Sea Biscuit and War Admiral

Seabiscuit and War Admiral - Pimlico Special Nov 38

Sea Biscuit and War Admiral Pimlico Special - Sea biscuit was an horse destined to become a legend War Admiral was the thoroughbred of thorough breds who was going to win this classic head to head race.

Pimlico Baltimore was the unlikely setting for one of racing's most extraordinary encounters the Let's See Who Really Is The Champion race between two of North America's most famous horses.

The fact that one of these horses was subsequently to have films made about it tells you all you need to know about the quality on offer.

Seabiscuit was owned by Charles S Howard and trained by Tom Smith despite being a thoroughbred he was considered by many American racegoers to be an upstart. He had really struggled to get his first win under his belt and few people ever thought that he would make it as a race horse. He had to travel the length and breadth of the States to earn a living but some say this taught the horse to be tough and resilient.

War Admiral on the other hand was pure class a son of that famous horse Man O' War he was unbeaten in the season prior to this big race having won the American Triple crown and even taken the horse of the Year title. owned by Samuel Doyle Riddle who also owned Man O' War he was trained by George Conway he won 18 of 22 races and had earned nearly $264,000 a staggering amount.

But Seabiscuit had developed into a big money winner and when the two met he had actually earned his owners $325,480 by winning 31 of 83 races. To understand how this race came about it's important that you understand that American owners worked on the notion that the only true way to see if an horse is the best is to race them against the best.

It was a Vanderbilt who negotiated the match between the two owners. Riddle War Admiral's owner insisted that there be no starting gate and that the race be started by a starter other than Pimlico's resident starter whom he distrusted he also insisted that there be no starting gates and that the race be started by dropping a flag while the horse's walked forward and then the ringing of a bell. Seabiscuit's owner was less fussy and was happy to go along with any arrangements. Both horses were to carry the same weight of 120 lbs. The race would be over 9 1/2 furlongs.

With a crowd of over 40000 the racecourse was a buzz of excitement, War Admiral was favourite and everything was really in his favour, the distance suited his high speed burn off the opposition approach to a race and he 'd even drawn the inside, which on this track and at that distance almost guaranteed a win. Seabiscuit prefered to build up to an high burst of speed at the end of the race.

The Race

Seabiscuit's jockey Woolf

After a couple of false starts in which both horses transgressed they were off and to everyone's total amazement Seabiscuit went off like a rocket and War Admiral was soon a length behind. Seabiscuit's jockey Woolf had whacked him with the whip from the off and kept on doing it until he had a length on War Admiral and had moved over to the rail.

By the time they were coming down the home stretch for the first time War Admiral was two lengths behind. By the back straight War Admiral's jockey had applied the whip and by the 5 furlong pole they were level the crowd went wild. Seabiscuit was just a short nose in front and for 3 furlongs as they stormed down the back straight they stared eyeball to eyeball, by the turn both jockey's were hammering with the whips War Admiral's jockey desperate to get War Admiral in front Seabiscuit's jockey to keep him there.

Down the home stretch it appeared that War Admiral was going to take it when all of a sudden Seabiscuits famous turn of speed at the end came into play, despite have run full pelt from the beginning this amazing horse managed to find an additional turn of speed at first it was a neck then half a length and suddenly War Admiral was broke by the finishing post Seabiscuit was 4 lengths clear and the course record was smashed.

Seabiscuit finished his career retiring at the age of 7 having gone on to win the San Antonio handicap, and the Santa Anita Handicap earning a mind boggling $437730 in his career, War Admiral went on to win his first race of 1939 before taking ill with laryngitis and then a broken ankle finished his brilliant career.