The Great Depression came hot on the heels of Prohibition, which went into effect in 1920. It didn’t stop the Roaring Twenties from happening or the consumption of alcohol; it just changed the game. In 1929, the Great Depression descended over the United States like a thick cloud. After the stock market crash, the U.S. government proposed a new amendment to reinstate alcohol sales. At the same time, state governments were looking for new revenue streams, and the racetrack became one of the only places where gambling was legal. It was in this landscape that Seabiscuit emerged as one of the biggest names in American horseracing history.
A Horse Named Seabiscuit
Seabiscuit became the top winning racehorse in the 1940s and even beat Triple Crown winner War Admiral in a two-horse special at Pimlico by four lengths. He was named Horse of The Year in 1938. He’s been the subject of countless books, documentaries, and movies and was memorialized on a U.S. stamp in 2009.
The Unlikely Underdog
But Seabiscuit didn’t have an easy rise to fame and fortune. His initial trainer, Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, thought he was too lazy and focused his energy on another horse, who did go on to win the 1935 Triple Crown. Seabiscuit didn’t win any of his first 17 races and wasn’t expected to do much. He was a small horse, but Fitzsimmons misjudged him, and it took another trainer to see his full potential. He became a favorite in California and symbolized hope for depression-era Americans.
February 9, 1940
In 1940, a seven-year-old Seabiscuit returned to racing after not competing for a year due to a presumed career-ending injury. He ran in Santa Anita, where he finished third in a handicap race on the track. An impressive feat for a horse of that age at that time. He ran three more races in 1940, and his final race was a win back in the Santa Anita Handicap. He passed away a few days before his 14th birthday of a suspected heart attack.
To this day, Seabiscuit is remembered in the racing community and among horse and sports lovers of all ages. He sired 108 foals after retirement and was horseracing’s all-time leading money winner at the time. Statues of Seabiscuit stand at Santa Anita, Keeneland Library, and his final resting place at Ridgewood Ranch.
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