The Eighty-dollar Champion

The Eighty-dollar Champion : Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation

4.18 (10,072 ratings by Goodreads)
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November 1958: the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Into the rarefied atmosphere of wealth and tradition comes the most unlikely of horses--a drab white former plow horse named Snowman--and his rider, Harry de Leyer. They were the longest of all longshots--and their win was the stuff of legend.
Harry de Leyer first saw the horse he would name Snowman on a bleak winter afternoon between the slats of a rickety truck bound for the slaughterhouse. He recognized the spark in the eye of the beaten-up horse and bought him for eighty dollars. On Harry's modest farm on Long Island, the horse thrived. But the recent Dutch immigrant and his growing family needed money, and Harry was always on the lookout for the perfect thoroughbred to train for the show-jumping circuit--so he reluctantly sold Snowman to a farm a few miles down the road.
But Snowman had other ideas about what Harry needed. When he turned up back at Harry's barn, dragging an old tire and a broken fence board, Harry knew that he had misjudged the horse. And so he set about teaching this shaggy, easygoing horse how to fly. One show at a time, against extraordinary odds and some of the most expensive thoroughbreds alive, the pair climbed to the very top of the sport of show jumping.
Here is the dramatic and inspiring rise to stardom of an unlikely duo, based on the insight and recollections of "the Flying Dutchman" himself. Their story captured the heart of Cold War-era America--a story of unstoppable hope, inconceivable dreams, and the chance to have it all. Elizabeth Letts's message is simple: Never give up, even when the obstacles seem sky-high. There is something extraordinary in all of us.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 329 pages
  • 162.56 x 236.22 x 27.94mm | 680.39g
  • Random House Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0345521080
  • 9780345521088
  • 309,066

Review quote

Advance praise for "The Eighty-Dollar Champion"
"This is a wonderful book--joyous, heartfelt, and an eloquent reminder that hope can be found in the unlikeliest of places. Most of all, it's a moving testament to the incredible things that can grow from the bond between animals and humans. If you love a great animal tale, you'll love this book!"--Gwen Cooper, author of "Homer's Odyssey"
"The moving story of an indomitable immigrant farmer, his equally spirited horse, and their against-the-odds journey all the way to the winner's circle, "The Eighty-Dollar Champion" fascinates from the first page to the last. Elizabeth Letts has uncovered a forgotten slice of American history and brought it to magical life."--Karen Abbott, author of "American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee"
"There is something magical about stories in which humans and animals team up to combine their courage, intelligence, determination, physical prowess, and instincts to scale the heights, touch our hearts deeply, and inspire us in the most profound ways. Those are the best stories there are, I think, and "The Eighty-Dollar Champion" joins their ranks. There is a lot of wonderful emotion in this book, and it left me awestruck once more at the wondrous things animals and people can do when they join together to make some great and beautiful noise in the world."--Jon Katz, author of"Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm"
"A real live fairy tale about an unlikely rider and an even unlikelier horse who soared over obstacles to capture the hearts of a nation. An eloquent story about near misses and impossible odds and what can happen with a little luck and a lot of determination. I fell in love with Snowman and Harry, and so will you."--Susan Richards, author of"Chosen by a Horse"
"The perfect book at the perfect time. Snowman will lift you up and over."--Rita Mae Brown, author of the "Sister" Jane Foxhunting Mysteries series
"A fun an
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About Elizabeth Letts

Elizabeth Letts is the award-winning author of two novels, Quality of Care and Family Planning, and one children’s book, The Butter Man. Quality of Care was a Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, and Books-A-Million Book Club selection. An equestrian from childhood, Letts represented California as a junior equestrian, and was runner-up in the California Horse and Rider of the Year competition. She currently lives with her husband and four children in Baltimore, Maryland.
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Rating details

10,072 ratings
4.18 out of 5 stars
5 46% (4,600)
4 33% (3,286)
3 17% (1,703)
2 4% (367)
1 1% (116)

Our customer reviews

The description provides a great synopsis, so I will simply state some of my feelings while reading this title. Through this highly descriptive narrative, which includes photographs, the reader is brought directly into the world of the privileged class of 1950's America through the eyes of Harry De Leyer ("The Flying Dutchman"), a Dutch immigrant, and his shaggy, loveable horse Snowman, saved from the slaughterhouse by a wonderful trick of fate that brought him to Harry's door. There were definitely some emotional moments, with both happy and sad tears. I am one who often likes my non-fiction to read like fiction, and this book is a happy medium. You will cheer Harry and Snowman on, and you will love Harry's perseverance and insistence on his own and Snowman's worth in a world where few of the working class find entry. My own mother rode dressage in her younger days, and this title brought to mind all of the trophies and ribbons I remember seeing before they were lost in a house fire. Even if you know nothing about horses and riding, you will find yourself drawn in by this story, almost leaning forward with Harry as he and Snowman make jumps that other horses find impossible. A wonderful story of persevering against the odds, The Eighty Dollar Champion is definitely a must-read for lovers of true and triumphant stories. QUOTES (from an ARC; may be different in final copy): Sometimes a man can forget the most important less of all: big dreams are often best accomplished when you do what you can with the material you have at hand. This eighty-dollar gelding, this lesson horse, this shaggy-coated, friendly, children-loving animal, had hidden his gifts under the plainest, most humble exterior. And Harry, keeping his eye on every hot-blooded renegade thoroughbred that came into the barn, shining like a copper penny, was guilty of not recognizing when the key to his aspirations, a natural born jumper, had landed right in front of him. Delivered right to his doorstep in a beat-up old cattle truck one cold February night. Dropped off like a newborn in a picnic basket abandoned on a church's front step. Handed to him for only eighty dollars and a moment's worth of compassion. Snowman represented every little guy: everyone not sitting in a VIP seat, every worker at the armory that night - pushing a wheelbarrow or a broom - and everybody who was not born into the kind of privilege that surrounded the ring and competed that night. Tonight, Harry was not representing any one particular nation - he was representing the little guy. He was riding for anyone who had ever been kicked around or neglected or underestimated. Anyone who had ever been shoved to the margins, given up on, or rendered invisible. The special bond between Harry and Snowman was the bond of survivors: a horse so beat up that nobody thought his life was worth saving, and a man who, his life destroyed by war, had had to start fresh in a country where he did not speak the language and had no capital except that of his own two hands, his love for his family, and his personal dignity. BOOK RATING: 4 out of 5 starsshow more
by Julie Smith
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