While LOTR was a great movie, or series of movies, it totally eclipsed some other fine ones this past film year. Among them was Seabiscuit. I just watched it and it was worthy of its Best Picture nomination. I hadn’t heard anything about it over here, maybe because of the subject matter – a true story about a great American race horse in the 1930s. Some of our best actors were in this one: Chris Cooper, Tobey Maguire, and Jeff Bridges, but it was all about the story. An old fashioned story about underdogs and never giving up and friendship and much more. The racing scenes were beautiful and the drama built up well in every race, particularly the match race against War Admiral.
I followed Horse Racing fairly closely as a young boy and teenager and this movie reminds me of one of the most tragic sports moments ever. In the mid 1970s, just a couple years after the great Secretariat’s Triple Crown win, I was a huge fan of a fabulous filly named Ruffian. Like Seabiscuit, she was an underdog but for different reasons. She had great size for a filly, but she was, after all, still a filly. Could she compete with the boys? She was incredible, winning every race she was in. But, there was still debate about whether she could beat the greatest colt around. In 1975, that colt was named Foolish Pleasure. So, they set up a match race at Belmont Park in New York. In front of over 30,000 and a national TV audience, Ruffian was leading at the clubhouse turn when something terrible happened. She pulled up and you could see that her leg had shattered and was dangling by the skin. She still was trying to run on it. I remember I had tears in my eyes. I knew she would never see a pasture again, much less a race track. But the Vets tried their best. She would be put down the next day after hours in the operating room and further damage to her leg after thrashing wildly upon waking from the anesthesia. It still saddens me to read about it today and the movie impacted me that much more because I thought of that beautiful filly in 1975.