Information about the LeVota family

Born as the foal named "Artless Encore" on the official Jockey Club Thoroughbred Horse Registry, but better known to the LeVota family by his nickname,
"Big Red"

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Local Hopes Ride on
Seabiscuit Descendant

For many moviegoers, the opening of "Seabiscuit" at the local cineplex offers pure entertainment. For Sam LeVota, the film may also strike a personal chord. The Independence real estate appraiser owns a horse with blood ties to Seabiscuit, the Depression-era racehorse that is earning renewed fame.

Artless Encore, nicknamed "Big Red," is the great-great-grandson of the famous horse. The horse's lineage has been verified by Jockey Club Information Systems, a nationally known horse information service.

"He's such a part of the family. ... My grandchildren love him," LeVota said. The horse was a gift from a friend who could not continue caring for the animal.


Born in 1999, Artless Encore has never raced, though the family would like to race him some day, said Phil LeVota, Sam's son. The horse suffered an injury to a front shoulder several months ago, and the LeVotas were worried that Artless Encore would be unable to race. A veterinarian, though, said the horse looks sound now and should be able to start training again soon.


"The trainers who had him before said he's got the most heart they've ever seen in a horse," Phil LeVota said.


Does Artless Encore look much like his famous forebear? No, Sam LeVota said, the younger horse is larger and better-looking. "He's a little bit bigger than other horses."  The LeVotas have no previous experience with horse racing. But they hope that Artless Encore might have not just Seabiscuit's blood, but his spirit, too.  "We're going to see what we can do with him," Phil LeVota said.




The Thoroughbred Horse:

The Thoroughbred is a horse breed best known for its use in horse racing. Although the word "thoroughbred" is sometimes used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, it technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed. Thoroughbreds are considered a "hot-blooded" horse, known for their agility, speed and spirit.

The Thoroughbred as it is known today was first developed in 17th and 18th century England, when native mares were crossbred with imported Arabian stallions. All modern Thoroughbreds can trace their pedigrees to three stallions originally imported into England in the 1600s and 1700s. During the 1700s and 1800s, the Thoroughbred breed spread throughout the world; they were imported into North America starting in 1730. Millions of Thoroughbreds exist worldwide today, with over 118,000 foals registered each year worldwide.

Thoroughbreds are used mainly for racing, but are also bred for other riding disciplines, such as show jumping, combined training, dressage, polo, and fox hunting. They are also commonly cross-bred with other breeds to create new breeds or to improve existing ones, and have been influential in the creat
ion of many important breeds, such as the Quarter Horse, the Standardbred and the Anglo-Arabian, and various other breeds.

Big Red's Grandpa:  The Great "Seabiscuit"

Seabiscuit (May 23, 1933-May 17-1957)  was a champion thoroughbred racehorse in the United States.  From an inauspicious start, Seabiscuit became an unlikely champion and a symbol of hope to many US citizens during the Great Depression. Seabiscuit became the subject of a 1949 film, The Story of Seabiscuit, a 2001 book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend, and a 2003 film, Seabiscuit, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Seabiscuit and the "Match of the Century"

On November 1, 1938, Seabiscuit met War Admiral in what was dubbed the "Match of the Century". The event itself, run over 1 and 3/16 miles, was one of the most anticipated sporting events in U.S. history. The Pimlico Race Course, in Baltimore, Maryland,  was jammed solid with fans. Trains were run from all over the country to bring fans to the race, and the estimated 40,000 at the track were joined by some 40 million listening on the radio.  President Franklin Roosevelt even took time away from presidential duties to listen to the race.

War Admiral was the favorite (1-4 with most bookmakers) and a near unanimous selection of the writers and tipsters, excluding the California faithful.  Head-to-head races favor fast starters, and War Admiral's speed from the gate was the stuff of legend.

Seabiscuit, on the other hand, was a pace stalker, skilled at holding with the pack before destroying the field with late acceleration. From the scheduled walk up start, few gave him a chance to head War Admiral into the first turn. Smith knew these things, and had been secretly training the Biscuit to run against type, using a starting bell and a whip to give the horse a sound cue to get that burst of speed from the start.

When the bell rang, Seabiscuit ran away from the Triple Crown champion. Despite being drawn on outside, Seabiscuit led by over a length after just 20 seconds. Halfway down the backstretch, War Admiral started to cut into the lead, gradually pulling level with Seabiscuit, and then slightly ahead.  Seabiscuit's jockey then actually eased up on Seabiscuit, allowing his horse to see his rival, and then asked for more effort. Two hundred yards from the wire, Seabiscuit pulled away again and continued to extend his lead over the closing stretch, finally winning by four clear lengths.

As a result of his races that year and the victory over War Admiral, Seabiscuit was named "Horse of the Year" for 1938.  The only prize that eluded him was the Hundred Grander.

Seabiscuit's Injury and Return

While being ridden in a race, Seabiscuit faltered. The jockey, said that he thought the horse only stumbled and continued the race.  The injury was not life threatening, although many predicted he would never race again. The diagnosis was a ruptured suspensory ligament in the front left leg.  Slowly, Seabicuit learned to walk again.

Over the fall and winter of 1939–40, Seabiscuit's fitness seemed to improve by the day. By the end of 1939, Seabiscuit was ready to confound veterinary opinion by returning to race training.

There was only one race left and Seabiscuit was back.  78,000 paying spectators crammed the racetrack, most backing the people's champion to complete his amazing return to racing. The start was inauspicious as Seabiscuit was blocked almost from start. Picking his way through the field, Seabiscuit briefly led. As they thundered down the back straight, Seabiscuit became trapped in third place.  Trusting in his horse's acceleration, the jockey steered a dangerous line between the leaders and burst into the lead, taking the firm ground just off the rail. As Seabiscuit showed his old surge, other horses faltered, and Seabiscuit drove on, taking the Hundred Grander by a length and a half from the closest horse.

Pandemonium engulfed the course. Neither horse nor rider, nor trainer nor owner could get through the sea of well-wishers to the winner's enclosure for some time.

On April 10, 1940, Seabiscuit's retirement from racing was officially announced.  Seabiscuit, the horse nobody wanted, was horse racing's all-time leading money winner. Put out to stud, Seabiscuit sired 108 foals, including two moderately successful racehorses, Sea Swallow and Sea Sovereign and his greatest sire Artless Encore (Big Red) of Missouri. Over 50,000 visitors made the trek to Ridgewood Ranch to see Seabiscuit in the seven years he spent there before his death. His burial site is to this day a secret, known only to the immediate Howard family.

On June 23rd 2007, a statue of Seabiscuit was unveiled at Seabiscuit's home and final resting place, Ridgewood Ranch.

At Santa Anita Park, a life-sized bronze statue of "the Biscuit" is on display.  In 1958, he was voted into the National Museum of Raing and Hall of Fame.  IN the "Blood-Horse"  magazine's ranking of the top 100 thoroughbred chamipons of the 20th century, Seabiscuit is ranked twenty-fifth.


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