BISCUIT’S BIG CAP STILL INSPIRING 75 YEARS LATER
The name “Seabiscuit” is famous with sports fans as heroic and inspiring. Demonstrating the “American dream”, Biscuit provided hope to many when the world had little. Perhaps his most inspiring win turns 75 this year and a closer look tells us people can still draw from it today.
Sea Biscuit was a hero to millions during the nation’s toughest times because he represented the little guy. From prominent bloodlines, Biscuit had some tough early times as he just did not win. It took him 17 starts before he made it to the winner’s circle. Given up for glue, a West Coast visionary named Charles Howard purchased him and gave the Biscuit what many were looking for, a second chance. Finding his stride under trainer Tom Smith, this grandson of Man o’War made the most of his opportunity and ran into the winner’s circle time and again. Saddled with the hopes of hundreds of thousands of people, Seabiscuit was the man.
The Santa Anita Handicap was the race that put Santa Anita Park in a place of prominence. With a purse of an unheard of $100,000 in 1935, the Big Cap was the apple of everyone’s eye. Worth more than the Kentucky Derby and nicknamed the hundred grander, this race attracted horses from all over the country. As a testament to how tough the race was, Sea Biscuit ran second in both 1937 and 1938. After defeating the unbeatable war Admiral in the most famous match race of all-time in November of 1938, tragedy struck in February of 1939. What was thought to be a career-ending injury kept him out of the 1939 running and it looked as if Sea Biscuit would never win the West Coast’s signature race.
Here again, however, was the awe-inspiring determination that makes the Biscuit the best. Howard had helped create the magnificence of the Big Cap, but his prized pony had never won. His stable captured the 1939 running with Kayak II, but it just seemed a bit unfair the horse that had won so many “big” races would be robbed of glory at his “home” track. But then it happened, a miraculous recovery allowed Seabiscuit to begin training again. After a year away from the track, Biscuit returned to the starting gates. Running three times at Santa Anita in February of 1940, Sea Biscuit finally made it back to the winner’s circle in the San Antonio Handicap on the 24th day of the month. Fit and full of vinegar, Howard decided his seven-year old deserved one more start and a shot at the big prize.
Rising to the occasion, Sea Biscuit drove himself deep into the hearts of everyone with a heroic win in the Hundred Grander. Rating just off a solid pace, Biscuit made his move at the top of the stretch and held off stable mate and defending champ Kayak II to win by 2 lengths. Turning in a track record time, Sea Biscuit not only carried the most weight (130 pounds) and defeated 11 other challengers, he also beat Father Time and desolation.
Now, 75 years later, the miraculous story of Sea Biscuit is still inspiring. The sport of Thoroughbred racing may not be quite as popular as it was in 1940 as 68,000 flocked to see the final run of their hero, but time will never erase the importance of his actions. Sea Biscuit stood tall that day and his legendary performance means is forever inspiring.
As the horses line up for this year’s Santa Anita Handicap on March 7, today’s marquee name is Shared Belief. A flat running son of a gun he is special for sure. Can he compare to a guy like Sea Biscuit?…Only time will tell, but that is a gigantic order.