MAN O' WAR: RACING ICON
L to right: Man o' War' as a suckling, the foaling barn where Man o' War was born, owner Samuel D. Riddle, Man o' War in his pasture, and jockey Johnny Loftus
History of Man o' War
Man o' War was foaled March 29, 1917 on August Belmont II's Nursery Stud near Lexington, Kentucky.
He was sold as a yearling at the August 17, 1918 Saratoga Sales in New York for $5,000 to Samuel D. Riddle of Maryland, who reportedly thought he looked like a good jumping prospect.
"Big Red" started in twenty-one races and finished first in all but the Sanford Memorial Stakes at two. He finished second by a half-length to the aptly named Upset after three false starts, facing the sideways at the start and getting trapped on the rail until deep in the stretch. He was the odds-on favorite in every start with odds of 1-100 occurring three times in his career. His average margin of victory was 9.42 lengths, helped by the estimated 100 length victory over Hoodwink in the Lawrence Realization Stakes. He carried 130 pounds or more in nine races, including six races at two. He carried 135 pounds and 138 pounds at three. He set two world records, five American track records and broke numerous stakes records in a manner the Racing Form termed "unextended". Many observers felt he could have broken more had he been urged. In a year that saw seventeen horses at the post for the Kentucky Derby, which Man o' War missed, just seven showed up for Man o' War's win in the Preakness Stakes. Only one other rival appeared for the Belmont Stakes, which Big Red won by twenty lengths. In the course of his racing career he beat thirty stakes winners, including a number of track-record holders, and four champions. His last race was a seven length victory over Triple Crown champion and world record holder Sir Barton, in which Man o' War lowered the track record by six seconds. Turf historians have awarded him the Horse of the Year title for 1920. He retired the leading money winner of his day with nearly $250,000 to his credit.
In the stud, Man o' War sired champions Maid at Arms, Edith Cavell, Florence Nightingale, Bateau, Scapa Flow, American Flag, and Horses of the Year Crusader and War Admiral. War Admiral is one of only eleven horses to win the Triple Crown. In 1926 Man o' War topped the sire lists by Money Earned as a number of his offspring won stakes races. Belmont Stakes winner Crusader was the leading money earner that year and retired as the sport's all time leading money winner. Man o' War's offspring won more than three and a half million dollars during the years encompassing the Depression.
In addition, Man o' War justified his owner's opinion that he had jumping ability by siring three-time Maryland Hunt Cup winner Blockade, Grand National-Aintree winner Battleship and repeating champion show jumper Holystone.
When the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were looking for a "hunter type" stallion to revitalize their horses' bloodlines, they chose a black grandson of Man o' War to stand as sire.
Despite the limited mares available to Man o' War (Riddle allowed few "outside" breeders the opportunity to breed their mares) the big red horse sired 64 stakes winners from 379 foals. At the time of Man o' War's death, this Lifetime Stakes Winners total was exceeded only by Broomstick's 66 stakes winners. Only *Sir Galahad III topped him on the Leading Broodmare Sire list, where Man o' War held second place for an incredible nine straight years.
Man o' War's male line is still represented by the leading sire Tiznow. However, it is through his daughters that the big red horse's bloodline continues. Every American champion of the last 20 years can trace their pedigree back to Man o' War.
In the years between Man o' War's retirement from racing in 1920 until his death in 1947 more people went to Faraway Farm to see Big Red than went to see Kentucky's second biggest attraction, Mammoth Cave. A series of guest books crammed with thousands of names shows the signatures of the society elite and the masses who came to gaze upon him.
Many honors were heaped on Man o' War during his lifetime. During World War II, the First Cavalry stationed in Japan gave him the honorary military rank of "colonel".
Man o' War died of a ruptured aorta (heart attack) in November of 1947. Ironically, this was only a few days after the death of his beloved caretaker Will Harbut.
It was said that Man o' War was the first horse to be embalmed. He was given a military funeral with full honors. Thousands of people, obscure and famous, paid their last respects by lining up along the funeral route. Millions more listened to the memorial service on national radio. A life-size statue of the great horse stands over his grave, which is now located in the Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, Kentucky. Offspring buried nearby include champion War Admiral, leading sire War Relic and stakes winner War Hazard. Brushup, dam of War Admiral, is also buried at Man o' War's feet.
In the year 1999, a panel conducted by 'The Blood-Horse' comprised of racing professionals and the racing press, Man o' War was the American 'Horse of the Century', placed ahead of such outstanding Thoroughbreds as Secretariat, Citation, Kelso, Native Dancer, Count Fleet. Cigar, and Seabiscuit. He was placed at the top of similar lists sponsored by the Associated Press and Sports Illustrated magazine as well.
Comments About Man o' War
Made by Various People
“He’s got everythin’ a hoss ought to have and he’s got it where a hoss ought to have it. He’s de mostest hoss.”
Man o’ War’s beloved groom
“There never lived a horse that was more horse than he was that afternoon. He was so beautiful that it almost made you cry, and so full of fire he made you thank your God that you could come close to him. No horse ever lived who could have beaten him that afternoon.”
The assistant starter who handled
Man o' War the day he won the Travers Stakes.
“Mr. Riddle, I'm prepared to pay you a million dollars for Man o’ War.”
“Mr Waggoner, many men can have a million dollars, but only one can have Man o’ War. I’m not interested in parting with him.”
“Come, Mr. Riddle, everything has its price.”
“Go to France and bring back the sepulcher of Napoleon from Les Invalides, then to England and buy the Crown Jewels, then to India and buy the Taj Mahal – then I’ll put a price tag on Man o’ War.”
Samuel D. Riddle
owner of Man o’ War to millionaire
"This horse gallops faster than other horses race. It was like being on a runaway locomotive. I’ve never had one like that under me before. He’s the best horse I’ve ever ridden.”
Hall of Fame jockey, after riding Man o' War in the Miller Stakes. He was the regular rider of Triple Crown winner Sir Barton
“What a marvel!”
Commander JKL Ross
Owner of numerous champions
as Man o’ War beat his Triple Crown winner Sir Barton
Upon seeing him in action, a railbird asked a groom “Who's he by?” The reply was “He’s by hisself, and there ain’t nobody gonna get near him.”
Favorite story of owner Samuel D. Riddle
One of Man o’War’s first foals was named
“In the past forty-seven years I have seen but three colts that I thought were particularly outstanding. They were Sysonby, Colin and Man o’ War, taking them in chronological order.”
James Rowe, Sr.
Hall of Fame trainer and the trainer of
Hall of Fame inductees Sysonby, Colin, Hindoo, Whisk Broom II, Sweep, Maskette, Pennant, Mother Goose and Peter Pan.
“Man o’ War was the mightiest Thoroughbred the American turf has ever known. His career came to a roaring stop in 1920, after he had won 20 races in 21 starts.
He had speed, stamina, courage and heart, and he broke most of the existing records of his day. I was his trainer, and I can truthfully say there has never been another horse like him. He was the kind of horse from which dreams are made... ”
trainer of Man o' War
Forward to Walter Farley’s book Man o’ War
“As near to a living flame as horses get, and horses get closer to this than anything else. It was not merely that he smashed his opposition, sometimes by a hundred lengths, or that he set world records or that he cared not a Tinker’s Curse for weight, or track, or horses...
All horses, and particularly all stallions, like to run, exultant in their strength and power. Most of them run within themselves, as children at play. But Man o’ War, loose in his paddock at Faraway, dug in as if the prince of all the fallen angels was at his throatlatch, and great chunks of sod sailed up behind the haunches of power. Watching, you felt that there had never been, nor could ever be again, a horse like this.”
Editor of The Blood Horse
“The door had been swung open and Man o’ War stood there. I was prepared to see a great champion and sire. But suddenly, I knew that while I had never seen him race it made no difference at all. I felt as my father did. I was lucky to be there, close enough to touch him if that had been allowed.
Man o’ War stood in the doorway, statuesque and magnificent. There was a lordly lift to his head and his sharp eyes were bright. He didn’t look at us, but far out over our heads.
...I was aware only of one thing, that for the first and perhaps the only time in my life I was standing in the presence of a horse which was truly great, and it would be a moment always to be remembered.
What accounted for this stirring of the heart? If one attributes it to the emotions of youth, what about my father’s adulation for Man o’ War? And all the others of his generation who had seen this horse and felt no differently? Was the look in Man o’ War’s eyes responsible for it? His gaze, I recall, shifted occasionally to look at us. They were deep, intelligent eyes and very bright. More often than not, however, he seemed not to know we were there at all, his gaze fixed and far away, so intent that I could have sworn he was watching something far beyond our vision.
Or was it the regal lift of his head, or the dignity with which he held himself up for our inspection? Or, perhaps, a combination of everything, for there was nothing about him that did not seem right to me. Whatever accounted for it, I stood in his presence in quiet reverence, unmindful of anything but Man o’ War.”
Equine writer and author of the book Man o’ War
“There were seven horses in the Sanford, with Man o’ War held at 11 to 20 odds, but, when the field bounced away, it was *Golden Broom setting the pace with Upset on the outside just a neck away. Man o’ War didn’t make his bid until we hit the turn, and then he churned up along the rail ‘til his head bobbed into the corner of my eye. There he was tossin’ those twenty-eight foot strides of his an’ tryin’ to squeeze on the inside of *Golden Broom and Upset.
If I’d given so much as an inch, the race would have been as good as over, but jockeys don’t ride that way. I could have breezed past *Golden Broom anytime I took my feet out of the dashboard, but that would also have left Man o’ War out of his mousetrap, and he'd have whooshed past us in half a dozen strides.
When Johnny Loftus, ridin’ Man o’ War, saw we weren’t going to open up, there was only one thing left for him to do. He pulled up sharply and ducked to the outside. That’s what I’d been waiting for. That same moment I gunned Upset with my bat and galloped to the top in a pair of jumps. Man o’ War then had to come out around the two of us, and it cost him all o’ two lengths. From there to the finish he was chargin’ again like a jet plane but Upset had just enough left to push his head down in front.
Sure, I won the race all right – it was the greatest thrill of my life – but lookin’ back at it now, there’s sure one horse which shoulda retired undefeated. Never was a colt like him. He could do anything and do it better than any horse that ever lived. If I’d moved over just an eyelash that day at Saratoga, he’d have beat me from here to Jalopy. Sometimes I’m sorry I didn’t do it.”
Hall of Fame jockey and the rider of Upset, the only horse to beat Man o’ War, and rider of the great Exterminator
L to right: Man o' War' going to the post, beating John P. Grier in the Dwyer, Man o' War leading Sir Barton, Man o' War drinking from his trophy
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