• The Eighty-Dollar Champion

  • Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation
  • By: Elizabeth Letts
  • Narrated by: Arthur Morey
  • Length: 11 hrs and 22 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (213 ratings)

1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $31.50

Buy for $31.50

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

Number one New York Times best seller

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 80 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.

©2011 Elizabeth Letts (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“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

What listeners say about The Eighty-Dollar Champion

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    181
  • 4 Stars
    23
  • 3 Stars
    9
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Performance
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    156
  • 4 Stars
    24
  • 3 Stars
    4
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    0
Story
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    163
  • 4 Stars
    14
  • 3 Stars
    2
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    0

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Heartwarming and historical

I watched the movie HARRY AND SNOWMAN first, which led me to seek out this audiobook, and to seek the library for the digital book, to see the photos. Excellent narration! I enjoyed this heartwarming "true" story even thought it’s told in a somewhat rambling fashion, intermixed with various info-dumps that detract from the personal tone of the book.

In 1956 Dutch immigrant Harry DeLeyer purchased / rescued a young Amish plow horse doomed for the slaughterhouse. Through photos and narrative, including information gleaned from personal interviews and newspaper clippings, the author recounts how the placid, loyal gray gelding, dubbed Snowman, became a family pet, a celebrity, and a national jump champion, outperforming the snooty nobs at Madison Square Gardens (two years in a row).

Personally, I wanted more elaboration on Snowman as a family pet and less about each competition. I also wanted more about Snowman’s retirement at the family farm, Hollandia. I felt he certainly earned a long rest after jumping so high so many times. It cannot be good for a horse, and I didn’t care for it at all when he jumped over another horse. That’s so wrong. To her credit, the author provided glimpses, anecdotes, and photos of Snowman’s life on the farm, so patient with the children, swimming in the adjacent ocean off Long Island — but I wanted more. That’s just me.

And to be contrary, I also wanted to know how much Snowman earned in purse / prize money, especially for the National Show at Madison Square Gardens. Given the repeated commentary describing how poor these Dutch immigrants were at first, and how Snowman cost $80, this seemed like a reasonable inquiry. I could find it nowhere in the text. Perhaps I overlooked it?

I appreciated the glimpses into Harry’s boyhood in Holland, with anecdotes describing how his family did their part to help others escape from the Nazis, and how the Nazis conscripted all the Dutch horses into the war. None of that felt like a digression, or an expository info-dump.

I occasionally enjoy biographical animal memoirs and can also recommend audio and/or printed versions of SEABISCUIT, THE ELEPHANT WHISPERER, BABYLON’S ARK, THE DOG WHO THOUGHT HE COULD FLY, A LION NAMED CHRISTIAN, etc... (PENGUIN LESSONS was also an okay listen).

And in nonfiction, WATERSHIP DOWN. Of course. Best narration goes to Ralph Cosham, in my opinion.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great story, poor narrator

This was a wonderful story. Unfortunately, the narrator reads with all of the enthusiasm of Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The narrator pronounces mare as a 2 syllable word like ma-yor and equine with a short e as in elephant rather than the correct long e as in equal. If I hadn’t been previewing the listen for a class, I would not have stuck with it. It is a shame because the book is well written and inspiring. Even when Snowman wins competitions or does unexpected things, the narrator continues to drone on in a monotone voice that sucks the joy out of listening.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent story about an incredible horse and his owner

The story and the narration of it were excellent. I like the way the author told the backstory of horses and the horseback riding community and their changing role over time intertwined with the story of this incredible horse and his owner/rider. Nice story!

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Nothing like the love of a horse!

A brilliant and inspiring story. Thank you for telling it so well. Horses are intelligent, hard working and loyal friends. Much more than just an animal.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

For Horse lovers and everyone!

I am a horseperson and loved this delightful true story. Dedication and amazement, perseverance and triumph... And so much more!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Animals deserve to be cared for

Outstanding! Beautiful story yet showing both sides of the horse show world. For most a horse is only good as long as they are winning

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

great listen for the history of show jumping

loved it ugly cry at end..going to visit Snowmass resting place...on my bucket list

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

horse lovers inspiration

loved the education I got from this book. a horse lover and owner myself, I was surprised how the writer could relate and write from all points of view. There were few slower spots, but important detail on how the Era was and how people handled that Era. Overall this book was an inspiration. a true tale of horsemanship and his once in a lifetime horse. highly recommend.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Great horse, but not enough for a whole book

The story of Snowman is heartwarming. But just his and his owner’s story is not enough to fill a book. The author tells us so many times that he was bought for 80 dollars, calls him the Cinderella horse that I was exasperated.
More was needed. Perhaps the story of another horse or horses. In any case I can’t recommend.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

This is a wonderful and well written book.

I grew up on a ranch. My horses were my best friend and they saved my life. I could ride them away from my abusive home environment.
I loved my horses and they loved me!

1 person found this helpful

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Lynn Turton
  • Lynn Turton
  • 11-12-21

Amazing true story

This is an incredible fairy tale of truth but alas it was padded out with boring details

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Amazon Customer
  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-19-21

Great story with historical context

My wife and I are listening to this book. We bought it as my wife has ridden from and early age and loves horses. We are really enjoying the book, alongside its tale of hardship the historical context is very interesting. This includes details of American society, horse trading, immigration to the US, WW2 references.

Excellent listen

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Retro gal
  • Retro gal
  • 11-23-20

Lovely story

I really enjoyed this book. An amazing story which I was totally unaware of before listening. Animal lovers will enjoy this :)

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Lu
  • Lu
  • 07-08-20

Good horse story

Along with 'The Perfect Horse', this is a wonderful story of an amazing horse, a beautiful friendship and fascinating insight into the era.
I'm glad I stuck with it, I nearly returned the book before the end of the first chapter as the sugary, laboured, gushing sentimentality was so over the top is enough to give the reader diabetes.

Given that most horsie people will read the phone directory if it has a horse picture on the cover, it's a book about a horse. Every chapter mentions horses, horse riding, a little of the technicalities of horses so for horsie people, it's got sufficient horses to keep you going.

The book is probably three times longer than needed because of incessant heart tugging and sadly the truly visceral parts of the story were lost to reader desensitization from the continual forced emotion.

However, behind the candy floss, there is an incredible, genuinely warm-the-cockles tale of overcoming adversity. This book is for the horse lovers and I'd hesitate to recommend it to anyone who doesn't have at least a passing interest in show jumping. For readers who have read Jilly Cooper, the story of Snowman is the foundation for Sailor in Riders.


  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Ke Donn
  • Ke Donn
  • 06-12-20

Lovely book for horse lovers

This is a really enjoyable listen. The narrator has a soothing voice and if you love horses you will definitely enjoy it. it is a little bit repetitive sometimes just in the descriptions of the shows but how many times ways can you describe jumping a course. Great to hear the story of this wonderful horse and his kind owner

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Anonymous User
  • Anonymous User
  • 06-07-22

Haven’t cried so much over a book before

Such a delight to read. Such an emotional story, so much love in this read. This has inspired me in so many ways. What an amazing story of compassion and bond between one owner and horse. Will certainly recommend this beautiful story.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Christine
  • Christine
  • 11-08-21

If you love horses, this is the book for you

I really enjoyed this story. The only criticism is that it is slow to start and very basic for anyone who is involved with horses. The author has had to make it basic at the start to cater to people who do not have any horse knowledge however that does make the first few chapters hard going for those of us that know horses. Stick with it!!! It will break your heart at the end but it's based on fact and horses don't have a long life span.
As an Australian I did not know about this great horse and I am very pleased that I found this book. I had to google him to find photos, there are lots out there its well worth having a look.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Anne
  • Anne
  • 11-02-21

Nice story, lacked facts

This was a nice cover of the story of Snowman & Harry. Missed a lot of facts about Harry, threw in a quick divorce with no explanation, despite being most about the man. Pretty much everything glossed over so if you’re looking for the real story forget it, treat it as a novel

.