Man o’ War, the greatest Thoroughbred racehorse of the 20th century, set numerous records and sired 64 odds winners and over 200 champions and mares. Born in 1917, his bloodline can be traced back to the Godolphin Arabian. He won 20 of his 21 races, including the Hopeful, Futurity, Belmont, and Wither Stakes, and was named Horse of the Year in 1920. He retired at age three due to fear of excessive weight in handicap racing. Man o’ War sired numerous famous stallions and mares and died in 1947 at the age of 30.
Man o’ War was an American racehorse who is widely regarded as the greatest Thoroughbred racehorse of the 20th century as well as one of the best sires. In addition to setting numerous records, the horse has also sired a staggering 64 odds winners and over 200 assorted champions and mares. Many horses on racetracks around the world are related to Man o’ War in some way, although if his breeding had been better managed, his kin would have been much more abundant.
He was born in 1917 on Nursery Stud Farm, to the mare Mahubah who had been bred at Fair Play. His bloodline can be directly traced back to the Godolphin Arabian, part of the founder stock of the purebred breed. Fair Play was known to be a temperamental and difficult to handle stallion, and Mahubah could be a handful too; these traits certainly manifested themselves in Man o’ War, who was known to be a stubborn horse. His owner and breeder, August Belmont, was deployed overseas to fight in World War I and Belmont’s wife named the colt “My Man o’ War”, after her husband. The “My” was abandoned when he was a one-year-old and the Belmont farm was liquidated.
After Man o’ War was sold he was taken to Glen Riddle Farm for training. In his first year of racing, the horse won 9 of the 10 races he was entered, with Johnny Loftus aboard. Conditions in the single race that Man o’ War lost were less than ideal: there was a problem at the starting gate which resulted in the horse facing backwards at the start of the race. Despite this, he jumped ahead, losing to Upset by about half a length. In his second year on the track, the horse won all 11 races he raced in.
During his racing career, Man o’ War won the Hopeful, Futurity, Belmont and Wither Stakes, among others. He also won the Jockey Club’s Gold Cup and was named Horse of the Year in 1920. On the track, the extremely large, well-muscled horse with the bright red coat outpaced most of his competition, often leaping for the finish line. after getting far ahead of the contest. Many racing enthusiasts had high hopes for Man o’ War’s future racing career, which were dashed by the decision to retire him, out of fear that he would be forced to carry excessive amounts of weight in handicap racing aged four and above.
One of the few famous American races in which Man o’ War did not run was the Kentucky Derby. The Dernon was as prominent in the 1920s as it is today, and the horse’s owner disliked racing in Kentucky, so he chose not to enter the horse camp. Later, Man o’ War easily beat Derin’s field horses in other races, indicating that he probably would have dominated the race, had he been entered.
In addition to siring numerous famous stallions such as Hard Tack (sire of Seabiscuit), War Admiral, Crusader and Battleship, Man o’ War also sired numerous fillies, many of whom became famous mares. He died in 1947 at the age of 30, shortly after the death of his longtime spouse. The horse is buried at the Kentucky Horse Park, where a large statue of him stands guard.