Big Red's Biography
||Born: March 29, 1917, at Nursery Stud, Lexington, Kentucky|
Died: November 1, 1947 (age 30), at Faraway Farm, buried at the Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, Kentucky
Man O'War. When you hear that name, you cannot help but be overcome with joy, especially if you're a fan. Who is Man o'War you say? Only the greatest racehorse to ever step foot on a track. The strapping horse was an American idol in his own right and earned the admiration of people from coast to coast. Not only did he have blistering speed, but he had a heart that was so big that every time he went to the racetrack, you found that your own heart stopped because his was beating for everyone at that moment. He had a presence that mesmorized many and disappointed few. Here is his heroic story, the story of a gangly weanling that nobody was interested in; to the superhorse that would conquer the hearts of thousands, and about a horse, who 80 years after his last race is still a household name.
Man o'War was foaled on March 29, 1917 out of the mare Muhubah. Right from the get-go, people knew Man o'War was a special colt because he was born unafraid with fiery eyes like that of his immortal grandsire, Hastings. Muhubah had another foal, a full sister to Big Red named Masda. Their sire was Fair Play, who of course was by the fiery Hastings. The hot line of Hastings-Fair Play was somewhat tamed by the mellow mood given by the Rock Sand-Muhubah descent. (Rock Sand being Muhubahs sire)
August Belmont II bred Man o'War and at the time was thinking of selling of his whole foal crop for that year. He had decided to keep some broodmares for the breeding end of his operation, but with a war coming and him being called for service, he needed to disperse his yearlings. At first, he opted not to sell Man o'War (who was name by his wife) but to keep him for himself. However, at the time it was not the greatest of ideas, and decided to bring him to the Saratoga Yearling sale, where he was sold for the miniscule amount of $5,000. (Later in years, Man O'War beat horses (Golden Broom) that were in this sale that owners bought for $10,000 more)
Samuel Riddle was the new owner of the gangly colt. His regular trainer, Louis Feustal urged Riddle to make this purchase, mostly because he had had a part in the training of his sire and grandsire. (He galloped Hastings when he was 10, and was stable foreman at the farm during Fair Play's time)
Man o'War made his racing debut in a Maiden 6F race against 6 others. With no surprise, he won easily by 6 lengths. Three days later he made his stakes debut in the Keene Memorial for 2yo's. Once again he beat 6 other promising colts. A tradition that would only break for one race.
Man O'War then raced in the Youthful Stakes at Jamaica Park eleven days later. And two days after the Youthful, he went to Aqueduct where he entered into the Hudson Stakes. He carried 130lb in the Hudson (which was almost unheard of for a juvenile). Even with the weight, he won easily, and the second horse was 2 1/2 lengths behind giving 21 lbs!!
Man O'War, again carrying 130lbs went on to win the Tremont Stakes from only 2 other horses. He then went to Saratoga and gave weight all around to win the United States Hotel Stakes, defeating Upset by 1 length. Upset was carrying only 115 lbs.
On August 13, 1919 came the very controversial race. This race earned Saratoga the nicknames "The house of upsets" and "graveyard of favorites". Why was this race so controversial? Well first off, it was the Sanford Memorial. Man O'War was to race against Golden Broom at level weights. At the time, Upset was not considered a big threat, seeing as Man O'War had beaten him before.
The real controversy came when they went to post for the race. Back in the early 1900's there were no starting gates, there was only a starting line where the horses would circle and line up. As fate would have it, Man O'War was still circling when the flag went down, and was not even facing the track. Man O'War must have felt awfully confused, having let the field run a way from him. His jockey, Johnny Loftus rightened him, but it was only a 6 furlong race, a great disadvantage. He started away and soon passed Captain Alcock, The Swimmer and Armistice. Big Red's jockey, Loftus, figured the shortest distance would be to shoot for the rail and head for Golden Broom. And again, as fate would have it, Donnoca was holdig up the rail. Golden Broom began to break under the 130 lb and Upset surged on. Man O'War continued to try to close, but was out of track with 1/2 length to go.
The unfair start left Man o'War in the dust of the short 6 furlong race. However, Man o'War was still praised as being the best horse. Man o'War went on to beat Upset six more times. But for that one instance, Upset had lived up to his name. The fate of the race was blamed on Big Red's rather succesful jockey, Loftus. The next year Loftus was denied a jockey's license..most speculate because the Sanford was fixed.
Ten days after the race, Man o'War went on to beat Upset in the Grand Union Hotel Stakes. A week after that, Man o'War held up the start of the Hopeful Stakes for 12 minutes. Maybe to remind people that he was Hastings grandson. He won, however, by four lengths over the game filly Cleopatra.
There was one horse who defeated Man o'War which as we all know was Upset. But there was only ONE horse who had enough CLASS to run with him and that was John P. Grier. Grier was a son of Whisk Broom II. The two first met at the Belmont Futurity, and Man o'War easily beat him. However, John P. Grier was just warming up....more about that later...
Man o'War did not race in the Kentucky Derby and Paul Jones took the honors. However, the Preaknes came and Man o'War galloped easily under the wire 1 1/2 lengths in front of the late closing Upset. Man o'War then ran in the Withers under 118 lbs. Odd! And he beat two other entrants, including Wildair by 2 lengths in a new American Record for a mile in 1:35 4/5. The Belmont Stakes came next and only Donnocona came to challenge.
Both Carrying the same weight Man o'War won in his own fashion by 20 lengths. He also set a new American Record for 1 3/8 miles in 2:14 1/5. This was 5 full second faster than Sir Barton's (1919 TC Winner). Man o'War then went to the Stuyvesant Handicap where he beat Yellowhand by 8 lengths.
The next step was the Dwyer at Aqueduct. Only John P. Grier came to challenge. The race was on and Grier and Big Red were neck and neck for almost a mile! Man o'War could not seem to shake him off. However, Big Red drew off to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Grier him self was no old hag. He was a high quality colt who would have been a champion any year but this! Grier's jockey was once quoted that he did not dare hit Grier with the whip because he knew that there was no need for punishment in this race. At the time he was the second best horse next to Man o'War. A great feat at the time. Grier's quality showed when he ran with the great Man o'War for a mile and the ended up only finishing 1 1/2 lengths back. Man o'War time was set at another American Record of 1:49 1/5.
Big Red was sent against the clock in the Lawrence Realization. Only one horse came up, Hoodwink, mostly out of sportsmanship of the owner. Feustal knowing there was no challenge let him run. The 1 5/8 mile record was 2:45 flat. Man o'War won the race by an estimated 100 lengths in a new American time of 2:40 4/5. It was said he "won by a mile" but the officials did not speak in the language and rounded it to 100.
Man o'War went on to win the 1 1/2 mile Jockey Club Stakes in an American Record of 2:28 4/5. He won the Potomac Handicap. He began to bow a tendon in the race, and the leg begin to be trouble. However, he would race just one more time. A Farewell Race.
Man o'War's final start was against older horse Sir Barton in the 1 1/4 mile Kenilworth Park Gold Cup. In this race Man o'War carried only 120 lbs to Sir Bartons 126. Man o'War won by 7 lengths. (At that time, Match races were not allowed so another horse was entered in the race, but scratched before post time.) However, it was said after the race that Sir Barton had had sore feet. After the race rumours were flying. The owner of Exterminator had been offended for not being invited to the race. And Earl Sande was replaced by Frank Keogh for the ride on Sir Barton just a few minutes before post. An also, Fuestal had found out that someone had tried to slice Man O'Wars stirrup leather. But fortunatly it had held up. However, Fuestal realized the threat facing Man o'War should he continue racing.
Many offers for other match races were presented but declined. On January 7, 1921, Man o'War was ridden under silks at the Lexington Association Track.
Man o'War died quietly on November 1, 1947 at the age of 30. Man o'War was eventually moved to the Kentucky Horse Park, where the original burial site was recreated. More than 50 years after his death, he still attracts thousands of visitors anually. And in the words of Will Harbut, Red's groom, he is still the "mostest hoss."