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Trainer Threewit remembers Seabiscuit and "Silent Tom"

Part 2

By

Seabiscuit vs. War Admiral

Seabiscuit defeats War Admiral in the 1938 Pimlico Special

Cindy Pierson Dulay
As for how Smith was able to get Seabiscuit to become such a great racehorse, Threewitt stopped short of calling the trainer a miracle worker. "The old man in New York [the legendary 'Sunny Jim' Fitzsimmons] had him but kind of gave up on the horse," Threewitt said. But Threewitt did indicate a certain amount of awe for what Smith accomplished. "I guess there's no such things as miracles in training," he said, "but something got the horse running good. The farther he went, the better he got. When he did get to running, he could beat just about anybody. Of course, we didn't have a lot of good horses out here then. In those days, in New York, they thought we were still fighting the Indians here."

Of the great match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral at Pimlico Race Course, Threewitt believes the wily Smith outsmarted the War Admiral camp and turned what they considered an advantage for them into one for Seabiscuit. "Tom was a bit of a sharpie," Threewitt said, "and when the match race came up, the owner [Samuel Riddle] thought he'd take advantage of a walk-up start because War Admiral was known to be fractious in the gate.

"Well, boy, that was right down Tom Smith's alley. He really loved that. He had his horse so sharp that when they walked up and the starter said go, he was a couple of lengths in front of that other horse right away, and War Admiral never could catch him. That tickled old Tom to death."

As impressive as the match race victory was, Threewitt believes a non-winning effort by Seabiscuit was just as impressive. "I think one of the best races he ever ran was when the 3-year-old Stagehand beat him [by a nose in the 1938 Santa Anita Handicap]. Stage Hand had 100 pounds and he had 130. Seabiscuit ran his insides out that day.

"And another thing that I think was just almost unbelievable was when he was out for so long and then came back and won the Santa Anita Handicap. I think that was quite a feat. I don't know what was wrong with the horse - if you asked Tom, he wouldn't tell you because he didn't think it was anybody's business. Some people said he was bowed, but I don't believe that."

Of the controversy that brewed over whether Kayak II was held back against Seabiscuit in the Big 'Cap, Threewitt said: "I really don't believe that. I didn't believe it at the time and I don't believe it now.

"That horse [Seabiscuit] just turned out to be sort of a freak horse. I guess you might even say he had a freak trainer."

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