Seabiscuit and Pacquiao | Inquirer Sports
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Seabiscuit and Pacquiao

WILLITS, California—One of the greatest athletes who ever lived spent his last days in this patch of paradise on California’s fabled Mendocino coast, about two and a half hours north of San Francisco.

Seabiscuit was not a person. He was a Depression-era racehorse that lifted the hearts of America and recaptured them with the 2003 movie based on Laura Hillenbrand’s best-selling book.

With the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday (Sunday in Manila)—the same day of the mammoth boxing bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao—the legend of Seabiscuit will live again.

It will reverberate around the vast Ridgewood Ranch, so named because it is reachable only through a ridge road from US Highway 101 here.

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It’s where Seabiscuit was put to stud and buried after taking hold of a nation knocked off course and giving it impetus to recover from the Depression.

The ranch comes alive on Derby Day because that’s when preparations start for the annual tours of its Seabiscuit stable and other landmarks.

The tours are scheduled and held by the Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation to support several area charities. They begin in earnest in early June after the Derby, the most exciting two minutes in sports and horse racing’s other Triple Crown races, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, are run.

Among the highlights of the tour are visits to Seabiscuit’s restored red stud barn; his life-sized bronze statue in front of the house built by the thoroughbred’s owner, automobile magnate Charles Howard (played in the movie by Jeff Bridges); and a museum of memorabilia, including news clippings and pictures from the wedding of his jockey Red Pollard (played by Tobey Maguire).

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Seabiscuit (1933-1947) was the greatest racehorse that never ran for the roses at Kentucky’s Churchill Downs. He won the coveted Horse of the Year Award in 1938 after beating War Admiral in their classic match race at Pimlico that year.

By the time he came to Ridgewood Ranch for stud duty in 1940, he was horseracing’s all-time money winner of his day.

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His purses totaled $437,000—about $2.3 million in today’s dollars.

In a way, Seabiscuit and Pacquiao are linked by faith and destiny.

With their lives thrown off-balance by the Great Depression (1929-1933), Americans found a hero in a small bay colt that lost his first 17 races, until he found his stride and became an unlikely racing champion.

Pacquiao is a national icon idolized by millions of Filipinos, a living proof to his downtrodden countrymen that after several stumbles in life, success is possible no matter what station you start from.

Ridgewood Ranch and its diminishing acreage is now owned by the Christ’s Church of the Golden Rule.

Manny and his evangelical ways would be welcomed here to feel the solemnity of the church and enjoy the serenity of the ranch.

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“I wish Mr. Pacquiao Godspeed on Saturday,” said Dana Swearingin, a member of the ranch-based congregation as my wife and I bid farewell to resume our road trip through the Redwoods via Fort Bragg and Mendocino.

TAGS: Boxing, Kentucky Derby, Manny Pacquiao, nfl draft, Pacquiao Last Fight opinion, pacquiao vs mayweather column, Sports

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