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Extended Audio Sample The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation, by Elizabeth Letts Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (2,626 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Elizabeth Letts Narrator: Bronson Pincho Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Snowman doesn't seem like a very good name for a horse, even if that horse is pure white. It especially doesn't seem like a good name for a show jumping horse. Jumpers should have names that make you think of speed and grace, not a crudely shaped lump of frozen water. But then, even if Snowman had been given a different name, he still wouldn't have been anyone's pick to be a show horse.

When Harry de Leyer first saw the horse he would name Snowman, it was on the back of a truck headed for the slaughterhouse. Harry, a Dutchman who was new to America, thought he saw something special in the eyes of the broken down horse, and bought him from the truck driver for eighty dollars. Harry took Snowman home to his Long Island farm, where he set about turning his eighty-dollar rescue horse into The Eighty-Dollar Champion.

One show at a time, Harry and Snowman took over the show jumping world, and as they beat the odds, they stole the heart of a nation. Their story was a story of rising from nothing, of laughing in the face of the odds and the experts, and of triumphing when it was thought they could only fail. Harry and Snowman may be long gone, but their incredibly story guaranteed that their legend would live on forever.

Elizabeth Letts was born in 1961 in Houston, Texas. A competitive horsewoman in her youth. Letts went on to graduate from Yale with a degree in History, and to serve in the Peace Corps in Morocco. She has written four books including the Eighty-Dollar Champion, her first best-seller. The winner of several prestigious literary awards, including the Peace Corps Writers Award and a Junior Library Guild selection, Letts currently resides in Baltimore, Maryland, with her husband and four children.

November 1958, New York. Into the rarefied atmosphere of wealth and tradition at the National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden 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.
Reminiscent of the inspiring, against-the-odds success story that made Seabiscuit a bestseller, The Eighty-Dollar Champion tells of 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’ 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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Quotes & Awards

  • “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, New York Times bestselling 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, New York Times bestselling author

  • “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, New York Times bestselling author

  • “The perfect book at the perfect time, Snowman will lift you up and over.”

    Rita Mae Brown, New York Times bestselling author

  • “A feel-good story that is begging to be a movie.”

    USA Today

  • “A fun and wonderfully detailed story about a most remarkable bond between a man and his horse. You will fall in love with the eighty-dollar champion.”

    W. Bruce Cameron, New York Times bestselling author

  • “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

  • “Letts raises expectations in her newest book by claiming national inspiration in the subtitle. Snowman was a plow horse bought off the slaughter truck for $80 by Danish immigrant Harry de Leyer…Letts is a solid prose stylist; her vivid descriptions of staid Long Island with its ‘gentle meadows ringed by dogwood trees’ provide virtual tours, but it is de Leyer’s realization of the American dream that is the real story.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Bronson Pinchot uses his smooth baritone to capture the heart and soul of this Cinderella story. His interpretation of de Leyer’s Dutch accent secures Harry’s matter-of-fact character. Pinchot balances his delivery as Snowman goes from roughed-up plow horse to ‘representing the little guy’ when he becomes the underdog champion at the National Horse Show in 1958.”


  • “Letts’ tale, set mostly in the ’50s, is written in evocative, skilled prose that rings true to the tenor of postwar America, when new social structures were evolving as America was shifting from an agrarian, small-town society to one more mechanized and suburban. This backdrop of social evolution would play an important role in Snowman and Harry’s story…Letts deftly calibrates the emotion and suspense that are an indelible part of this tale, which, at its end, may bring a tear or two.”


  • “This book is sure to appeal to fans of Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit and William Nack’s Big Red of Meadow Stable, about Secretariat, but should exert appeal beyond that of its equine theme…A fascinating, extremely well-told story.”


  • “An experienced equestrienne, Letts perfectly understands the high-society horse world, the politics and the intricacies of the high-jump competitions and the challenges facing a low-budget arriviste. At its core, though, this is the story of de Leyer and Snowman, about the elusive qualities that make a champion jumper and the special gifts required to read a horse’s signals. Readers skittish around sentiment may balk, but Letts’ gentle touch proves entirely suitable to this genuinely sweet tale. A heartwarming story begging for the Disney treatment.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book as uplifting, emotional and inspirational as The Eighty Dollar Champion…What sets this book apart is its ability to capture the magic bond between a very special horse and his wise and capable rider. Neither had a pedigree. They didn’t need it. They had something much more important—they had hearts with wings.”

    Sulfur Springs News-Telegraph

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • Selected for the September 2011 Indie Next List

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Terri | 2/20/2014

    " A very well written biography about a horse and its rider that beat impossible odds. I will admit the ending made me cry. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Lynne | 2/17/2014

    " Very compelling read about one of the most interesting and successful open jumpers of all time. Letts provides a sense of being right in the story. The included photos also add plenty of visuals to the vivid descriptions. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Carrol | 2/9/2014

    " I'm a sucker for a good horse story -- especially when it's true. Starts out with the horse on the way to the glue factory. Ends with him winning the national horse show open jumping championship in New York. Hurrah for Snowball. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Janice Fagan | 2/7/2014

    " I loved this story. It might be too much horse history and horse show background for someone not interested in horses- but I am interested in horses and I wanted to keep on and on reading. I was sorry to hear how some things turned out- but the main story is so interesting! "

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