Man o' War: One of the greats
Introduction: When any racehorse enthusiast sees the name "Man o' War," one phrase typically comes to mind: greatest American racehorse of all-time. With a record of 20-1-0, Man o' War is often seen as one of the greatest because of how dominant he was and how everything just came so easy to the stallion. His stamina and speed were unparalleled and many people today think he would fair just as well against modern horses. Always the favorite to win a race, Man o' War dominated the sport without even trying at times. Despite only competing for two years, Man o' War continues to be an inspiration for breeders when it comes to the blueprint of the perfect racehorse.
Man o' War's Profile
Place of birth: Nursery Stud, near Lexington, Kentucky
Date of birth/death: March 29, 1917 - November 1, 1947 (30 years)
Owner: Samuel D. Riddle
Trainer: Louis Feustel
Sire: Fair Play
Jockeys: Clarence Kummer, Johnny Loftus, Earl Sande, Andy Schuttinger
Career earnings: $249,465 (about $3,184,000 as of 2019)
Man o' War's Achievements
While Man o' War's legendary career my have been short, his list of accomplishments is anything but that. Aside from only losing one race, he is a two-time Hall of Famer, having been inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame and Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1957 and 2020 respectively. In 1920, Man o' War went undefeated, setting track and world records at the likes of Belmont Stakes and the Kenilworth Park Gold Cup, leading to him being named the American Horse of the Year.
One of Man o' War's biggest accomplishments actually happened in 1920 during the final match race of his career when he went head-to-head with Sir Barton, who became the first American Triple Crown winner in 1919. The race was described at the time as being "the race of the century." Despite Sir Barton's prior success, he was no match for Man o' War, who easily won the race by seven lengths, cementing his legacy as one of the all-time greats.
One famous story that showcases Man o' War's dominance happened at the Lawrence Realization Stakes in New York in 1920. Since the results of Man o' Wars races were usually a foregone conclusion, his jockey at the time, Clarence Kummer, was told to hold back and win by a smaller margin so the crowd wouldn't be too disappointed. While Kummer did attempt to hold his horse back, Man o' War still ended up winning by 100 lengths.
While Man o' War is being known for being dominant on the racetrack, his one loss at the Sanford Stakes is surrounded by controversy. With a lack of modern gates being used, tape was being used to hold the horses back. Eye witnesses report that the fill-in starter had issues with the tape, which was allegedly sprung when Man o' War was backing up, preventing him from having a proper start like other horses. Despite his speed and power, Man o' War was not able to comeback and win the race, finishing second to a horse that was appropriately named "Upset."
Even though Man o' War's racing career was brief, he went on to have a successful second career as a stud, leading to 386 foals who became 64 stakes winners, showing that success was genetic. Some of the notable horses from his lineage are War Admiral, Seabiscuit, and In Reality.
Man o' Wars importance to horse racing was so monumental that his funeral, which was broadcasted nationally over NBC Radio. Thousands of people attended the funeral where several eulogies were read, commemorating a horse that was truly a once-in-a-lifetime talent.