View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Monday, July 21, 2003

Seabiscuit Reconsidered

I've been reassessing my reaction to the Seabiscuit epilogue, so unhappy was I with the way it ended. I think I was probably lavishing sympathy on people who didn't really want or need it. Tom Smith eventually was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame, in 2001, and probably as a result of the book. But he was a solitary guy, chose to be obscure and taciturn, and probably didn't give a damn whether or not anyone showed up at his funeral. Charlie Woolf never got to enjoy retirement, but he died on the track. And who knows if he could have stood a life without racing, anyway. And Red Pollard did what he wanted to do - race. Laura Hillenbrand has an interview at the end of the paperback re-issue, and she says that she started out with the same feelings that I had. But Pollard did want he wanted, regardless of the cost, and never seemed to regret it. In some ways it was a sad end, but it was one that he chose, and one that his wife chose with him.

In the end, I probably had gotten all the way through the book without learning the central lesson of horse racing - that success is ephemeral, and that the hardest thing in the world is to parlay one success into another. As much as anyone, racing people probably live in the moment. And, after all, their lasting success is that, 65 years later, we're still talking about what they accomplised with this horse.

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