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Man o'War

"race Of The Century"

Indeed, Man o' War didn't need the publicity of a Triple Crown to prove his mettle. In an age of tintype and telegraph, the horse's name and exploits were known around the world. The only problem was finding Thoroughbreds who could provide competition for the big colt. Only one horse challenged in the Belmont, two in the Travers Stakes, and one in the Lawrence Realization at Belmont Park. In the latter race, Man o' War outran a horse named Hoodwink by an astounding one-hundred lengths.

A contender finally arose. Canadian-bred Sir Barton had the previous year become the first winner of the Triple Crown. The horse-racing community of fans demanded a match race between the four-year-old Sir Barton and three-year-old Man o' War. The two were set to meet at Kenilworth Park in Windsor, Ontario, on October 12, 1920. Both horses had gone through their share of bad luck prior to the match: Sir Barton was said to be sore-footed; Man o' War had suffered a bowed tendon in the Potomac Handicap. But by race day both horses were pronounced fit to run, and bettors made Man o' War the overwhelming favorite at 5 to 100.

In preparing for the mile-and-quarter race, "the jockeys had been given identical instructions—get to the front and stay there," as Marvin Drager wrote in The Most Glorious Crown. "Man o' War was fractious at the barrier, which was located at the near turn of the track. Sir Barton, on the rail, was more docile and broke first with the flag." At the first turn Sir Barton led, but his advantage was "short-lived," said Drager, "as Man o' War caught up quickly and went ahead to stay after they had traveled only sixty yards." When the shouting was over, "Big Red" had proven himself once again, beating the Triple Crown champion by a margin of seven lengths and at a time that clipped more than six seconds off the existing track record. "It was a ridiculously easy victory," noted Drager.

Man o' War's Kenilworth romp was big news: the first horse race "filmed in its entirety around a circular track," Drager reported. The race also marked the end of Man o' War's two-season career. After earning a record $249,465, he was retired to stud in 1921. The chestnut stallion became known as a prodigious producer of quality foals. In 1926, his offspring won more than $400,000; among his 366 registered foals were sixty-four stakes winners, Triple Crown champion War Admiral, Kentucky Derby winner Clyde Van Dusen, and Battleship, who took England's Grand National steeplechase in 1938. A grandson, Seabiscuit, became a popular money-winner in the 1930s.

Awards and Accomplishments

1919 Winner of maiden race at Belmont in June
1919 Winner of next eight of nine starts, June-September
1920 Winner of the Preakness Stakes
1920 Winner of the Belmont Stakes by twenty lengths, setting a new track record
1920 Winner of all eleven starts
1920 Winner of match race against Triple Crown winner Sir Barton
1999 Named one of ESPN's one-hundred greatest athletes of the twentieth century

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsHorse RacingMan o'War - A Breed Apart, Post Time For "big Red", Related Biography: Breeder August Belmont Jr.