Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges) is a man who believes in second chances. Lucky for him, because life deals this smooth-tongued entrepreneur one bad hand after another. Despite his consummate skills as a salesman, he can't talk his way out of the devastating results of a serious car accident, a strained marriage or the financial woes of the Depression. It is solely his faith in the future that keeps him going.
After the business market stalls, Charles, a car lot owner, and his wife, Marcela (Elizabeth Banks), decide to invest in racehorses. But putting together a stable of good racing stock, first-rate trainers and capable jockeys on the California coastline proves to be a challenge even for the optimist.
Scouring the options for a trainer, he finds Tom Smith (Chris Cooper), a weathered mustang breaker with loads of horse sense literally camped out in the bush behind the barns. Later Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire), a feisty former boxer with emotional scars and a blind spot, joins them as a jockey. But Charles takes on his biggest reclamation project when he lets Tom talk him into buying an ugly, abused colt whose awkward gait and nasty disposition make his present owner eager to be rid of him.
Tempered by Tom's gentle hands and unusual schooling methods, Seabiscuit soon embarks on a racing career. Entering one event after another, the undersized horse with the oversized rider begins to make track history that amazes even jaded journalists and a world-weary radio announcer (William H. Macy) who has to eat crow when the long shot wins his first race. But beating the ponies in the West is only a warm up to facing the blue-blooded Thoroughbreds of the East Cost racing establishment and their top-rated runner, War Admiral.
Based on the true-life events of the 1938 Horse of the Year, the film initially jumps from one storyline to another in an attempt to introduce all the characters. Once it settles down, the script contains scenes of cigarette and alcohol use by numerous characters including a soused jockey. Verbal outbursts between owners and stable hands frequently include profanities and athletes are subjected to racing related injuries and beatings. One scene reveals prostitutes in lacy underwear and brief back nudity along with some bawdy behavior when the riders visit a brothel in a Mexican border town.
However, aside from these moments of content concern that blight the film, Seabiscuit is a beautifully shot feel-good story of redemption that will engage most horse loving teens and their parents. During an era when the whole country longed for a return to better days, this unremarkable horse's astonishing rise to fame lent hope to the downtrodden and discouraged. It gave the country something to cheer about in a time when almost everyone could use a second chance.