He Just Let Man o’ War Run

Have you ever wondered why you never hear Man o’ War’s name mentioned as they run through all the greats that won the Triple Crown?

After resting in Maryland through the winter after his amazingly successful two-year-old season, Man o’ War was ready to take on the next racing season. There was talk about him running in the Kentucky Derby, since Sir Barton proved that it was possible to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and The Belmont Stakes. Would Man o’ War chase after Sir Barton?

Back then and even to this day, there is a competition regarding east coast and the west. During this time, Kentucky was seen as being in the west and still a bit wild. Riddle didn’t have much respect for anything western preferring the more prestigious eastern tracks. Besides concerns for injury and illness caused by a long train ride to Kentucky, he also was concerned about the distance. Man o’ War never raced anything longer than six furlongs, and the Kentucky Derby was 1 ¼ miles. He decided it would be too hard on the young, developing bones of his thoroughbred. Riddle set his sights onto several east coast races starting with the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes.

“The news that Man o’ War the champion two-year-old of last year will not start in the Kentucky Derby and may not go to the post in the Preakness will detract from the general interest in these classics, but no doubt will make great friends of the colt rejoice. It had been noted rather poignantly in recent years that particularly among the three-year-olds an early and brilliant start means a poor finish. To the owner who needs the money this may not mean so much, but to a sportsman like Mr. Riddle, who owns Man o’ War achievement stands out above financial considerations.”[1]

As a side note, Matt Winn, who saved the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs from disintegrating into a long forgotten race that horses once raced, never forgave Sam Riddle for not racing Man o’ War in the Kentucky Derby. When he was asked what horse he thought was the best of all time, he always brought up Exterminator, who was an amazing horse. Exterminator raced in and won the Kentucky Derby. I will save that story for another day.

The question was would Man o’ War have the stamina to run 1 1/8 of a mile, so they headed to New York where he trained at Belmont Park’s deep training track. His works weren’t the best in the beginning, and he showed signs of tiring at first. However, he began to improve, so they decided to give the Preakness a shot.

During his last work before the Preakness, over 19,000 people came to watch. Squeezed into every nook and cranny of the old racetrack, they saw Big Red run the entire distance carrying 126 pounds like he would in the Preakness. He stepped out onto the track between the fourth and fifth race to an overzealous crowd. The track was drying out from rain a few days ago, but it didn’t slow down Big Red. He ran six furlongs ten lengths faster than the horses did in the fourth race without his exercises jockey Clyde Gordon releasing any tension on the reins. He had a breather in the next ¼ mile before he opened up and tore down the homestretch until Gordon began to slow him the last furlong. Everyone who saw Man o’ War that day knew who would win the Preakness.

The morning before the Preakness, Man o’ War stepped onto the track one final time before the big race for a morning breeze. His times that morning scared off six Preakness entries reducing the field to nine, which included Man o’ War. Man o’ War didn’t meet the Kentucky Derby winner, Paul Jones, in the Preakness, because Paul Jones was a gelding. The only horses eligible were colts and fillies that could one day produce offspring.

Since Johnny Loftus could no longer ride Big Red, he made his three-year-old debut with a new jockey, Clarence Kummer. Kummer was a strong, young man born of German immigrants. He was considered to be one of the few jockeys strong enough to ride and handle Man o’ War, because when the race started, Man o’ War was sheer power and speed. He needed someone that could rate him, or slow him down when needed.

Race day, Pimlico was filled to the maximum with 23,000 people. The crowd’s excitement made Man o’ War’s nerves boil. According to Sam Riddle, “…he broke out (in a sweat) three times.”[2] When a horse lathers up like this before a race, they waste a lot of energy, and it can cause them to lose the race before it even starts.

Man o’ War, Blazes and On Watch would all carry the same weight of 126 pounds. Upset, who beat him in the Sanford Memorial would carry 122 pounds. All of the other horses would carry 114 pounds. Man o’ War lined up at the barrier in post position seven. Blazes, who many thought might have a chance to beat him, was in post position number five. Man o’ War broke through the barrier once delaying the start of the race by about six minutes, and St. Allan’s antics got him sent to the outside.

Finally, everyone calmed down enough for the barrier to be released, but Man o’ War got a bad jump. Blazes, Upset and On Watch beat him at the break, but that didn’t deter Man o’ War at all. Within a few strides, he led and on the rail. His voracious speed ate up the ground, and King Thrush tried to keep up with Man o’ War without any luck. Man o’ War dominated everyone from the beginning. Red taunted them by allowing King Thrush to stay a few feet behind him without ever giving him an inch. Upset had a slippery grasp on third.

Six furlongs raced and King Thrush’s lungs had enough. This is when Upset decided to make his move as they turned for home with Wildair moving into third. Man o’ War and Upset left the other horses behind, as Man o’ War ran a mile four-fifths of a second faster than the track’s record. Upset gave it his all, but Man o’ War never gave him a chance as Upset’s steam flattened. Any thought of him tiring towards the end of the race became a joke. Man o’ War beat Upset by one length and a half, and Wildair was five more lengths behind. Man o’ War missed the Pimlico track record by a hair.

The crowd roared in jubilation at what they witnessed. One sportswriter wrote, “It was not a race, only a performance. Those who saw it will not forget it.”

“Untouched by whip or heel and never allowed to do his best, he romped to the easiest kind of victory. He covered the one mile and a furlong route in a 1:51 3/5, only three-fifths of a second behind the track record, and it was the opinion of all horsemen present that if he had been compelled to do his best all the way, he would have clipped several seconds from the old mark of 1:51.”[3]

The race took a toll on Man o’ War. According to his trainer Feustel, he came back to the barn tired stating that the condition of the track had been hard on him. The sand on the track was raced off, and the track was left with a hard clay. He rebounded quickly though, because when he returned to Belmont two days later, Feustel said that he wanted to go racing.

Instead of resting for the grueling 1 3/8-mile-long Belmont Stakes like most horses do, Man o’ War raced in the Withers, which was a mile long. On the morning of the Withers, Feustel sent Man o’ War out for a one-furlong work to open up the pipes. When he looked at his stopwatch, he realized that Man o’ War ran 42 miles per hour at :10 3/5 seconds. A good, fast pace is :12 a furlong. Could he beat the Withers Stakes record of 1:38 2/5?

Over 30,000 people filled Belmont Park to see the horse they all read about. Only two other horses showed up to challenge Man o’ War; Wildair and David Harum. All three would be carrying 118 pounds. David Harum was entered to gather the third place money, so Wildair was the one for Big Red to beat. Everyone expected a fast race, because they knew that Wildair would push Man o’ War if not overtake him even though Man o’ War beat him easily in the Preakness.

When the barrier was released, Man o’ War easily broke to a two lengths lead over Wildair. He raced the first quarter mile in :24 flat. Wildair was a half-length behind. He ran easily without feeling the push of Wildair as many expected. Kummer held onto the reins, but Man o’ War continued to gain speed. When he entered the far turn, clockers said he ran the fourth furlong in a blistering speed of :10 flat. If the clockers had it right, Wildair was staying with him. When they got to the second half of the turn, Kummer let him know it was time to go by releasing some rein. Man o’ War left Wildair behind opening a gap of six lengths. The official time said he ran six furlongs in 1:11, which was two fifths of a second slower than the track record. When Kummer saw that Wildair was so far behind, he started gearing Man o’ War down winning by three lengths over Wildair and with David Harum fifteen lengths behind. The Daily Racing Form said, “Won easily: second and third driving. Man o’ War assumed command at the start, displayed wonderful speed under restrain, and won under a stout pull. Man o’ War not only broke the record; he tore it to shreds. He beat the Withers record by a full thirteen lengths, and that was with Kummer slowing him down to save energy for his next race; the Belmont Stakes. The official time was 1:35 4/5’s, but unofficial clockers had him running it at 1:35 1/5’s.

“Samuel Riddle’s horse is the greatest horse in the country, and probably the greatest in the history of American turf…. He won the historic classic in a common canter. Official time said he covered the mile in 1:35 4/5, four-fifths of a second faster than the track record established by Strombili in 1914,” wrote Henry V. King.[4]

King went on to write, “After the race, men who have made a study of thoroughbreds and have seen the best horses both here and abroad, were emphatic in declaring that Man o’ War never had an equal. Sysonby, Colin, Hamburg, Ethelbert, Domino and Roamer were truly great horses, but after yesterday’s race, all of these immortals were compelled to take a place below Mr. Riddle’s colt in the equine Hall of Fame. For his wonderful feat, Man o’ War received a tribute such as is seldom accorded to a thoroughbred. He was cheered and cheered and cheered.”

Man o’ War was nominated to the Suburban Handicap where he would only carry 114 pounds in a race against older horses for the first time. However, Man o’ War had the Belmont Stakes in his blood. His paternal, great grandsire Spendthrift won it in 1879, his grandsire Hastings won in 1896, and his sire Fair Play didn’t win it, but he pushed Colin like no other horse had in 1908.

At least 30,000 people poured into Belmont Park on June 12th to see the beautiful, big chestnut horse. People wanted a glimpse of him, so they later could tell their children and grandchildren that they once saw Man o’ War.

Trainer Jimmy Rowe decided that he didn’t like his chances against Man o’ War in a mile and three eighths. He sent Upset to Kentucky to race in the Latonia Derby, and he kept Wildair and John P. Grier in the barn. David Harum, who was entered in the race, scratched the morning of the big race. It appeared that Man o’ War would be doing a walkover. A walkover is when a horse has no competitors and gallops around the track by his or herself winning the race. This is disappointing to crowds and to the sport, so luckily George Loft entered Donnacona. Donnacona never had a chance not only because he was racing Man o’ War, but because he raced twice in the past five days. Loft did this to save the race, and to allow Man o’ War to collect his full share of the purse. If he ran a walkover, he would only get half.

“Mr. Loft knew Donnacona had no chance of winning and he didn’t care about the second end of the purse. He took the same attitude as did Feustel—that the public must be considered.”[5]

Loft went onto say, “I hear Feustel is going to let his champion run to please the crowd. That means that it won’t be a contest at all, but my fellow is going to do his best, and even though I’m beaten off, it will please the crowd more than seeing a walkover.”[6]

Instead of betting on who would win, the crowd focused on something else; would Man o’ War beat Sir Barton’s record? Feustel heard the crowd.

“Louis Feustel, his trainer, instructed Jockey Kummer to let him run all the way. ‘The crowd wants to see this fellow do something,’ Feustel told his jockey, ‘and I don’t want them to see a gallop. Let him race, and we’ll please them and incidentally, get a record.’”[7]

Man o’ War broke on top and never gave up the lead the entire race.

“In three jumps Man o’ War was clear and fighting Kummer for his head.”[8]

Along the backstretch, he led Donnacona by two lengths. They then vanished for half a mile behind a stretch of trees blocking everyone’s view. When they emerged from the trees, Man o’ War was leading with Donnacona doing what he could to try to stay with him. As they entered into the far turn, Kummer released the reins, which means, “It’s time to go.” Go he did!

“The son of Fair Play developed a new rate of speed in a half a dozen strides.” [9]

Man o’ War left Donnacona behind. When they hit the homestretch, Man o’ War was leading by four lengths. Everyone in the stands knew he would win, but they wanted more. They wanted him to beat the record. Usually, Kummer at this point would start to slow him down to save him for the next race, but he followed orders and let him run. He never hit him with the whip or urged him to go faster…. he just let Man o’ War run. He won the race by 20 lengths; the largest victory margin to that date. His record for victory margin held for twenty-three years until Count Fleet won by 25 lengths becoming the 6th Triple Crown Winner. Count Fleet’s record was broken thirty years later by the 9th Triple Crown winner Secretariat who won the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths. They remain to this day the top three.

“Irresistible, faultless in stride, down to the finish swept the horse of a thousand years to new glory.”[10]

“It was a remarkable performance and at the finish it did not appear as if the colt was really running, His easy, long stride carried him at a terrific clip.”[11]

“Man o’ War ran to suit himself, and wanted to go on at the finish,”[12] wrote several papers.

Would the crowd get what they really wanted? A new record? The year before, the crowd cheered Sir Barton on to set a new American record of 2:17 2/5. The world record was 2:16 2/5 set by Dean Swift in 1908 in Liverpool, England.

“As the timekeeper hung out the fateful numbers a pin could have been heard to drop. First a “2,” then a “1,” and breathing itself stopped. With the first flash of a “4” such a wild, tumultuous roar thundered up above the handclapping and cheers that the thoroughbreds in their stalls a mile away must have heard and wondered.”[13]

Man o’ War set a new track, American, and World Record that day. It was 2:14 1/5. The crowd erupted into total jubilation and cheers. When Big Red strode in front of the stands, he didn’t seem to be tired at all. People no longer felt that he was the best American racehorse of all time, but they believed after his performance and the fact he broke the record so easily without a touch of the crop, that he was the best in the world and the best of all time and the times to come.

“As he cantered back to the scales Man o’ War was not taking a long breath. He was frisky and seemed to know that the cheers, which could be heard in Jamaica, were for him. He posed for the photographers, and then bowed right and left to the crowd,” [14] wrote Henry V. King.

He raced eight more times during 1920 setting five more records after the Belmont and equaling one record. The three races that stand out the most, were the Dwyer Stakes, Lawrence Realization, and the Kenilworth Park Gold Cup.

The Dwyer, which was run on July 10, 1920 at Aqueduct Park in New York, turned out to be a showdown similar to Fair Play and Colin. Trainer James K. Rowe felt he had another horse that could beat Man o’ War in John P. Grier. John P. Grier was reaching peak condition, and Rowe felt he had the stamina and the speed to take on the horse that nobody else wanted to.

Feustel also felt confident and said that he would let Man o’ War go for a record. Man o’ War would carry 126 pounds while giving John P. Grier 18 pounds who would be carrying 108. Even with the weight difference, Feustel didn’t believe John P. Grier could beat Big Red.

However, it seemed at the start that Red might have bad luck like he did in the Sanford. When the webbing went up, Man o’ War slipped on a wet spot created by where the water wagon was parked earlier, and Man o’ War fell to his knees. However, the fight Hastings and Fair Play gave to him roared, and even though his jockey Kummer thought it might be over, Man o’ War got up and charged after Grier. This was the only time that Grier had the lead in the race, which he lost to Man o’ War after a few seconds. However, that doesn’t mean he didn’t fight to regain it.

The plan was to gallop at a moderate speed until the homestretch when Kummer would let Man o’ War have his head and win the race. Instead, Man o’ War gained speed as Grier’s jockey, Eddie Ambrose, urged him to get past Man o’ War. Big Red wouldn’t have it, and he fought Kummer’s hold on him to keep his nose in front. Ambrose knew he couldn’t let Man o’ War get too much of a lead, and in fact he knew he had to constantly challenge him for it; stay right there with him if he and Grier had any chance to win. Ambrose counted on the 18 pounds that he didn’t have to carry to win the race. He figured if he ran Man o’ War hard, those eighteen extra pounds would wear him down, and he and Grier could win the race.

They were running so fast they hit the five-furlong pole in :57 2/5, which was a track record. When they hit the six-furlong pole, their speed was 1:09 2/5, which beat the world record. There was no light between them with Man o’ War’s head being the only distance he could get ahead of Grier. When they came out of the turn for home, they still had a half mile to going at full speed the entire time, which is usually reserved for this last part of the race. For a terrifying moment it seemed that Ambrose was right, and the weight was getting to Man o’ War running at such speed, because he seemed to pause.

“One of them had to crack—and Grier was the logical candidate—but after they entered the stretch still lapped on, the unbelievable happened. It was John P. Grier who began to inch away, getting his head in front at the three-sixteenths pole,”[15] wrote William H.P. Robertson.

Even though the Daily Racing Form doesn’t show it, they say during the last furlong, Grier seemed to gain the lead while Man o’ War began to lose momentum. Kummer then hit Man o’ War with his crop. Ambrose thought that sound meant he had won the race, so he began to ride Grier steady instead of urging him on as to catch his breath. It was a mistake. Kummer rode Grier before, and he learned that if you tug on the reins at all, Grier quits racing.

Ambrose also made an error thinking the sound of the whip meant Man o’ War was done. The fight, that fire in his belly came to life, and in two or three strides he regained the lead. Ambrose realizing his mistake went after Grier, who also responded gaining on Man o’ War. Kummer hit Man o’ War a few more times, and he charged away. Grier had nothing left and couldn’t match him. Finally, Man o’ War gained daylight on Grier winning by one and a half lengths. Man o’ War set a new world record at 1 1/8 mile at Aqueduct racing a 1:49 1/5. This is absolutely amazing considering he fell to his knees at the start.

After winning the Miller and Travers Stakes, Man o’ War returned to Belmont Park to run thirteen furlongs in the Lawrence Realization on September 4th.

Feustel decided two days before the Lawrence to do a 12-furlong tune-up. Nobody believed what they saw. Man o’ War under constant restraint ran a 2:29 2/5, which was faster than any horse in America had ever run. When Thunderclap ran it at 2:39 3/5, he was only carrying 108 pounds. Man o’ War was carrying 130 that day.

An hour before the race was to start, his only opponent named Sea Mint was scratched. It appeared that Man o’ War would do a walkover, but Samuel Riddle’s niece had a solution. Sarah Jeffords decided to enter her horse Hoodwink. Unfortunately for Hoodwink, he ran only twenty-four hours earlier in a six-furlong sprint. This would be his second race within twenty-four hours.

After some talk before the race, they decided to let Man o’ War run the entire race; no holding him back. However, Riddle told Kummer he wasn’t to urge him. Hoodwink’s jockey was given the same instructions, and his only advantage was that he was carrying ten pounds less than Man o’ War who would be carrying 126 pounds. From the start a tired and overpowered Hoodwink trailed Man o’ War by twenty lengths. The world record for thirteen furlongs was 2:42 2/5, and the pace that Man o’ War was racing at on his own, without any urging by Kummer, would easily break that record. Big Red ran the first six furlongs in 1:13. Man o’ War led Hoodwink by thirty lengths. After a breather along the backstretch, Man o’ War gathered speed completing a mile in 1:38 3/5, which was three seconds slower than the American record he set in the Withers. When he turned into the homestretch, he led Hoodwink by fifty lengths. Kummer gave more rein, and this is when Man o’ War stunned everyone that attended that day. He ran his fastest furlong of the race in :12 and one, and what Man o’ War saved up on his own, was unleashed. He ran the last furlong in :12 flat.

“The most astounding display of arrogant annihilation I ever witnessed on a race track was that day Man o’ War won the Lawrence Realization. He closed at odds of one to one hundred, the third time in his life this had happened, and when he turned for home on that long Belmont park stretch, collecting as high as a kangaroo, he was one of the most magnificent and appalling sights you ever saw. He was like a big red sheet of flame running before a prairie wind, and every bound he took opened up more daylight. When he hit the wire, hard held, Hoodwink was almost an eighth of a mile behind him. The time for the mile and five eighths was 2:40 4/5, a world’s record which stood for twenty-seven years,” wrote B.K. Beckwith.[16]

Dorothy Ours wrote in her book Man o’ War: A Legend Like Lightning, “Beautifully rated early on, running entirely free through the stretch but without demands, Red had beaten the world record by roughly eight lengths.”

Man o’ War won the race by 100 lengths. With each race he became more and more powerful. This was the fifth time that year he broke a record, and it was forty years before Kelso tied his Lawrence Realization time.

Man o’ War may not have won the Triple Crown as we know it today, but he was the first to win the Belmont Park Triple Crown, which consisted of The Withers, Belmont Stakes, and Lawrence Realization. His new record would remain the American Record until 1956, and he held Belmont Park’s record for more than seventy years, which is amazing if you consider how track surfaces had improved since 1920.

Man o’ War won his next two races setting one more record. However, his handlers quickly learned that he wasn’t invincible. After running and wining the Potomac Handicap, Man o’ War came back to the barn lame. He bruised a tendon after kicking his foreleg on the slippery surface at Havre de Grace. Luckily, after a lot of ice, the swelling disappeared quickly, and their sights focused upon the next race.

This would be Man o’ War’s last race. Riddle felt the strain and the concern at having to protect his horse from those that may want to sabotage a race by hurting him, but his wife was hoping for another year of racing. Instead of coming to a final decision, they turned their attention to winning the Kenilworth Gold Cup, which would be a match race between Big Red and Sir Barton.

Sir Barton was the first horse to win the Triple Crown even though no one was calling it at that time. The Kentucky Derby was his maiden race, and when he started winning, he turned everyone’s heads. Unfortunately, he had brittle hooves and thin soles. He also may not have been as enthusiastic about racing as the public thought. His trainer, H.G. “Hard Guy” Bedwell was known for giving “hop”, or drugs, to horses to enhance their performance. Bedwell and all of his horses were banned from Latonia racetrack in 1906. Back then there was no way to drug test horses, and often stewards would watch horses in the paddock for horses that appeared to be on “hop.” Hop could be any type of drug that created the affect they wanted. Heroine, opiates and morphine would cause a horse to race very fast, because it triggered their fight or flight response. When the horse starts to feel a sleepiness that isn’t normal, they run and run as if they were trying to get away from a predator.

It is believed Bedwell gave hops to Sir Barton, and some say this is the real reason that Man o’ War’s former jockey, Loftus, was banned from riding. After riding Sir Barton to a loss, he and Bedwell got into an argument. It is said by some that overheard that they were fighting over how Sir Barton hadn’t been given any hop like he normally did, and Loftus made threats about going to the Jockey’s Club to let them know about Bedwell’s drugging program. Since the Jockey Club never released any information as to why they banned Loftus, everyone assumed it had to do with the Sanford loss. The reality may have been it all had to do with Loftus’ threats and somehow it came back on him.

Everyone wanted a match race between Big Red and Sir Barton. When Sir Barton won the Triple Crown, many considered him the horse of the century. This was called into question when Big Red seemed to be beyond perfect entered the racing scene winning everything he was entered into with ease. The other question everyone wondered about was could Man o’ War beat older horses. Sir Barton was a year older, and at first there was talk that the great Exterminator would race as well. Exterminator was a powerful gelding that excelled at longer distances. However, his owner couldn’t get Man o’ War’s or Sir Barton’s owners to extend the 1 ¼ mile race to a two-mile race, which is when Exterminator’s stamina and speed really excelled, so Exterminator wouldn’t be joining them.

The race was held in Windsor, Ontario, which was a desolate place, but was Abe Orpen’s attempt to boost Canadian Racing. Orpen wooed Riddle and Commander Ross to come to Ontario with a $75,000 purse and a Tiffany Gold Cup to the winner. The track was groomed for speed that day. It was hard, and it must have given Bedwell some pause considering Sir Barton’s chronic, weak hooves.

Man o’ War was unusually calm that day while Sir Barton seemed very nervous and anxious making some wonder. When the barrier flew into the air, Sir Barton got the better break and led by a length, which Sir Barton held going into the first turn. Once they hit the straightaway, any hope of a true duel evaporated as Man o’ War’s blazing speed caught up to Sir Barton and he took the lead. Man o’ War had a full three lengths on Sir Barton, so Sir Barton’s jockey Frank Keogh, took to the whip, which had no effect. He couldn’t make up any of the ground he lost to Big Red. At seven furlongs Man o’ War threw a shoe off of one his rear hooves. A horse pushes off with his hind hooves. A horse’s hind legs are the gas pedals, so Big Red lost the traction a shoe gives a horse to push off with possibly eroding his speed.

Man o’ War kept going without that shoe as if it hadn’t even happened with Sir Barton still chasing him three lengths behind. Man o’ War knew he couldn’t take a breather, because if he did, Sir Barton would be meeting him eye to eye. When they passed their starting position, change blew in. Man o’ War finally moved away, and the distance between them went from three lengths to five in the blink of an eye. Sir Barton had enough. He simply couldn’t maintain the chase. Man o’ War was slowed in the last two furlongs by a crowd of people that actually came onto the track to watch and cheer him at the finish. Man o’ War ended his career with a seven length win over Sir Barton. He didn’t beat the American or World record because of how Kummer swung wide those last two furlongs to avoid all of the people that came onto the track. However, he did set a track record by shaving six and two-fifths off.

When Man o’ War got back to the barn, it happened again. He struck his foreleg with his rear hoof. His leg was bruised and swelling. Ice surrounded his leg. Riddle pondered retirement.

After a conversation with the handicapper for all New York tracks, Walter Vosburgh was asked how much weight Man o’ War would carry as a four-year-old. He informed Riddle that he wouldn’t start with a pound less than 140. Between the weight and his bruised leg, Riddle decided it was time to retire Man o’ War.

Man o’ War then began a new career as a stud, and like racing, he was highly successful as a sire despite the low number of broodmares brought to him each year. Riddle only allowed 25 mares to be taken to Man o’ War each year, most of whom were his and not considered to be of the highest quality. However, Federico Tesio, one of the best thoroughbred breeders of all time, believed that broodmares should not race much or at all to save their energy for creating beautiful, and powerful thoroughbreds. A few mares outside of his stock were allowed to breed to him for a whopping $5,000 stud fee at the time. Despite the small number of mares that were brought to him, Man o’ War passed on those amazing genes to many stakes winners including War Admiral, who won the Triple Crown in 1937. One of his sons named War Relic not only was a stakes winner defeating Triple Crown winner Whirlaway in the Naragansett Special, but also became one of the best sires out of Man o’ War.

“Whatever the caliber of Riddle’s stewardship, in 1942 Man o’ War replaced his own sire, Fair Play, as the leading progenitor of all time in money won by his offspring. Man o’ War had sired sixty-two stakes winners, a total exceeded only by Broomstick’s sixty-six, and Big Red’s get had earned more than $3 ½ million.”[17]

Man o’ War’s name appears in direct line on the pedigrees of Dr. Fager, Desert Vixen, Sir Ivor, Gun Bow, Never Say Die, Damascus, Buckpasser, and Stymie. He was on the bottom line of the pedigrees of Canonero. Riva Ridge, and Sword Dancer.

Man o’ War died at the age of 30 from a heart attack. He was buried in an oak casket lined with the colors of his racing silks. Several thousand people came to pay their respects to Man o’ War one last time, while many more listened to the service over national radio. He is buried under a life sized statue at the Kentucky Horse Park alongside his two most successful sons, War Relic and War Admiral.

When Louis Feustel was asked what made Man o’ War great, he replied, “I don’t really know. Maybe this will explain it—there was never a thing in the world that you wanted him to do that he would not try to do it better. If you asked him to walk, he’d fight to jog, if you asked him to jog, he’d grab the bit and gallop; and if you want him to gallop, he’d say ‘to hell with you’—and run.”[18]

Arthur Daley from the New York Times wrote about Man o’ War in 1954 saying, “In the year 1954 it may be a bit difficult to visualize the hold that Man o’ War had on the sports of public of 1920. He captivated folks even more than Native Dancer does today.

“[He was a] horse of exquisite beauty in the giant economy size. The sun glinted through the window and struck the chestnut coat of Man o’ War so that his redness glowed until he almost seemed to stand in an aura of fire. There was a majestic lift to this head and his liquid brown eyes stared with imperious insolence. He was a king and he knew it.”


[1] “Man o’ War out of Kentucky Derby and will not be pressed,” New York Herald, 1920 February

[2] “The Turf Career of Man o’ War” by John Hervey, which was an unpublished manuscript that was later published by Horse Magazine. It is available through the National Sporting Library.

[3] Man o’ War is Easy Victor in the Preakness. The Sun and New York Herald. May 19, 1920

[4] “Man O’ War an Easy Victor in the Withers Stake; Great Son of Fair Play Gallops All the Way and Breaks Track Record.” Henry V. King, The Sun and New York Herald. May 30, 1920

[5]  Man o’ War: The Fastest Racer,” Henry V. King, The Sun and New York Herald, June 13, 1920

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] “Man o’ War, in Two-Horse Race, Shatters World’s Record in Winning Belmont Stakes,” W.J. Macbeth, New York Tribune June 13, 1920

[9] “World Record Is Set by Man o’ War,” New York Times, June 13, 1920

[10] “Man o’ War, in Two-Horse Race, Shatters World’s Record in Winning Belmont Stakes,” W.J. Macbeth, New York Tribune June 13, 1920

[11] “Man O’ War in New Record at Belmont Park,” The Washington Herald, June 13, 1920

[12] “Man o’ War–Horse of the Century?” Range Ledger, August 28, 1920

[13] “Man o’ War, in Two-Horse Race, Shatters World’s Record in Winning Belmont Stakes,” W.J. Macbeth, New York Tribune June 13, 1920

[14] Man o’ War: The Fastest Racer,” Henry V. King, The Sun and New York Herald, June 13, 1920

[15] William H.P. Robertson “The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America.”

[16] “Step and Go Together: The World of Horses and Horsemanship by B.K. Beckwith published 1967

[17] “The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America,” by William H. P. Robertson 1964

[18] Step and Go Together: The World of Horses and Horsemanship by B.K. Beckwith 1967

Author: reenchantedhorses

I'm an artist, writer, and a lover of thoroughbreds. I was born and raised in horse racing, and now I wish to help rehome them, educate people about how fantastic they are, and show what they can do.

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