CHESTER, W.Va. (AP) - It won't be hard to spot jockey Kevin Mangold when "Seabiscuit" debuts in theaters this weekend: He's the one getting nibbled.
The legendary race horse "takes a bite out of my shirt," Mangold said Wednesday about his character. "He stomps on me, kicks me and bites me."
Not that he minded much. For Mangold, an apprentice jockey at Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort, the small speaking role let him combine his dual passions of riding and acting.
Mangold is among 18 real jockeys who appear in the movie starring Tobey Maguire, Chris Cooper and Jeff Bridges. Among the others are Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who plays George Woolf, and Chris McCarron, who plays Charley Kurtsinger.
Mangold, 35, of Calcutta, Ohio, plays a composite of the many jockeys who tried -- and failed -- to ride Seabiscuit before Red Pollard bonded with the skittish horse that others labeled a loser.
Based on Laura Hillenbrand's best-selling book, the film traces the story of the thoroughbred that became an unlikely symbol of hope in America during the Depression. Seabiscuit defies the odds to defeat War Admiral in 1938.
"You're looking at racing through a window that's somewhat tinted by Hollywood," Mangold said, "but it's a terrific opportunity to see a small part of the racing world. I think this movie will ignite a curiosity in the public."
Mangold is a longtime actor who has been riding for only three years.
He grew up in Susanville, Calif., and studied film at the University of Southern California before landing his first acting job in a Toyota commercial.
Mangold went on to appear on the television shows "Silver Spoons" with Ricky Schroeder, "Highway to Heaven" with the late Michael Landon and "Ellen" with comedian Ellen DeGeneres.
With his 5-foot-1, 107-pound fame and boyish appearance, he also snagged roles in Broadway productions of "Peter Pan" and "Mrs. Santa Claus."
Mangold had always been interested in horses, but his only experience was on the back of a quarterhorse when he was 7. At 32, he decided it was time to race.
Despite early rejections, he kept making the rounds, offering himself as an exercise trainer at California's Santa Anita race track. Eventually, he was hired by trainer D. Wayne Lukas and advised to attend jockey school.
Eight months later, Mangold graduated. He has been with Mountaineer for about six months.
"I've always had the heart of a competitor," Mangold said, "and with my size, I knew I couldn't be a basketball player."