This Blog is dedicated to the Noble and Great horses in our lives and throughout history. Visit the land of the unicorns in Behind The Mist, the horse lover's fantasy for pre-teens to adults.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

MAN O' WAR - Greatest Horse of the 20th Century

I only know of one horse for whom a heavy metal band was named! Actually, I don't listen to heavy metal bands but I thought it was fun to make the connection with one of the most famous horses of all time. The second scene in Mists of Darkness-Book Two of the Mist Trilogy takes place at Churchill Downs when the evil unicorn Hasbadana sends his oppressive mist to the famous race track to "invite" horses to join his army. So, in honor of Mists of Darkness's impending release, I decided to do another blog post about a famous race horse...clearly one of the noble and great horses that is surely a unicorn now.

Man o' War was born in Lexington, Kentucky on March 29th, 1917. His owner and breeder was August Belmont, Jr. (1851-1924.) The Belmont Stakes had been named after his father. At the age of 65, August Belmont, Jr. joined the U.S. Army to fight in France during World War I. The foal was born while he was away and Mrs. Belmont named it Man o' War in honor of her husband's brave service for his country.

Upon returning from the war, August decided that he was done with the horse racing business and Man o' War was sold at the Saratoga Yearling Auction in 1918 for $5,000. The buyer was Samuel Riddle. The beautiful yearling proved to be a very wise purchase. With Jockey Johnny Loftus riding, Man o' War won 9 our of 10 races as a two-year-old. In those days, there were no starting gates. All of the  horses circled around behind a piece of webbing that was stretched across the track. When the "barrier" as it was called was lifted, the horses started running. In his one loss, it has been reported that Loftus had Man o' War facing the wrong direction when the barrier was lifted and the rest of the field got a big head start on him.

As a three-year-old, Man o' War was 16 and a half hands tall and weighed 1,150 pounds. Clarence Kummen became his new jockey when Loftus was denied a renewal of his license by the Jockey Club. Man o' War was not entered in the Kentucky Derby because his wise owner thought he was too young to go the 1 and 1/4 mile long race. If you have been reading my blog long, you know how I feel about racing these horses at such a young age. Anyway, Man o' War went on to obliterate all of the other horses he raced against until, by the end of the season, no one wanted to race him.

His final race was in Canada against the previous year's Triple Crown winner (though they didn't call it that back then,) Sir Barton. Man o' War won easily.

Man o' War won 20 out of his 21 races and broke numerous world, American and track records. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and the Hall of Fame in 1957. The AP ranked Man o' War as the greatest horse of the 20th Century.

Man o'War retired in Kentucky and sired many fabulous horses. He died on Nov. 1, 1947 at the age of 30.

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