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On This Day – November 1st

1st November 2018 @ 6:06am – by Webteam
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Seabiscuit was a champion thoroughbred racehorse in the United States, who became the top money winning racehorse up to the 1940s, and the subject of a number of films and books. On 1st November 1938 he beat the 1937 Triple-Crown winner, War Admiral, by 4 lengths in a 2-horse special.

The "Match of the Century" between War Admiral and Seabiscuit was run over 1 3/⁄16 miles (1.9 km) at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland.

From the grandstands to the infield, the track was jammed with fans. Trains were run from all over the country to bring fans to the race, and the estimated 40,000 at the track were joined by 40 million listening on the radio. War Admiral was the favourite (1-4 with most bookmakers) and a nearly unanimous selection of the writers and tipsters, excluding a California contingent.

Head-to-head races favour fast starters, and War Admiral's speed from the gate was well known. Seabiscuit, on the other hand, was a pace stalker, skilled at holding with the pack before pulling ahead with late acceleration.

War Admiral's owner, Samuel D. Riddle, insisted that the match race be begin with a walking start at the sound of a bell, as his horse Admiral loathed starting gates. Few gave Seabiscuit a chance to lead War Admiral into the first turn.

However, Tom Smith, the horse's trainer, had trained Seabiscuit using a bell and a whip to give the horse a pavlovian reaction to the race's starting bell.

When the bell rang, Seabiscuit broke in front, led by over a length after 20 seconds, and soon crossed over to the rail position. Halfway down the backstretch, War Admiral started to cut into the lead, gradually pulling level with Seabiscuit, then slightly ahead. Following advice he had received from Pollard, Woolf had eased up on Seabiscuit, allowing his horse to see his rival, then asked for more effort. Two hundred yards from the wire, Seabiscuit pulled away again and continued to extend his lead over the closing stretch, finally winning by four lengths despite War Admiral running his best time for the distance.

As a result of his races that year, Seabiscuit was named American Horse of the Year for 1938, beating War Admiral by 698 points to 489 in a poll conducted by the Turf and Sport Digest magazine.

The story of Seabiscuit was portrayed in the eponymous award winning 2003 film starring Toby Maguire and Jeff Bridges.


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