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Man o' War

Man o' War
Man o' War, 1920
Sire Fair Play
Dam Mahubah
Grandsire Hastings
Damsire Rock Sand
Gender Stallion
Foaled 1917
Country United States
Color Chestnut
Breeder August Belmont, Jr.
Owner Samuel D. Riddle
Trainer Louis Feustel
Record 21: 20–1–0
Earnings $249,465
Man o' War is a thoroughbred racehorse out of Mahubah by Fair Play. He was born around 1917 in the United States, and was bred by August Belmont, Jr..
Major wins
Tremont Stakes (1919)
Grand Union Hotel Stakes (1919)
United States Hotel Stakes (1919)
Hopeful Stakes (1919)
Futurity Stakes (1919)
Youthful Stakes (1919)
Preakness Stakes (1920)
Belmont Stakes (1920)
Travers Stakes (1920)
Jockey Club Gold Cup (1920)
Lawrence Realization Stakes (1920)
Stuyvesant Handicap (1920)
Miller Stakes (1920)
Withers Stakes (1920)
Potomac Handicap (1920)
Dwyer Stakes (1920)
United States Champion 2-Yr-Old Colt (1919)
United States Horse of the Year (1920)
Leading sire in North America (1926)
U.S. Racing Hall of Fame (1957)
#1 - Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century
Life-size statue at Kentucky Horse Park
Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park
Man o' War Boulevard in Lexington, Kentucky
Man o' War Road in Riddlewood, Pennsylvania
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)
Last updated on August 23, 2007

Man o' War, (March 29, 1917 Nursery Stud farm, Lexington, Kentucky – November 1, 1947, Faraway Farm) is considered one of the greatest thoroughbred racehorses of all time.[1] During his career just after World War I, he won 20 of 21 races and $249,465 in purses.[2]

By the prominent sire Fair Play, out of the mare Mahubah, Man o' War was owned and bred by August Belmont, Jr. (1851-1924), whose father's accomplishments were recognized through the naming of the Belmont Stakes. Belmont Jr. joined the United States Army at age 65 to serve in France during World War I. While he was overseas, his wife named a new foal "Man o' War" in honor of her husband.[3] However, the Belmonts decided to liquidate their racing stable. At the Saratoga yearling sale in 1918, Man o' War was sold at a final bid of $5,000 to Samuel D. Riddle who brought him to his Glen Riddle Farm near Berlin, Maryland. The underbidder at the auction was believed to be Robert L Gerry, Sr.[4]


Racing career

As a two-year old

Trained by Louis Feustel and ridden by Johnny Loftus, Man o' War made an impressive racing debut at Belmont Park on June 6, 1919, winning by six lengths. Three weeks later he won the Keene Memorial Stakes.

In the early 1900s, there were no starting gates. Jockeys circled around and then gathered their horses in a line behind a flimsy piece of webbing known as the barrier and were sent away when it was raised.[5] In Man o' War's only loss, the Sanford Memorial Stakes, he still was circling with his back to the starting line when the barrier was raised (though some accounts give other reasons). [6] After the jockey got Man o' War turned around, he already was far behind the pack. In frustration, Johnny Loftus, the jockey, made major errors. Three times he put Man o' War in bad positions, getting boxed in by other horses. Despite this, he came close to winning, losing by only a half-length as Man o' War charged across the finish line, going much faster than any other horse on the track, and ultimately finishing second. The winner was Upset, whose name is sometimes erroneously thought to have popularized a new phrase in sports ("upset" meaning an upstart beating the favorite)[7] Man o' War finished his two-year-old campaign with nine wins from ten starts.

As a three-year old

In 1920, Johnny Loftus was denied a renewal of his jockey's license by the racing commission and was replaced as Man o' War's rider by Clarence Kummer. Loftus retired and became a trainer.

At three, Man o' War was a strapping 16.2 hands (167.6 centimeters) and weighed about 1,150 pounds with a 72-inch girth.[8] That May, Man o' War was not entered in the Kentucky Derby because his owner did not like racing in Kentucky and believed it was too early in the year for a young horse to go a mile and a quarter. The previous year, Sir Barton had won the first-ever U.S. Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, though it was not called that at the time.[9] It gained that prestige and importance 10 years later, when Gallant Fox accomplished the feat under a great deal of media attention.

File:Man o War.jpg
Man o' War in the 1920 Stuyvesant Handicap

In easily winning the 1⅛-mile Preakness Stakes, Man o' War set a new Pimlico track record of 1:38-3/5 for a mile then was eased up for the final eighth of a mile to finish in a time of 1:51-3/5. [1] The horse was next sent to Elmont, New York for the Belmont Stakes. Man o' War won the then-1⅜-mile race by 20 lengths, setting another American record with a time of 2:14.20, beating Sir Barton's record set the previous year by over three seconds. That year he also won the Dwyer Stakes, the Travers Stakes, the Stuyvesant Handicap, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. As the racing season wound down, no one wanted to race against the seemingly invincible Man o' War, who had easily won every race he entered. In the Lawrence Realization Stakes, no other horse was willing to go up against him until a racehorse named Hoodwink was good-heartedly entered by Mrs. Riddle's niece, Sarah Jeffords. Man o' War won by more than 100 lengths while setting a new world record of 2:40-4/5 for a mile and five-eighths, besting the previous record by six seconds, a track record that still stands.

The final start of Man o' War's career came in Windsor, Ontario, Canada in the Kenilworth Park Gold Cup, a race that for the first time was filmed in its entirety. For this 1¼-mile match race, Man o' War was running up against the great Sir Barton but easily drew away in the first furlong, showing a decided superiority to the first Triple Crown winner, and was slowed to win by seven lengths. Following his undefeated season of 11 straight wins, Man o' War was shipped to Lexington, Kentucky, to enter at stud at Elizabeth Daingerfield's Haylands and later moved to Riddle's Faraway Farm. Over his two-year career, Man o' War won 20 of 21 races, setting three world records, two American records and three track records.

(*The Kenilworth Park Gold Cup was in actuality a "match race" between Sir Barton and Man o' War. Another champion horse, Exterminator, was invited to compete in the race, since Canada did not allow match races. Due to the owners of the three not coming to a compromise on the conditions of the race, Exterminator was scratched, and in fact raced that same day on a different track.)

Weight carrying

As a two-year-old, he carried 130 pounds in six races; few horses ever carried that much (at any age) as he did at that age. As a three-year-old, he carried as much as 138 pounds in races, giving away as much as 32 pounds to other horses.

A sire of champions

As a sire, Man o' War was impressive as well; he produced more than 64 stakes winners and various champions. Though many believe that Riddle did not breed the stallion to enough good mares after the first five seasons, he still sired many great horses. Man o' War sired American Flag and Crusader who won successive Belmont Stakes in 1925 and 1926. Although there were no official champions in America at the time, both colts were generally considered the best three-year-old colts of their year, and Crusader was also largely accepted as the best racehorse of 1926. Among Man o' War's other famous offspring were 1929 Kentucky derby winner, Clyde Van Dusen, Battleship, who won the 1938 English Grand National steeplechase, and War Admiral, the 1937 Triple Crown winner and the second official Horse of the Year. Another of his offspring, Hard Tack, sired Seabiscuit, who was Horse of the Year in 1938. Man o' War's most successful sons at stud were War Admiral and War Relic, and War Relic's branch of the male line survives today. Tiznow, Honour and Glory, and Bertrando are also all sire-line descendants of Man o' War. Many great horses, if you look long into their pedigrees, have some type of relation to Man o' War.

Man o' War died in 1947 at 30 of an apparent heart attack only a very short time after his longtime groom, Will Harbut, died. He was originally interred at Faraway Farm, but, in the early 1970s, his remains were moved to a new burial site at the Kentucky Horse Park, where his grave is marked with a statue by American sculptor, Herbert Haseltine. He has been the subject of four notable biographies: the first, Man o' War, by Page Cooper and Roger Treat, was published in 1950, and is a classic of its kind; Walter Farley, author of The Black Stallion series, also wrote a slightly fictional biography of Man o' War; in 2000, Bowen, Edward L. wrote an eloquent and thoroughly researched biography called Man o' War: Thoroughbred Legends from Eclipse Press; and in 2006, Dorothy Ours wrote a new, extensively sourced biography entitled Man o' War: A Legend Like Lightning.

Man o' War was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1957. Soon after, the Man o' War Stakes was made in his honor. In the Blood-Horse magazine ranking of the top 100 U.S. Thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century, Man o' War was ranked No. 1.

Pedigree of Man o' War
Fair Play
ch. 1905
br. 1893
ch. 1876
ch. 1858
ch. 1861
b. 1888
br. 1863
b. 1874
Fairy Gold
ch. 1896
Bend Or
ch. 1877
ch. 1870
Rouge Rose
ch. 1865
Dame Masham
br. 1889
br. 1880
b. 1883
b. 1910
Rock Sand (GB)
br. 1900
ch. 1887
ch. 1878
br. 1893
br. 1881
St. Marguerite
ch. 1879
Merry Token
b. 1891
Merry Hampton
b. 1884
b. 1872
Doll Tearsheet
b. 1880
b. 1867
Underhand Mare (FNo.4-c)

Through his sire, Man o' War is a descendant of the first English Triple Crown champion, West Australian, and Man o' War's dam, Mahubah, is a daughter of English Triple Crown winner Rock Sand. This male line traces to the Godolphin Arabian.

Cultural references

In Sterling A. Brown’s poem about Kentucky and an African American in pre-Civil Rights America, “Kentucky Blues” from “Southern Road,” a reference is made to Man o’ War. The poem discusses thoroughbred horses and other characteristics attributed to the state.

In M*A*S*H episode 130, “The Mash Olympics,” nurses are pushed on gurneys in a mock horse race, and Hawkeye’s horse is named “Gal o’ War” in a nod to Man o’ War.

According to Joey DeMaio, the heavy metal band Manowar was named after the horse.[10]

See also


  1. Ours 2006, p. 283.
  2. Ours 2006, p. 277.
  3. Ours 2006, pp. 18, 286.
  4. http://www.eclipsepress.com/mediaroom/pdf/SireLines_ex.pdf
  5. Ours 2006, p. 40.
  6. Ours 2006, p. 102.
  7. Hillenbrand, Laura. "Seabiscuit"
  8. Edward L. Bowen (2000), Man o' War: Thoroughbred Legends, Eclipse Press, USA, page 83, ISBN 978-1581500400: states "he filled out to 1,150...height reached 16.2 hands".
  9. Ours & 2006 Ours, p. 58.
  10. Michael Custodis, chapter: Manowar und das Erbe Richard Wagners, in: Klassische Musik heute. Eine Spurensuche in der Rockmusik, Bielefeld transcript-Verlag 2009 ISBN 978-3-8376-1249-3.


  • Cooper, Page & Treat, Roger L. (2004) [1950], Man o' War (Reprinted ed.), Yardley: Westholme Publishing, ISBN 1594160058 .
  • Hewitt, A. S. & Hewitt, A. S. (1982), The Great Breeders and Their Methods, Lexington, KY: Thoroughbred Publishers .

External links


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