Gone Too Soon: Remembering ‘Seabiscuit’ Star Popcorn Deelites and His Battle with Colic Complications

Popcorn Deelites: From Journeyman to Hollywood Star

Popcorn Deelites may not have been a racing superstar, with only 11 victories in 58 races and modest career earnings of $56,880. But his true claim to fame came as one of the Thoroughbreds cast to portray the legendary Seabiscuit in the 2003 Oscar-winning film. Sadly, at the age of 24, Popcorn Deelites passed away due to complications from colic while residing at Old Friends, a Kentucky Thoroughbred retirement farm.

A Beloved Hollywood Icon

Popcorn Deelites, affectionately known as “Pop,” captivated the hearts of fans not only for his Hollywood history but also for his warm personality and friendly demeanor. Michael Blowen, the founder and president of Old Friends, expressed the deep affection people had for Popcorn Deelites, stating, “Fans adored him and he adored the fans.” His presence will undoubtedly be sorely missed on the farm, especially by his dear paddock mate, Special Ring.

A Career on the Track

Foaled in 1998, Popcorn Deelites had his fair share of challenges on the racetrack. It took him eight attempts to break his maiden, finally achieving victory in an April 2001 maiden claimer at Oaklawn Park. Despite his perseverance, Popcorn Deelites never competed in any stakes races throughout his career. His highest Equibase Speed Figure, a 91, came from a Turf Paradise allowance win in April 2004.

Unfortunately, Popcorn Deelites found himself in the minor leagues of racing, as evidenced by his limited talent, as shown by racing at a single-A-level track like Turf Paradise. Nonetheless, his star quality transcended the racetrack and landed him a remarkable opportunity in the world of cinema.

A Resemblance Fit for the Silver Screen

Popcorn Deelites possessed an uncanny resemblance to the iconic Seabiscuit, which led to his casting in the film adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s best-selling book. His role in the movie included numerous scenes, most notably the climactic moment when Seabiscuit triumphs over Triple Crown winner War Admiral in the historic 1938 match race.

Praise from a Hall of Famer

Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who portrayed jockey George “The Iceman” Woolf in the film, had nothing but admiration for his equine co-star. Stevens recalled Popcorn Deelites as a horse who never missed his mark, describing him as kind, fast, and an indispensable presence in the major scenes. Stevens further shared his personal connection, mentioning that Popcorn Deelites resided in the paddock adjacent to Silver Charm, another beloved racehorse he rode to victory in the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Silver Charm, who retired to Old Friends in 2014 after a successful stud career, earned over $7 million in winnings and secured 11 stakes victories out of his 24 career starts. In terms of racing success, Silver Charm stood as the opposite of Popcorn Deelites. However, when it came to acting success, both horses made their mark.


Popcorn Deelites may not have achieved great triumphs on the racetrack, but he left an indelible impression on the hearts of racing enthusiasts and moviegoers alike as Seabiscuit’s equine counterpart. His presence in the film immortalized his name and allowed his warm and friendly nature to shine through. As fans bid farewell to this Hollywood star, his legacy will endure, reminding us that even the most unassuming horses can capture our hearts and leave a lasting impact.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. How did Popcorn Deelites get his role in the Seabiscuit movie?

Popcorn Deelites was chosen for his striking resemblance to Seabiscuit and his ability to perform well in the crucial scenes required for the film.

2. What are some other famous racehorses who have appeared in movies?

In addition to Popcorn Deelites, other famous racehorses who have graced the silver screen include Secretariat, Phar Lap, and Ruffian.

3. How long did Popcorn Deelites live at Old Friends retirement farm?

Popcorn Deelites resided at Old Friends alongside his sire, Afternoon Deelites, since 2005, until his unfortunate passing due to complications from colic.

4. Will there be any tributes or memorials held in honor of Popcorn Deelites?

Old Friends may hold tributes or memorials to honor Popcorn Deelites, allowing fans to pay their respects and celebrate his contributions to racing and film.

5. Are there any plans to continue using retired racehorses in movies?

Using retired racehorses in movies provides a unique opportunity for these equine athletes to showcase their talents in a different way. It is possible that future films may continue to feature retired racehorses, drawing attention to their incredible versatility and charm.

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Doug I. Jones

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