In 1938, Seabiscuit and War Admiral battled in the 'Race of the Century' at Pimlico

It was billed as The Race of the Century: a showdown between Seabiscuit and War Admiral, two stellar horses who’d captivated America during the hard times of the day. And Pimlico Race Course was where they’d square off in a match race that lived up to its hype.

On Nov. 1, 1938, a crisp, sunny Thursday afternoon, more than 40,000 people squeezed into Old Hilltop to watch The Biscuit, as he was called, a blue-collar bay who’d come up through the ranks, battle War Admiral, a Triple Crown winner and the blue-blood son of the great Man o’ War. That morning, The Sun ran photos of the two horses’ heads side by side, as if glaring at each other, like two prizefighters before a title bout.

They didn’t disappoint. Seabiscuit shot from the gate, grabbed the rail and opened a two-length lead before War Admiral pulled even in the backstretch.

“For almost half a mile they ran as one horse, painted against the green, red and orange foliage of a Maryland countryside,” sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote.

Then, in the stretch, Seabiscuit thundered ahead, winning the 1 3/16-mile race by four lengths, and in record time. Frenzied fans poured onto the track and tore yellow mums from the floral wreath placed on The Biscuit’s broad back — keepsakes of a historic run.

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

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