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Man o'War

Man o'War (March 29, 1917 - November 1, 1947) is considered one of the greatest thorougbred racehorses of all time. During his career just after World War I, he won 20 of 21 races and $249,465 in purses.

Man o'War was sired by the prominent Fair Play. His dam, Mahubah, was sired by U.K. Triple Crown Champion Rock Sand. Man o'War was owned and bred by August Belmont, Jr. (1851-1924), whose father's accomplishments were recognized through the naming of the Belmont Stakes. Belmont, Jr. joined the United States Army at age 65 to serve in France during World War I. While he was overseas, his wife named a new foal "Man o'War" in honor of her husband. However, the Belmont's decided to liquidate their racing stable. At the Saratoga yearling sale in 1918, Man o'War was sold at a final bid of $5,000 to Samuel D. Riddle, who brought him to his Glen Riddle Farm near Berlin, Maryland. The underbidder at the auction was believed to be Robert L. Gerry, Sr.

Man o'War
Sire Fair Play
Gransire Hastings
Dam Mahubah
Damsire Rock Sand
Sex Stallion
Foaled 1917
Country United States
Color Chestnut
Breeder August Belmont, Jr.
Owner Samuel D. Riddle
Trainer Louis Feustel
Record 21: 20-1-0
Earnings $249,465

Racing career[]

As a Two-Year-Old[]

Trained by Louis Feustel and ridden by Johnny Loftus, Man o'War made his debut at Belmont Park on June 6, 1919, winning by six lengths. Three weeks later, he won the Keene Memorial Stakes.

In the early 1900s, there were no starting gates. Horses circled around and then lined up behind a piece of webbing known as the barrier and were sent away as it raised. In Man o'War's only loss, the Sanford Memorial Stakes, he was still circling back to the starting line when the barrier was raised (though some accounts give other reasons). After Man o'War turned around, he was already far behind the starters. Jockey Johnny Loftus put him in a bad position, getting boxed in by other horses. Despite this, he came close to winning, only losing by a half-length. The winner was Upset, whose name is sometimes erroneously thought to have popularized a new phrase in sports (meaning an underdog beating the favorite) - in fact, the term "upset" was already in use to describe such a situation decades before. Man o'War finished his two-year-old campaign with nine wins from ten starts.

Weight carrying[]

As a two-year-old, he carried 130 pounds (59 kg) in six races; few horses ever carried that much at any age. As a three-year-old, he carried as much as 138 pounds (63 kg) in races, conceding as much as 32 pounds (15 kg) to other horses.

As a Three-Year-Old[]

In 1920, Johnny Loftus was denied a renewal of his jockey's license by The Jockey Club, and was replaced as Man o'War's rider by Clarence Kummer. Loftus retired and became a trainer.

At three, Man o'War was 16 hands 2 inches (167.6 cm) high and weighed about 1,150 pounds (520 kg) with a 72-inch girth. That May, Man o'War was not entered in the Kentucky Derby because his owner did not like racing in Kentucky and believed it was too early in the year for a young horse to go a mile and a quarter. The previous year, Sir Barton had won the first-ever U.S. Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, though it was not called that at the time. It gained that prestige and importance 10 years later, when Gallant Fox accomplished the feat under a great deal of media attention.

In easily winning the 1-1/8 mile Preakness Stakes, Man o'War set a new Pimlico track record of 1:38-3/5 for a mile, then was eased up for the final eighth of a mile to finish in a time of 1:51-3/5. The horse was next sent to Elmont, New York, for the Belmont Stakes. Man o'War won the then-1-3/8-mile race by 20 lengths, setting another American record with a time of 2:14.20, beating Sir Barton's record set the year before by over three seconds. That year, he also lost the Dwyer Stakes, won the Travers Stakes, the Stuyvesant Handicap, and the Jockey Gold Cup. As the racing season wound down, no one wanted to race against the seemingly invincible Man o'War, who had easily won every race he entered. In the Lawrence Realization Stakes, no other horse was willing to go up against him until Mrs. Riddle's neice, Sarah Jeffords entered Hoodwink. Man o'War won by over 100 lengths while setting a new world record of 2:40-4/5 for a mile and five-eighths, besting the previous record by six seconds in a track record that still stands.

The final start of Man o'War's career came in Winsdor, Ontario, Canada in the Kenilworth Park Gold Cup (the first race to be filmed in its entirety). For this 1-1/4 mile match race, Man o'War ran against Sir Barton but easily drew away in the first furlong and was slowed to win by seven lengths. Over his two-year career, Man o'War won 20 of 21 races, setting three world records, two American records, and three track records.

(*The Kenilworth Park Gold Cup was in actuality a "match race" between Sir Barton and Man o'War. Another champion horse, Exterminator, was invited to compete in the race, since Canada did not allow match races. Due to the owners of the three not coming to a compromise on the conditions of the race, Exterminator was scratched, and in fact raced that same day on a different track.)

Stud record[]

Following his undefeated season of 11 straight wins, Man o'War traveled to Lexington, Kentucky, to enter stud at Elizabeth Daingerfield's Haylands, and later moved to Riddle's Faraway Farm. Man o'War was a top sire who produced more than 64 stakes winners and various champions. Though many believe that Riddle did not breed the stallion to enough good mares after the first five seasons, he still sired many leading horses. Man o'War sired American Flag and Crusader, who won successive Belmont Stakes in 1925 and 1926. Although there were no official champions in America at the time, both colts were generally considered the best three-year-olds of their year, and Crusader was also largely accepted as the best racehorse of 1926. Among Man o'War's other famous offspring were 1929 Kentucky Derby winner Clyde Van Dusen, Battleship (who won the 1938 English Grand National steeplechase), and War Admiral, the 1937 Triple Crown winner and second official Horse of the Year. Another of his offspring, Hard Tack, sired Seabiscuit, who was Horse of the Year in 1938. Man o'War's most successful sons at stud were War Admiral and War Relic, and War Relic's branch of the male line survives today. Tiznow, Honour and Glory, and Bertrando are also all sire-line descendents of Man o'War. According to Kent Hollingsworth, 37% of stakes winners in 1966 were descendents of Man o'War. Despite not covering more than 25 mares in any season, Man o'War sired 379 named foals during 22 seasons at stud. His daughters kept Man o'War listed in the top ten leading broodmare sires for 22 years.

Man o'War died on November 1, 1947 at age 30 of an apparent heart attack, a short time after his longtime groom, Will Harbut, died. He was originally interred at Faraway Farm, but in the early 1970s, his remains were moved to a new burial site at the Kentucky Horse Park, where his grave is marked with a statue by American sculptor Herbert Haseltine.

Honors[]

He has been the subject of four notable biographies: the first, Man o'War, by Page Cooper and Roger Treat, was published in 1950, and is a classic of its kind; Walter Farley, author of The Black Stallion Series, also wrote a slightly fictional biography of Man o'War; in 2000. Edward L. Bowen wrote a biography called Man o'War: Thoroughbred Lengends from Eclipse Press; and in 2006, Dorothy Ours wrote a new, extensively sourced biography entitled Man o'War: A Legend Like Lightning. 

Man o'War was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1957. Soon after, the Man o'War stakes was created in his honor. In the Blood-Horse magazine List of the Top U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century, Man o'War was ranked number one. He was also ranked number one by the Associated Press as the greatest horse of the 20th century in a separate poll, and number one in racing's history by Sports Illustrated in 1992.

Major wins[]

  • Tremont Stakes (1919)
  • Grand Union Hotel Stakes (1919)
  • United States Hotel Stakes (1919)
  • Hopeful Stakes (1919)
  • Futurity Stakes (1919)
  • Youthful Stakes (1919)
  • Travers Stakes (1920)
  • Jockey Club Gold Cup (1920)
  • Lawrence Realization Stakes (1920)
  • Stuyvesant Handicap (1920)
  • Miller Stakes (1920)
  • Withers Stakes (1920)
  • Potomac Handicap (1920)
  • Dwyer Stakes (1920)

Triple Crown race wins:

Awards[]

  • United States Champion Two-Year-Old Colt (1919)
  • United States Horse of the Year (1920)
  • Leading sire in North America (1926)

Honours[]

  • U.S. Racing Hall of Fame (1957)
  1. 1 - Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century
  • Associated Press #1 Horse of the 20th Century
  • Sports Illustrated #1 greatest horse in racing history
  • Life-size stature at Kentucky Horse Park
  • Man o'War Stakes at Belmont Park
  • Man o'War Boulevard in Lexington, Kentucky
  • Man o'War Road in Riddlewood, Pennsylvania
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