Man O’ War was born 100 years ago today, March 29, 1917. Unquestionably the greatest Thoroughbred through his accomplishments on the track and as a stud. A century later “Big Red” remains the benchmark by which all American thoroughbreds are measured.
He was a bold chestnut, 16’2 ½ hands, with one of the longest strides measured in racing history – 28 feet. It was nearly impossible to beat him, in fact it only happened once. In 1917 a race began with the horses lining up behind a line, not in a starting gate, the race started when the line was lifted. Man O’ War’s only loss occurred when the race started and he was facing the opposite direction. He spun about and chased down the field, one by one, gaining strongly on the last horse but he ran out of room. He lost by a nose to a horse named Upset.
He raced two years, 1919 and 1920 and retired with a 20-1-0 record. His lifetime winnings were $249,465.
Turf writer Joe Palmer wrote, “He could get in no position which suggested actual repose, and his very stillness was that of a coiled spring, of the crouched tiger.”
As a stud his progeny’s accomplishments built upon his legacy. He sired 381 foals of which 62 were stakes winners including; War Admiral, Hard Tack, War Relic, Tsukitomo and Battleship. In his 27 years at the stud farm, more than 1.5 million people drove to Kentucky to see the big chestnut. His longtime groom, Will Harbut, would lead the stallion out on display and proudly proclaim his charge’s many accomplishments. Harbut called Man o’ War “the mostest horse that ever was”
He was such a national hero his funeral was broadcast live on NBC Radio. One Kentucky horseman Ira Drymon said, “He touched the imagination of men and they saw different things in him. But one thing they will all remember was that he brought exaltation into their hearts.
Man O’ War
March 29, 1917 – November 1, 1947
- Man o’ War was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1957.
- In 1959, the Man o’ War Stakes was created 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.
- He was also ranked No. 1 by the Associated Press as the greatest horse of the 20th century in a separate poll.
- He was also ranked No. 1 greatest horse in racing history by Sports Illustrated (panel of 7) in 1992.
- ESPN ranked Man o’ War as number 84 on their list of the top athletes of the 20th century.
EXHIBIT CELELBRATES THE CENTURY OF MAN O’ WAR
If you are visiting Kentucky this summer, you might check out this tribute exhibit to Man O’ War at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Man o’ War at 100: The Mostest Horse That Ever Was will run at the International Museum of the Horse from March 29, 2017 through November 5, 2017. The International Museum of the Horse is celebrating Man o’ War’s 100th birthday with an exhibit in his honor! Come experience the story of the life and career of the original Big Red and those who worked with him. Discover what created Man o’ War’s lasting legacy and how he became the mostest horse.
MAN O’ WAR IN MOTION
WARHorses has curated the best YouTube videos as we pay tribute to Big Red’s 100th birthday today, March 29.
The first clip is the 1920 match race between Man O’ War and Sir Barton.
The second clip includes great narrative and a compilation of clips thought the ending is rather abrupt, it is insightful, informative viewing.
The third video is various clips of Man O’ War and gives a good sense of the power and awe of this great Thoroughbred.