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Remembering Seabiscuit and his North Coast connection

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This week 73 years ago, the historic racehorse Seabiscuit was laid to rest after dying of a heart attack at Ridgewood Ranch in Willits. The famous steed was the prized possession of San Francisco car dealer, Charles S. Howard, who later in life became a prominent owner of thoroughbreds.

Seabiscuit was foaled on May 23, 1933, from a long line of renowned racehorses. His mother was the mare Swing On and his father Hard Tack, a sire of Man O’ War. His early years were occupied by a daunting schedule of racing, where his lack of impressive wins disappointed his owners at Wheatley Stable — Ogden Livingston Mills and Gladys Mills Phipps.

After losing most of his early races, the 2-year-old colt gained national attention winning two races at Rhode Island’s Narragansett Park and setting a course record.

On a hot summer day in 1936, horse trainer Tom Smith, an employee of Charles Howard, saw something special in Seabiscuit when he won an allowance race at Suffolk Downs in Massachusetts. Impressed by the horse’s performance, the car dealer purchased the underachiever from Wheatley Stable for $8,000.

The collaboration of Smith, Seabiscuit and jockey Red Pollard proved to be a winning combination. In 1937, Seabiscuit won 11 of 15 races and was American horse racing’s leading moneymaker.

Seabiscuit went on to win history-making races throughout his career, famously beating War Admiral in 1938 and taking home the $10,000 Santa Anita Handicap in 1940.

On May 13, 1940, Seabiscuit officially retired from racing, departing an Inglewood track to be placed in stud at Howard’s ranch in Willits.

Seabiscuit ran 89 races while wearing the Howard stable colors, finishing first 33 times.

He died May 20, 1947, just shy of his 14th birthday.

Click through our gallery above to see images of Seabiscuit and his storied career.

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