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Life After Seabiscuit

Charles Howard, George Woolf, Tom Smith, and Seabiscuit after the Pimlico Special. 11.1.38. Keeneland Library - Cook Collection. This image is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced in print or electronically without written permission of the Keeneland Library.

Most people know what became of Seabiscuit after his racing career ended: he lived another seven years in retirement on Charles Howard’s ranch before passing away of a heart attack at age fourteen. But, what happened to the rest of his connections once the little horse retired?

Red Pollard was thirty-one when Seabiscuit retired. He had become to help ease the pain of his multiple injuries multiple times and the stress of staying at jockey’s weight despite being 5’7. Red Pollard announced his retirement soon after his famed mount Seabiscuit retired. He bought a house in Rhode Island with his wife Agnes Conlon, whom had been his nurse during his stay in the hospital in 1938. Life seemed like it would improve for Pollard, but he was not able to keep himself away from his true love: horse racing.

He continued to ride, though rarely at the prestigious level he was riding Seabiscuit in. Pollard continued to suffer injuries that had plagued his entire career, including a broken hip in one fall and a broken back in another. In 1955, he finally retired as a jockey and began sorting mail at the track post office. Later he became a jockey valet.

In 1981, Agnes was hospitalized with cancer and Pollard was sent to a nursing home. He died on March 7th, 1981 at seventy-one years old. Agnes died just two weeks later. The two left behind two children, Norah and John.

George Woolf, who rode Seabiscuit while Red Pollard was recovering from some injuries, struggled with Type 1 Diabetes and therefore had to regulate his weight to prevent himself from having to go on extreme diets. Because of this, he could only ride in about 150-200 races per year on horses who were assigned to carry more weight. This was a very low number of races compared to most other jockeys. He self-administered shots of insulin and, as a side effect, often fell asleep very suddenly.

Woolf rode successfully for six years after the retirement of Seabiscuit until January 3rd, 1946. Woolf was feeling ill on that day but still decided to ride for a friend who needed a jockey for a horse named Please Me. Around the first turn at Santa Anita Park, Woolf slipped from his saddle, likely due to going unconscious from his diabetes. He suffered a concussion and was rushed to the hospital where he died the following day. He was only thirty-five.

Over 1,500 attended his funeral to comfort his thirty-two year old widow, Genevieve. Over his career, Woolf had won seven hundred and twenty-one races, ninety-seven of those being major stakes races.

Trainer Tom Smith continued to work for Seabiscuit’s owner, Charles Howard, until the Spring of 1943. The two parted ways on good terms when Smith had to have back surgery that took him away from training horses for an extended period of time. Once he recovered, Smith was hired by Elizabeth Arden to train for Maine Chance Farm. Smith had quite a bit of success, until he was suspended from racing for a year when some of his employees were caught administering a nasal spray to one of the stable’s horses. Testing ensued and nothing came back until they were caught again and the liquid being administered came back as being the stimulant ephedrine. Although it is not clear if Smith authorized this act, as the stable’s trainer he was held responsible. When he returned, Smith got a Kentucky Derby win for the stable with Jet Pilot in 1947. Over his career, Smith trained thirty-six graded stakes winners and was named U.S. Champion Trainer by earnings twice. Like Pollard, he retired in 1955 after suffering a debilitating stroke and was sent to live in a sanatorium. He died on January 23rd, 1957. Few people attended his funeral.

After Seabiscuit, Charles Howard continued to own a stable of racehorses including Kayak II and Noor. However, he failed to find a horse he adored as much as he did Seabiscuit. Back home at Ridgewood Ranch, Howard would often take his beloved horse out on trail rides. When Howard’s wife Marcella called and told him that Seabiscuit had passed away in 1947, Howard buried his horse in a private spot on the farm that was marked only by an oak tree. He died just three years later on June 6th,1950 of t a heart attack. He was seventy-three years old. Ridgewood Ranch was sold by his heirs and some of his horses were sent to his son Lindsay Howard’s farm.

Seabiscuit undoubtedly touched the lives of all three of these men. Although life may not have started or ended beautifully for all of these men and even though they all three took separate paths as the years passed, Seabiscuit provided them all with a shared sense of hope, love, and success in the world of horse racing.

Sources: PBS PBS 2 PBS 3

Sources from Wikipedia on Red Pollard, Tom Smith, and Charles Howard


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