More than 60 years after he captured America's imagination, the charismatic thoroughbred Seabiscuit is again making a late charge. His improbable resurgence began two months ago with the publication of Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit: An American Legend, chronicling the tale of the rags-to-riches horse who beat Triple Crown winner War Admiral in a famous 1938 match race. The critically acclaimed book has been a surprise success, topping The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list for seven weeks. In Hollywood a bidding war erupted for the movie rights; Universal won out by committing more than $1 million. PBS's American Experience has begun work on a documentary about the horse, and a toy company, Beyer, is even considering producing a plastic Seabiscuit figure. Meanwhile, Seabiscuit items on eBay have become hotter than Churchill Downs in August. A recording of the calls of two of the horse's races, previously valued at $15 to $20, recently sold for $270.
Hillenbrand, who may write a children's book about the horse, has been asked to participate in three documentaries and a Seabiscuit play. "Seabiscuit was enormous then, and he's enormous now for the same reason: He's the ultimate underdog," says Hillenbrand. "The owner, trainer and jockey are also great underdog stories. Those are universally appealing no matter when you tell them."