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Man o' War: The Story of the Mostest Hoss

Updated: Mar 29, 2021

Thoroughbred racehorse Man o' War and jockey Clarance Kummer, undated.
Man o' War. Photo by the Keeneland Library Cook Collection. This image is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced in print or electronically without written permission of the Keeneland Library.

Early Life (1917):

March 29th, 1917 is a date forever etched into horse racing history as this is the date in which a high-strung but beautiful mare named Mahubah gave birth to her second foal, a colt by Fair Play that would be named Man o' War.

The foal was the vision of August Belmont Jr, though a foal that August hardly got to see grow up; the 65 year-old joined the United States Army and was off to serve in France during World War I. The foal was named Man o’ War by August’s wife - a tribute to her husband.

Man o' War was a handsome colt. He was completely chestnut aside from an unmistakable star and stripe on his head. Perhaps that in itself was another nod to August and his commitment to the United States. The Belmonts were going to race Man o’ War themselves but decided to liquidate their racing stable in 1918. Man o’ War was sold to Samuel D. Riddle for $5,000.

Two-Year Old Season (1919)

Man o’ War gleamed in the barn of trainer Louis Feustel. He was a big and strong colt with nerves that he had inherited from his dam and fire that he inherited from his sire. He walked with his head high and practically leaped when he ran. Man o' War covered tremendous amounts of ground with every stride and exuded talent and charisma.

Man o’ War was understandably favored in his debut race and proved his talent by soaring home 6 ½ lengths ahead of the field. He must have relished the attention given to a winning racehorse because afterwards he simply refused to be beat.

The young colt was back on the racetrack three days after his debut to win a 5 ½ furlong race by 3 lengths on a muddy Belmont track. Twelve days later, he won his first stakes race - the Youthful. Two days after that, Man o’ War carried 130 pounds to victory in the Hudson Stakes. Finally, Man o’ War won the Tremont Stakes.

Though raced rigorously, Man o’ War was just simply not tired yet! He shipped to Saratoga Race Course for the track’s prestigious Summer meet. There he defeated Upset by two-lengths in the United States Hotel Stakes despite stumbling at the start and carrying 130 pounds.

Man o’ War was entered into the Sanford Memorial Stakes after his victory in the United States Hotel Stakes. He was the odd-on favorite, but things did not go as planned. The start had been delayed for several minutes because horses kept breaking through the barrier. Because of this, the starting assistant started the race before all of the horses were completely ready. Unfortunately for Man o’ War, he was one of the horses that was not ready. He was circling and some accounts say that he was completely turned around when the the field took off. Regardless, Man o’ War started later than every other horse in the race. In addition to this, jockey Johnny Loftus was unable to get Man o’ War into a good position, leaving Man o’ War to lose by a neck to the aptly named Upset.

The Sanford Memorial Stakes would be the only loss of Man o’ War’s career. Though he was defeated, he had shown his true grit and guts. He was a fighter in the truest sense. No respect was lost for Man o’ War on that day.

Man o’ War got his revenge ten days later in the Grand Union Hotel Stakes, beating Upset by two lengths and tying the stakes record. One week later, Man o’ War was entered in the Hopeful Stakes. This time it was he who was to blame for a slow start - he broke through the barrier several times, delaying the race by twelve minutes. When the race finally started, Man o’ War won it by an easy six lengths.

Finally, Man o’ War won the Belmont Futurity by 2 ½ lengths. His two-year old season was an amazing one. He had shown supremacy over his crop. Man o’ War was able to perform at his fullest capacity in races just a few days apart. He had also shown his ability to win with high weights.