the Iceman for his unflappable style. Chapter 5: A Boot on One Foot, a Toe Tag on the Other

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