The day after Seabiscuit came back to win the 1940 Santa Anita Handicap after two failed attempts, Los Angeles Times sportswriter Oscar Otis penned this tribute.
Oscar Otis Tabs 'Biscuit as Greatest Race Horse
New Turf Champion Acclaimed for Great Comeback
By Oscar Otis
Los Angeles Times , Sunday, March 3, 1940
Seabiscuit found the fabled pot of gold at the end of the rainbow yesterday. He emerged the winner of the Santa Anita Handicap in new track record time, 2:01 1-5 for the mile and a quarter, the undisputed money winning champion of the world by a margin of some $60,000, the most popular horse of our day, and a thrill producer that sent some 74,000 frenzied and happy fans into a delirium of joy. It was the most popular victory in the history of western racing.
Paul Lowry will tell you of the race; I’m going to give you an intimate picture of Seabiscuit, the horse that has risen to be the idol of millions of turf fans.
Here’s the Story
He’s a super horse, one in a million. Here’s the story: Seabiscuit, a son of Hard Tack, was purchased by Charlie Howard for $8,500 from the Wheatley Stable. Howard, who parlayed a bicycle into a motor fortune, was looking for new worlds to conquer on the turf and wanted a horse. He finally made a deal for the 'Biscuit.
Wheatley had used the horse chiefly as a work horse for more illustrious stablemates.
I first saw Seabiscuit at Bay Meadows. He was making his western debut for Charlie Howard. It was at a flat mile. He got left flat at the post — won in 1:36. Privately timed at 1:35 flat. I knew then he was a good horse and so did all who saw the race.
Seabiscuit came to Santa Anita. He missed by a nose in the $100,000 to Rosemont. He tried the next year and lost by a nose, under high weight to 3-year-old Stagehand. In between meetings at Santa Anita, he became a confirmed traveler. He crossed the continent so many times that we have lost track. He became known as the modern Marco Polo of horsedom, and amazed one and all by his vitality and ability to take it against the sternest of competition after just getting off the cars. He picked up purses here, there and everywhere.
Came that fateful day here last year when Seabiscuit broke down in a race against Today. Howard promptly threw the horse out of training, sent him north to his Mendocino County ranch to recuperate. He did, and came back yesterday.
Horsemen say that they don’t come back after suffering a ruptured suspensory ligament. They swear that with the 'Biscuit it was nothing short of a miracle. Yes — a true miracle. But Seabiscuit, as you’ve probably already discovered, is a miracle horse.
No small part of Seabiscuit’s rise to glory can be ascribed to the careful handling of Trainer Tom Smith . The silent man of Barn 38 has just as interesting a history as the horse. Suffice to say that he once was a cowboy in Colorado, graduated into the rough-and-tough school of the rodeo. He has the unique task of reconditioning “stove-up” horses from the rodeo bronco contests.
He later went to the race track with C. B. Irwin, and when “Sea Bee” died, Smith was on his own. For a time, he trained a few cheap nags up Seattle way. He did so well that George J. Giannini of San Francisco, a veteran horse owner, suggested him as a trainer for the then budding Howard Stables.
It was a happy combination. Howard brought Seabiscuit and the rise to fame and glory was under way. Smith had to all but rebuild Seabiscuit, and the fact that after all his campaigning, shipping and weight packing Seabiscuit was a sounder horse today than the day he was purchased speaks volumes for Smith, the man, as well as stamping Seabiscuit as a horse of iron.
What of the future? Seabiscuit still has it. Charlie Howard told me yesterday that Seabiscuit was not going to retire until next winter.
Stud season doesn’t roll around till then, and as long as Seabiscuit is sound, why not race him, establish a money-winning mark either at or approaching the $500,000 mark and give horses for all time to come something to really shoot at.
Seabiscuit’s immediate future is at Tanforan. Whether he’ll start at the San Francisco track is a matter of conjecture.
But the real effort will come in the $50,000 Gold Cup at Hollywood Park this summer. After that maybe a short fall campaign in the East — and then, and then only — retirement to reproduce his kind to a waiting and expectant turf.
This story wouldn’t be complete without an amount of the ovation tendered Seabiscuit by those 74,000 at Santa Anita yesterday. Man and boy, it was the greatest old-timers had ever seen. Men talk in awed tones of Man o’ War , they speak with reverence of Exterminator, they use adjectives of many syllables to describe Phar Lap, but Seabiscuit — there is a human sort of a horse that they love.
The cheering at Santa Anita was from the heart — for the gallant old fellow is the kind of an animal that once you see him run, see him try, see that great heart of his nearly burst in an effort to get down to the wire, stays in your heart for all time.
There may be another horse come along greater than Seabiscuit, but none that will have endeared himself to the multitude, the $2 fan, as has Seabiscuit. He is an equine hero, and his feet were not of clay, as that mile and one-quarter in 2:01 1/5 will testify.
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