'Seabiscuit' has this writer turning the pages

August 05, 2003|by TIM KOELBLE

I can't tell you the last time I saw a thoroughbred horse race in person. It's also been at least 25 years since I saw the trotters in action.

Some kind of horse race fan I am, right?

Sure, in this business you must pay some attention to the pile of stories that we're deluged with when it comes to a major race. I'll even take time to spend two minutes in front of the tube to see the telecast of one of the Triple Crown battles.

From that point of view, I'm not oblivious to the history of such horses like Secretariat, Affirmed (the last Triple Crown winner in 1978) and War Admiral.

Now, we have the movie "Seabiscuit," with all the commercial promos and actor interviews popping up on various channels.

I even made mention to my wife that the movie looks enticing, one we'll have to watch when it comes out on DVD (I usually don't put up with going to the theater).


She asked, "Why the interest?" I gave her a very brief answer to the history, not knowing much myself.

On her return from a business trip last week, she stopped in an airport bookstore and picked up the Seabiscuit paperback.

An avid reader and a Civil War buff, she's always been of the opinion that you read the book before watching the movie, especially those stories that are true.

Now, I'm into the book and now know the backgrounds of Charles Howard, Tom Smith and Red Pollard - and the years leading up to the infamous 1938 race at Pimlico in Baltimore against War Admiral, who had won the Triple Crown in 1937.

Little did I realize that Seabiscuit was the son of Hard Tack, himself a son of Man o' War, another of the great horses. War Admiral was a brown colt also from Man o' War.

This was a horse that had nothing going for him. He wasn't your beautifully bred horse and he carried weight in the saddle far greater than normal.

In the early chapters of this book, the overall picture of how Seabiscuit became an icon in horse racing through his stubborn determination is beginning to formulate.

I'm not one that usually spends time reading a good book, not even on a long, cold winter night, much less it being one dabbling in the world of sports.

I'm guessing this is a book that is going to keep me reading on. I'm guessing I'll be looking forward to the movie - one by accounts that will necessitate some Kleenex being nearby - with even more anticipation.

Geez, I might even have to pay Charles Town a visit.

Tim Koelble is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

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