A Race to the Finish Line: A Study of Seabiscuit Essay Example

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  • Words: 2022 Pages: 8
  • Published: 06 June 2021
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The famous racehorse, Seabiscuit, had over 10,000 people attend one of his workouts. By the time Seabiscuit was two, he had won five races and came in second seven times; in 1937, he won 11 of his 15 races and was the year’s leading money winner in the United States. Seabiscuit teaches the reader that determination can lead to being the best of the best. 

Seabiscuit was written by 33-year-old Laura Hillenbrand, who was born in Fairfax, Virginia and was one of Elizabeth and Bernard Hillenbrand’s four children. As a child, Hillenbrand loved riding bareback in the hills of her father's farm. She studied at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, until she became diagnosed with, at the time unknown, chronic fatigue syndrome, changing her life forever; Hillenbrand was forced to leave College, forced to quit being a tennis player, riding her bike and quit playing football in the quad. Once she was diagnosed with this disease, her friends, and family did not understand her sickness and left her to fight this battle on her own. This disease brought Hillenbrand to becoming a writer; while writing Seabiscuit, she said “I'm looking for a way to here………..People at this vigorous moment in their lives- it's my way of living vicariously.” 

Seabiscuit is possibly the most famous racehorse of all time, many people risked not only their money on him, but their lives as well. Seabiscuit became popular in a rough time, the Great Depression. He was known as an underdog, he suffered from a career ending injury, but came back to win the Santa Anita Handicap Race in 1940. Charles Howard is the owner of this famous racehorse, he was a multimillionaire and made his fortune as being an automobile dealer. Seabiscuit’s trainer was Tom Smith, he was an old cowboy who knew horse psychology like no other.

Smith was sent by Howard east to scout for horses. James Fitzsimmons was Seabiscuit's current trainer and he was the only man who Smith ever regarded with awe. Smith returned with two horsess, Grog and Seabiscuit; Smith notices two things about Seabiscuit, he was best at sleeping and eating, but he saw potential. Smith then began looking for a jockey and found John “Red” Pollard, he was one of the worst riders anywhere, but this was overlooked and he was viewed as a someone who could ride any horse that he was given. Seabiscuit was a very skittish horse and one trick to help them is to give them a companion; Smith first tried a nanny goat, and then a lead horse, finally Smith realizes this behavior is from a previous illness. Seabiscuit was limited by his age, many races limit entries based on the horse's age, but in the smaller races, he is allowed to enter at the east to west he proves himself. Smith and Howard decided to place him in the Bay Bridge Handicap where he shocks tons of people, everyone from reporters to the crowd, which opens Smith and Howard's eyes even though he was beaten by a small distance,  they then place him in the hundred-thousand-dollar Santa Anita Match race. During this race, a horse pushes Seabiscuit into the wall which is a foul, but it is unable to be seen by the viewing stand. At the end of the race, the two horse go across the finish line at the exact same time, but they lose according to the picture finish. Pollard, Seabiscuit's jockey, was in Massachusets and offered to take his friend's horse for a workout, during this workout the horse got spooked and slams him into the barn and damaged most of his right leg. Pollard was hospitalized and was told he would never ride again. With this terrible news, he tries to cover the pain with alcohol.

While he is in the hospital, he falls in love with his nurse. Pollard is later released from the hospital with absolutely nothing and Howard offers for him to stay with him. A friend of Howard’s is the owner of Pimlico racetrack and wants to put on a two horse race between War Admiral and Seabiscuit. This race was the talk of the country and the race ended up having a sold-out crowd, Seabiscuit claimed the winner's title and a new Pimlico track record. After this race, Seabiscuit was named Horse of the Year. He then races in the Santa Anita, during the race, he stumbles and ruptures a suspensory ligament. Howard's goal for all these years was to win the coveted prize at Santa Anita, he finally accomplished this goal, but not with Seabiscuit, they made a new purchase on Kayak II. Seabiscuit and Pollard make an unbelievable recovery and decide they are going back to Santa Anita. Pollard was told by the doctors that if he has another break he will be crippled for life, but that does not change his mind about riding Seabiscuit in this race. Pollard ended up riding him in this race and they won, he also set a new track record of speed and a new world record for monies won. In 1940 Seabiscuit finally retires and has a colt, after that Howard decides to teach him how to herd cattle. In 1947 a tragic event happened, the famous world known horse, Seabiscuit, passed away due to a heart attack. 

The setting/time frame of this book is very import. It takes place in the great depression time, which began soon after the stock market crashed (1930’s-1940). Seabiscuit grew up in Kentucky, but as soon as he began his racing journey he was moving all over for races and training. One of his first races took place in New York. In 1936 the horse was shipped to California because his last two horses took place there: after this, he traveled everywhere. The setting of this book is not extremely important, the time period is what is an import, but the location is not; the location is something that only helps the reader realize how far he travels for his races. 

Seabiscuit is the main character of the book Seabiscuit; he is a famous racehorse who teaches the reader that determination can lead to being the best of the best. He seems to be a versatile animal, at the beginning he was very good at eating and sleeping and over the years he has learned to be a famous runner. Charles Howard was the owner of Seabiscuit and Kayak II and made himself a multimillionaire from selling cars after the earthquake. He was always keeping an eye out for every opportunity that came around, he made money from his stables with his wife. He is the type of person who does not “sell” his animals when they got to the races or even just with friends.

Tom Smith was Seabiscuit’s trainer, he was a man who did not have much to say but he was good with psychology. Smith was someone who always went based on instinct when making decisions and most of the time his instinct was right. John “Red” Pollard ended up in Montana around 15 by himself and he got a job at a track warming up horses and eventually became a jockey. Overall of these years, he went through many injuries, from being blind from a boxing accident to being hospitalized due to his leg damage during one of the races. When going through this pain he began abusing alcohol. There are few characters in this book, but these characters are all big parts to do with all of Seabiscuit’s success

Seabiscuit was written in a third-person limited omniscient point of view. Third-person is when the author is an outsider looking in on the story; third-person limited omniscient is when the author only relates to one character. The book is written in present tense, it follows Seabiscuit through all of his journeys and lets the reader see what it was like at every important time in the book. 

This book has a tone that changes often; this whole book was written about Seabiscuit’s journey, with the tone changing so often the reader is always on the edge of their seat. For example, in chapter 7, Hillenbrand compares Seabiscuit as a “train wreck”. As the reader continues reading they notice the change in tone because they then come across to see that he is now making a fast friendship. In chapter 9, the author compares Seabiscuit to the Cinderella horse who fly over the finish line which changes the tone upbeat and happy. With the tone changing so often attracts and excites the reader throughout the whole book. 

The title of the book is the name of the main character, Seabiscuit: An American Legend, it will catch the reader's eye due to his name being well known. Seabiscuit became known as a symbol of hope to people, so when they see his name as the title of they are already interested. Using this title, the author wants to put out that the message that he is an American legend and that this book is all about his story. 

Hillenbrand uses the sensory details a ton when she is describing the horse races. Her sight details are so intense that the reader feels like they are at the race or even on the horse. In the book when she describes the foul that takes place on Seabiscuit the reader can visually picture the whole thing. When Seabiscuit is in the race where he gets beat by a head and is shown on camera finish is another amazing description. After reading the book and watching the movie what you visualize from the book is exactly what is shown in the movie. Without the sensory details that Hillenbrand uses this book would not be near as good and many readers would not be able to stay interested. 

Linsay Dahl, who is a writer wrote a review on this book, in her review she talks about how she enjoyed the book and some of the good and bad things about how the book is written. One of the only bad things she pointed out was that she wished Hillenbrand talked more about what was going on in the world during this time. This time was a big part as of why this book was so meaningful and it would have helped the reader have a clearer understanding if they were unaware of what was going on during this time period. Dahl also talks about how the three men needed Seabiscuit and were bonded with him. This was a very good way of connecting all these men because it shows the reader that even if you are all very different if you can be connected by one thing. 

Brian Oliver, a writer for “The Guardian,” wrote a well-written review over this book. He begins by talking about the history of the book and about how truly amazing Seabiscuit was. Reading this review and reading the lines, “Without the three men, the horse's owner, trainer, and jockey - Seabiscuit would not have made it past the magazine pages. The men allow Hillenbrand to dwell on poverty, hardship, alcoholism, infidelity, money (lots of it), glamour, obsession, depression, triumph and, above all, all-consuming love for life.” helps remind the reader that Seabiscuit took a lot of work and he would not have been the horse he was without all the hard work. In the review, it talks about all of his fans and people who followed him, which was not talked about a ton in the book but was mentioned. In the review, it says “ The railroads' scheduled special trains... They set records for eating, drinking and betting and it took two days to clear up after them.” These lines help the reader realize how many fans he really had. This review is a good review and helps the reader know some background knowledge that could help them understand more of the things that happened throughout the book. 

Seabiscuit was an extremely heartwarming book, seeing the hardships that he and his team went through, but still making their career as successful as it was. This group/team got every possible problem thrown at them, but they never gave up. They began as strangers and learned to be a family and they each had to work hard to trust each other.  This is a book everyone needs to read when they are in a rough place, it shows the reader to never give up and if you work your hardest and anything can happen. 

This book also shows that the way everyone looks on the outside is not always the way they are in the inside. When the team first got Seabiscuit, he was an extremely lazy horse and never shown that he would be an amazing racer. With all the hard work put into him, he became the best of the best. This to me was the biggest lesson throughout the whole book, never judge a book by its cover because you never know what's gonna be in the inside. 



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