Thoroughbred History: Man o'War

March 3rd, 2019

One of the great things about thoroughbred racing is how it continually creates legends. In 2018, Justify became a legend by not only becoming the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby while not running as a 2-year-old since Apollo in 1882, he also won the Triple Crown.

American Pharoah and Zenyatta are both recent horse racing legends. Horse racing's always creating legends, but even though that's true, it helps to never forget some of the past legends that hit American racetracks. One of those unforgettable horses is the great Man o'War.

Man o'War has Right to Claim Title as Greatest Ever

Man o'War's Record - 20-1-0

Few horses were as brilliant as Man o'War. He started his racing career as a 2-year-old in 1919. That year, he won 9-of-10 races, including taking the Belmont Futurity and the Hopeful Stakes. At the time, both were considered the two most important stakes races for 2-year-olds in the nation. He was so successful that, no doubt, he would have been an odds on favorite to win the Kentucky Derby if his owner, Sam Riddle, didn't believe that young horses shouldn't run in 10-furlong races.

Man o'War did end up winning the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. He won the Test of Champions by 20 lengths and set a stakes record. Also in 1920, Man o'War beat the 1919 Triple Crown winner Sir Barton in a match race. It was the first horse race ever filmed from beginning to end. He won the match race by 7 lengths.

Man o'War's 1920 was so impressive that The New York Times made him a co-Athlete of the Year with Babe Ruth. Some refer to him as the greatest racehorse to ever live, even greater than Secretariat.

Man o'War Bred by August Belmont Jr.

Although we could debate who was better on the racetrack, Man o'War or Secretariat, there's no debating who meant more to the thoroughbred industry. Man o'War's breeder, August Belmont Jr., was the father of the thoroughbred industry in New York. He was The Jockey Club's first president. He also served as the first chairman of the New York Racing Commission.

In 1905, he built Belmont Park. The only 1 1/2 mile racetrack in the United States, Belmont Park is one of the most prestigious venues in the U.S. Along with Churchill Downs, Gulfstream, Saratoga, and Santa Anita, Belmont runs the highest-prized pursed races in the country.

Man o'War Most Important American Racehorse Ever

Like his breeder, Man o'War also built something, the United States breeding industry. Man o'War's influence became so profound that it lives on in most bloodlines in the United States. Not only was he a grandsire of Seabiscuit, he also sired War Admiral, who won the Triple Crown in 1937.

To understand how powerful Man o'War's influence has been, think about this: War Admiral sired such successful broodmare's that we can trace American Pharoah's lineage back on his broodmare's side to War Admiral. That means American Pharoah is related to Man o'War.

Not only is Pharoah related to Man o'War but so is Belmont Stakes winner D'Tara, the only 2-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner in history Tiznow, and Breeders' Cup Mile winner Tourist.

Horse racing is a today sport. We wager on races that happen right now, in the present. We shouldn't forget that, but we also shouldn't forget the history of horse racing. We can't begin to discuss thoroughbred racing history without first talking about the great Man o'War. Without him, today's thoroughbred industry might not even exist.