Written by AFP
TAMPA, Florida – Horse trainer Charles Schick, 86, says he is impressed by “Seabiscuit”, a new movie about the famed race horse he broke during the 1930s. Schick, who now lives in St Petersburg, Florida, also trained War Admiral, the colt who galloped against Seabiscuit in a contest that made racing history.
“It’s very good, it’s very authentic,” the now-retired Schick says of the blockbuster that depicts the rise to fame of the once down-and-out horse.
He vividly remembers when he first saw Seabiscuit in 1934.
“Seabiscuit and his brother Grog stepped down off a railcar together and it was a case of total opposites. Grog was a magnificent-looking horse, while Seabiscuit was a misfit. He was a runt,” Schick told AFP.
Seabiscuit began his racing career at Hialeah race track in Miami, Florida on January 19, 1935. He finished fourth.
On the way to the race, Seabiscuit had a close brush with death.
“Seabiscuit, two other horses and myself were in a railroad horse car from New York. When we got to the Georgia-Florida borderline, it began to rain really hard and the winds looked like a hurricane.
“The rainwater flooded the car and Seabiscuit and the other two horses started bucking and going crazy. All of us were in water up to our knees. I really thought that if Seabiscuit lost control any more that he would have to be put down. Fortunately, the rain stopped,” said Schick.
This incident is not depicted in the film.
Schick enventually was laid off, but got a job in Maryland, where he first saw War Admiral. “It was like your first look at royalty; War Admiral made that kind of impression on me,” he said.
He soon got to work training Seabiscuit’s rival.
War Admiral won the Triple Crown — the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes — in 1937 and was considered the best horse on the US east coast. Seabiscuit held the west coast crown.
Public demand called for a contest to see which was the superior horse and on November 1, 1938, the so-called “Match of the Century “was held between the two horses at Pimlico race track in Baltimore — an event that features prominently in the Hollywood movie.
In the movie, there is an implication that most Americans wanted Seabiscuit to win the race, but Schick remembered that he and other experienced horse trainers “all thought that War Admiral would win.”
“I knew Seabiscuit, I rode him and he was a lazy horse. You had to keep after him all the time.”
Schick was as surprised as his fellow trainers when — while sipping a beer at a New York bar — he heard on the radio that Seabiscuit won the race.