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”
Man O’ War and his groom, Will Harbut
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.
Originally interred at Faraway Farm, in the early 1970’s his remains were moved to the Kentucky horse Park where is grave is marked with a statue by American Sculptor Herbert Haseltine.
Man O’ War peering from his stall at age 30
Man O’ War
March 29, 1917 – November 1, 1947