Horse > Man o’ War
Man o’ War
Following the conclusion of World War I, the world of sport began to return to its normal course and few stars made as much of an impact on the culture of competition than Man o’ War.
Born on March 29, 1917, Man o’ War would become one of the most accomplished race horses of all time. He owns a staggering record of 20-1-0 in 21 starts and earned $249,465 during his career.
Sired by Fair Play out of Mahubah, Man o’ War ran in 10 races during his juvenile season in 1919. He dominated his first six starts before suffering his only defeat in Saratoga’s Sanford Memorial Stakes. Missing the start when he wasn’t facing ahead, Man o’War was then boxed in during the running and couldn’t catch the aptly-named Upset, to whom he was conceding 15 pounds.
Man o’ War won his next three juvenile starts, including the 1919 Hopeful Stakes and the 1919 Belmont Futurity, which were considered the most prestigious races for 2-year-olds at that time.
Man o’ War didn’t run in the 1920 Kentucky Derby, as his owner, Samuel D. Riddle, thought 1 ¼ miles was too far for a 3-year-old in early May. Instead he made his 3-year-old debut in in the 1920 Preakness Stakes, winning comfortably, before taking out the Withers Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, the latter by 20 lengths.
The superstar colt would go undefeated in 11 3-year-old starts, rarely being troubled, winning important races such as the 1920 Dwyer, Travers Stakes and Jockey Gold Cup.
For his final race, Man o’ War competed in a match race in Canada, the 1920 Kenilworth Park God Cup against 1919 Triple Crown winner Sir Barton. Man o’ War would win by seven lengths to end his career on a high note. At the time, Riddle had intended to run Man o’ War as a 4-year-old but decided against it due to the likelihood of carrying huge weights in handicap races.
Man o’ War instead retired and went on to become an important stallion, siring 62 stakes winners from 381 named foals, including 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral (a notable sire himself), and War Relic, whose sire line continues today. Man o’ War’s influence on modern Thoroughbred bloodlines is still intact and there is barely a pedigree in current North American racing that does not carry his name.
Following a sudden heart attack in 1943, Man o’ War would be retired from stud. Three years later, the champion runner and sire would die on November 1, 1947 at the age of 30. The horse’s death was felt by so many across the country that his funeral was broadcast nationwide on NBC Radio.
Man o’ War retired with not only an incredible record, but with American Horse of the Year honors in 1920, American Champion Two-Year Old Colt in 1919, American Champion Three-Year Old Male Horse in 1920 and was also the Leading Sire in North America in 1926.
The U.S. Racing Hall of Fame inducted Man o’ War in 1957 and a life-sized statue was erected at Kentucky Horse Pack to honor the champion as well. The Man o’ War Stakes was inaugurated in 1959 at Belmont Park and continues to run today.
The widespread impact of Man o’ War’s influence on American Thoroughbred horse racing is undeniable. In fact, he has been listed as the greatest racehorse of the 20th century by the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and many others. Fans and followers of the sport regard Man o’War as the most important American racehorse ever.