Man O’ War

The legendary Man O’ War was born on the 29th of March 1917 on a Nursery Stud farm in Lexington, Kentucky. This fabulous chestnut stallion was sired by Fair Play and his dam was Muhubah. He is perhaps one of the most famous horses to ever walk the earth and is still today considered to be one of the greatest American thoroughbred racehorses of all time. During the course of his career, Man O’ War won 20 of 21 races and made $249,465 – a considerable fortune at that point in time.

Man O’ War was bred and owned by August Belmont Jr. The Belmont family was already well established in the industry and August’s father had attached his name to the Belmont Stakes. At age 65, Belmont Jr took up arms and travelled to France to serve his country in World War I. It was while he was overseas that this fantastic little red colt was born and his wife gave him the name ‘Man O’ War’ in honour of her husband. What could have been a most profitable youngster was then sold to Samuel D. Riddle for $5,000 at the Saratoga yearling sale in 1918 after a decision was made to liquidate the Belmont’s racing stable. Their loss was certainly Riddle’s gain and before long, Man O’ War arrived at his new home on Glen Riddle Farm in Maryland.

It was here that this famous horse started his path to success. He was ridden by Johnny Loftus and trained by Louis Feustel and he made an impressive racing debut on 6 June 1919 when he ran at Belmont Park. He won the race by six lengths and then just three weeks later went on to win the Keene Memorial Stakes. His first and only loss occurred in the early 1900s when Man O’ War got left behind at the starting line as he had not yet lined up for the race. Still, he made an impressive effort to catch up and he managed to finish second, losing only by half a length. By the end of his two-year-old campaign he had won 9 of his ten races.

In 1920, Man O’ War got a new jockey. Clarence Kummer was eager to take this three-year-old horse to the pinnacle of success and Man O’ War was eager to prove to the world that he could go faster than any horse before him. Though he was not entered in the Kentucky Derby, he won the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes, the Dwyer Stakes, the Travers Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup, amongst others. He also set a record time of 2:14.20 for the 1 3/8th miles in that year. Man O’ War was so successful that he soon ran out of competitors. Eventually a horse named Hoodwink was entered against him at the Lawrence Realization Stakes. Man O’ War not only won the race by more than 100 lengths, but he set a new world record of 2:40 4/5 for a 1 5/8th mile race.

Man O’ War ran his final race at Windsor, Ontario in Canada. It was at this location that he won the Kenilworth Park Gold Cup against the also impressive Sir Barton. This was the final race of the season and Man O’ War was completely undefeated as a three-year-old. He was taken back to Kentucky, the place of his birth, to stand at stud at Faraway Farm in Lexington. During the course of his career he won 20 of his 21 races, set two American records, three track records and three world records. At stud he produced more than 64 stakes winner and 200 champions. He died at the ripe old age of 30 in 1947, just one month after the death of his groom. Today he lies buried under his statue which stands at the Kentucky Horse Park. Even today Man O’ War is ranked number one on the list of the top 100 US thoroughbred champions – a remarkable and well deserved accomplishment.