Colic claims life of Seabiscuit’s movie double

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Popcorn Deelites and Special Ring enjoy a run in their field.
Popcorn Deelites, left, and his paddock mate Special Ring enjoy a run in their field. © Old Friends

Popcorn Deelites, one of the horses who portrayed 1930’s racing hero Seabiscuit in the 2003 film, has died at the age of 24 of complications related to colic.

He was retired to the Old Friends thoroughbred retirement home in Georgetown, Kentucky, in 2005, joining his sire, Afternoon Deelites, who was raced by composer Burt Bacharach. Afternoon Deelites is still resident at the farm.

Michael Blowen, founder and President of the non-profit organization, announced the passing of Popcorn Deelites on January 20.

Known as “Pops” at Old Friends, the gelding was a low-level claimer whose career took a turn when he was cast as one of the eight horses to play the great Seabiscuit in the Oscar-nominated film starring Tobey Maguire and Jeff Bridges.

A blood-bay with dark points, just like the Depression-era hero himself, Popcorn accumulated 11 wins from 58 starts over his six-year career and earned nearly $60,000.

In the film, Popcorn is shown breaking from the gate, as that turned out to be his on-screen specialty. His moment of greatest fame came in the scene where, as Seabiscuit, he wins the match race against War Admiral.

Blowen said that Popcorn Deelite’s Hollywood history made him an enormous fan favorite. “But what really won people over was his warm personality and friendly demeanor. Fans adored him and he adored the fans. He will be sorely missed here on the farm,” Blowen said, “but I’m sure that his old pal and paddock mate, Special Ring, will miss him the most.”

Popcorn Deelites was retired to Old Friends in 2005.
Popcorn Deelites was retired to Old Friends in 2005. © Old Friends/Flashpoint

Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who portrayed legendary rider George Woolf in Seabiscuit, remembers his co-star fondly.

“Popcorn Deelites was a star in Seabiscuit,” said Stevens, who is now a racing analyst for Fox Sports. “He was my go-to guy in all the big scenes. He not only won real races multiple times, but he won the famous match race playing Seabiscuit.

“He was kind, fast, and a great friend that lived out his life at Old Friends in the paddock next to my other buddy, Silver Charm,” Stevens added, referring to the horse he piloted to win the 1997 Kentucky Derby, who is also an Old Friends retiree.

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