-- Grantland Rice --
The drama and melodrama of this
held before a record crowd keyed to the highest tension I have
ever seen in sport, set an all time mark.
You must get the
picture from the start
to absorb the thrill of this perfect autumn day
over a perfect track. As the two thoroughbreds paraded to the post there
was no emotional outburst. The big crowd
was too full of tension, the type of tension that locks the human throat.
You looked at the
flashed upon the mutual board--War Admiral, one to four, Seabiscuit
two to one.
Even those backing War Admiral,
the great majority of the
crowd, felt their pity for the son of Hard Tack and Swing On [Seabiscuit],
who had come along the hard way
and had churned up the dust of almost
every track from the Great Lakes to the Gulf, from the Atlantic to the
After two false
they were off. But it wasn't the fast-flying War Admiral who took
It was Seabiscuit, taking the whip from Woolf, who got the jump.
It was Seabiscuit who had a full-length lead as they passed the first
The Admiral's supporters were dazed as the 'Biscuit not only held
this lead but increased it to two lengths before they passed the first
The 'Biscuit' was
moving along as smoothly as a southern breeze.
And then the first roar of
the big crowd swept over Maryland. The Admiral was moving up. Stride by
stride, Man o' War's favorite offspring
was closing up the open gap.
could hear the roar from thousands of throats
"Here he comes, here
And the Admiral was
under full steam.
He cut away a length.
He cut away another length as they
came to the half-mile post--and now they were running head and head.
Admiral looked Seabiscuit in the eye at the three-quarters
never got the look.
He was too busy running with his shorter, faster
For almost a half
mile they ran as one horse, painted against the green, red and orange
foliage of a Maryland countryside. They were neck and neck--head and
head--nose and nose.
The great Admiral had
thrown his challenge.
You could see that he expected Seabiscuit to quit
and curl up.
But, Seabiscuit has never been that brand of horse.
seen him before in two $100,000 races at Santa Anita, boxed out,
to his knees, taking the worst of all the racing luck--
except facing a firing squad or a machine-gun nest-- and yet, through all
this barrage of trouble Seabiscuit was always there,
challenging at the
wire. I saw him run the fastest half-mile ever run at Santa Anita last
March, when he had to do it in his pursuit of Stagehand.
So, when War Admiral
moved up on even terms
and 40,000 throats poured out their tribute to the
Admiral, I still knew that the 'Biscuit would be alongside at the finish.
The 'Biscuit had come up the hard way. That happens to be the only way
The Admiral had known only the softer years--
the softer type
of competition. He had never before met a combination
of a grizzly bear
and a running fool.
Head and head they
came to the mile.
There wasn't a short conceded putt between them. It was
a question now of the horse
that had the heart.
Seabiscuit had lost his
His velvet had been shot away. He was on his own
where all races are won-
down the stretch. He had come to the
great kingdom of all sport--
the kingdom of the heart.
The Admiral had shown his reserve speed.
two lengths away he was now on even terms.
But as they passed the mile
post with three-sixteenths left--the vital test--the stretch that always
tells the story--where 40,000 looked for the fleet War Admiral
away--there was another story.
Seabiscuit was still hanging on. Seabiscuit
hadn't quit. With barely more than a final furlong left, the hard-way son
of Hard Tack must have said to the Admiral--
"Now, lets start
Let's see who is the better horse."
Foot by foot and yard
Woolf and Seabiscuit started moving away. Charlie Kurtzinger
the Admiral the whip.
But you could see from the stands that the Admiral
suddenly knew he had
nothing left in heart or feet to match this crazy
five-year-old who all his life had known only the uphill, knockdown
any track--any distance--any weight--any time.
And who the hell are you?
War Admiral had no
Down the final furlong the great-hearted 'Biscuit put on extra
He moved on by. Then he opened a small gap. Forty thousand expected
the Admiral to move up, close the gap again.
But the Admiral was through.
He had run against too many
plow horses and platers in his soft easy life.
He had never tackled a Seabiscuit before.
He had never met a
who could look him in the eye down the stretch and say to him, in
"Now let's start traveling, kid. How do you feel?
feel great. This is down my alley."
Yard by yard
Seabiscuit moved on ahead.
Then it was length by length. Seabiscuit left
the Admiral so far behind
that it wasn't even a contest down the stretch.
War Admiral might just have well be chasing a will-o-the-wisp in a
He might just as well have been a fat poodle chasing a
He had been outrun and outgamed--he had been run off the track
by a battered five-year-old who had more speed and heart.
The race, they say,
isn't to the swift.
But it is always to the swift and the game. It so
happened that Seabiscuit
had these two important qualities in deep
War Admiral could match neither flying feet not fighting heart.
Man o' War's brilliant son hung on with all he had until it came to the
to the point when the hard-way thoroughbred,
the horse from
the wrong side of the track,
began really to run.