Seabiscuit: How An Underdog Became a Champion

The true meaning of the phrase “the American Dream” is a topic that could be debated by Americans all across the country. For some, it is accomplishing the goals they set for themselves as children or teenagers. For others, it is simply being the best version of themselves that they can be at all times. But for most, it is the seemingly impossible task of coming back from hardship to reign supreme. Whether this hardship is minor, such as losing in a sports game, or major, like being involved in a near-fatal car accident, bouncing back from said hardship to achieve success is seen as inspirational in America, and has been for many years. In Seabiscuit, Seabiscuit comes back from being an underachieving horse and becomes one of the greatest racehorses of all time. With the help of his excellent team, which includes his owner Charles Howard, his trainer Tom Smith, and his jockey John “Red” Pollard, Seabiscuit goes on to embody the “American Dream” at multiple points in his life. In Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand, Seabiscuit and his team embody the idea of the “American Dream” by overcoming every hardship that is thrown at them and going on to achieve immense success in the world of racing.

Seabiscuit and his team’s first successful attempt at overcoming a hardship stems from Seabiscuit’s first defeat in the 1937 Santa Anita Handicap. When Seabiscuit and Pollard lose the biggest race on the West Coast the first time, public ridicule of Pollard spread like wildfire. A few days after the loss, Smith stunned reporters by uttering complete sentences in regard to the Santa Anita Handicap, saying, “Pollard deserves at least half the credit for the brilliant showing of Seabiscuit in the Santa Anita Handicap. He is the only boy who knows of his peculiarities, his idiosyncrasies, who knows how to get the best of him. Criticism of Pollard is unjust. He rode the horse perfectly,” the reporters were still not convinced that Pollard was not at fault for the race (Hillenbrand 132). Even after Smith’s kind words, reporters and fans were still not convinced. They would attribute Seabiscuit’s loss in the 1937 Santa Anita Handicap to Pollard’s poor handling of Seabiscuit forever. After their stunning defeat, and after Pollard experiences a life-threatening accident while racing with another one of Howard’s horses, Fair Knightess, Pollard and Seabiscuit do not truly overcome the judgements set on them as a pair until the 1940 Santa Anita Handicap. The race was close up until the final stretch, when Seabiscuit and Pollard bolted ahead of the rest and crossed the wire alone. After the shock of it all wore off, Seabiscuit and Pollard strode to the winner’s circle, where they would finally feel the overpowering feeling of happiness from finally achieving the Seabiscuit team’s long-term goal: winning the Santa Anita Handicap. After the heat of the race was over, Hillenbrand states, “The world broke over Santa Anita,” which is a gross understatement, considering the condition of America during this time. As the country was still feeling the overly harsh effects of the Great Depression, they needed something to believe in (Hillenbrand 323). Seabiscuit and Pollard, who were both deemed a lost cause but eventually found success when put into the right situation, were the glimmer of hope that they needed in a world that seemed dimmer than ever. After losing the Santa Anita Handicap twice before, Seabiscuit and his team surely felt rejected and disappointed in themselves and their performances, but they never gave up, and in the end, their hard work paid off in extraordinary ways. Seabiscuit and his team overcoming their loss in the 1937 Santa Anita Handicap and going on to finally win it in 1940 shows their commitment to overcoming hardships and achieving success, which shows their embodiment of the “American Dream.”

The Seabiscuit team’s second situation where one or more of them overcame a hardship to achieve success is when Pollard suffers a life-threatening injury while riding a horse named Fair Knightess. During the race, Fair Knightess’ forelegs were “kicked out from under her”, sending Pollard flying off of her back. Pollard ends up underneath Fair Knightess, and she ends up falling directly on top of him, effectively crushing the left side of his chest and fracturing several bones. This injury left Pollard unable to race for a long period of time, effectively rendering him unemployed and void of purpose. Being a jockey was all he knew how to do, and having that ripped away from him was the cruelest punishment imaginable to him. After recovering from these injuries in the spring of 1938, Pollard broke his leg while galloping a horse for an old friend in June of 1938. After the second injury, it takes much longer for Pollard to heal. By the fall of 1938, Pollard’s leg had still not healed, as a result of faulty East Coast doctors. After Seabiscuit wins his match race against Ligatori, Pollard seems sadder than ever about not being able to race. In the beginning of Chapter 18, Hillenbrand states, “He kept a brave face before his friends, assuring them that he would ride again, but they didn’t believe it and neither did he” (Hillenbrand 251). Once Pollard returned to the West Coast, a doctor was finally able to reset his leg so that it would heal. He was over the moon at the possibility of finally being able to mount a horse again. A few months later, he would go on to ride Seabiscuit to victory in the 1940 Santa Anita Handicap. His show of bravery in dire circumstances is an inspiration to Americans everywhere suffering from both physical and mental disorders. His story shows that no matter how much life hurts you, if you keep a brave face throughout it all, the world will reward you. Pollard’s recovery from two extreme injuries leading up to his and Seabiscuit’s win in the 1940 Santa Anita Handicap embodies the Seabiscuit team’s uncanny ability to overcome any hardship they face, therefore showing their embodiment of the “American Dream.”

Seabiscuit was famous during a time where life was much bleaker than it is now. Any story of overcoming the odds or bouncing back from an immense hardship was seen as inspirational to the American people. What made Seabiscuit’s inspirational story even more inspirational than the others was the fact that he did not try to outshine everyone else with his achievements. Someone who is truly living by the aforementioned definition of the “American Dream” lets his achievements speak for him, and that is exactly what Seabiscuit and his team did. The Seabiscuit team’s embodiment of the “American Dream” is as inspiring now as it was then, and it will be an inspiration for many years to come. In Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand, Seabiscuit and his team embody the idea of the “American Dream” by overcoming every hardship that is thrown at them and going on to achieve immense success in the world of racing.