The Great Seabiscuit and his Alberta Jockey
Cardston native George Woolf rode Seabiscuit to victory in the famous match race against Triple Crown winner "War Admiral", in 1938. Now a life-size bronze of Woolf atop the famous horse is on display at the Remington Carriage Museum, a special donation to the Province of Alberta from Cardston area ranchers Jack and Ida Lowe.
Born in Cardston on May 31, 1910, Woolf was considered to be the best jockey in America and eventually came to be regarded by some as the best jockey who ever lived. On November 1, 1938, when Woolf and Seabiscuit defeated the heavily favored Triple Crown champion War Admiral, ridden by Charley Kurtsinger, Seabiscuit and Woolf pulled away from War Admiral down the homestretch. Woolf called to Kurtsinger, “So long, Charley!”
Historical Time Period
George Woolf was born in Cardston in 1910.
The beautiful bronze now has a permanent home outside the Remington Carriage Museum in Cardston.
Not everyone believed it would be the “Match of the Century.” Though Albertan George Woolf was one of the leading jockeys on the American horse racing scene in 1938, War Admiral was the prohibitive favourite. War Admiral’s jockey, Charley Kurtsinger, openly derided Seabiscuit’s chances: “I don’t care if Woolf elects to try and make a race of it. The Admiral will beat him in any part of it.”
But Woolf and Seabiscuit’s trainer Tom Smith had other ideas. Literally under the cover of darkness, Woolf and Smith trained Seabiscuit to respond to the starting bell with a burst of speed.
Seabiscuit’s other principal jockey was also an Albertan. Red Pollard, from Edmonton (played by Tobey Maguire in the 2003 film Seabiscuit), was sidelined with injuries received in a riding accident. From his hospital bed, Pollard advised Woolf to take the lead but to allow War Admiral to catch up before the homestretch and look Seabiscuit in the eye. The result, he predicted, would be explosive.
On race day Seabiscuit bolted to an early lead around the first turn, but War Admiral steadily closed the gap down the backstretch. The horses kept pace like a team in harness until they rounded the homestretch turn, where Woolf held Seabiscuit back just enough to allow War Admiral to indeed look him in the eye. As predicted, Seabiscuit surged ahead, prompting Woolf to look over his right shoulder at Kurtsinger and shout, “So long, Charley!”
War Admiral ran his best time ever at the distance, but lost to Seabiscuit’s track-record time by four full lengths. That evening, Seabiscuit was named 1938’s American Horse of the Year. As a jockey, George Woolf had the highest winning percentage in American racing history. He was considered by many to be the best jockey who ever lived. He died suddenly at age 35 in 1946.
Remington Carriage Museum Operated by Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, the Remington Carriage Museum houses the largest on-display collection of horse-drawn vehicles in North America. Based on the private collection of Cardston native Don Remington, the museum’s 240-plus vehicles allow visitors to experience the lifestyle of Alberta before the reign of the automobile. The museum features a fire hall, carriage factory, restoration shop, working stable, restaurant and gift shop. Carriage rides and rentals are available.
The Remington Carriage Museum is located in Cardston and is open year round. Summer hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week through to September 14. For more information visit www.remingtoncarriagemuseum.com or call 403-653-5139 (dial 310-0000 for toll-free access in Alberta).