Man O' War statue

Man o’ War

Of the Many Horses Which Live On in the Hearts of Americans, One Horse is Most Remembered – Man o’ War.

Those who knew Man o’ War were enriched by the experience. This was not just another racehorse. Man o’ War was one of 1,680 Thoroughbreds foaled in 1917. He was born on March 29 at the Kentucky Nursery Stud owned by August Belmont II. Man o’ War’s sire was Fair Play, by Hastings, both of whom were mean and temperamental, but excellent weight carriers. To provide balance to Fair Play’s temper, Belmont bred him to Mahubah, by Rock Sand who had won the British Triple Crown. Her ancestors were even-tempered and intelligent.

He was named by Mrs. Belmont, “My Man o’ War”-since he was a war baby. Belmont’s insight as a breeder ultimately paid off, if not in money. Belmont was to serve in the Army in 1918, so he ordered his entire crop of yearlings sold at Saratoga.

Big Red’s Yearling Sale and Training

At Saratoga, Man o’ War was bought by Pennsylvania horseman Samuel Riddle for $5,000. Riddle reasoned that if the big, chestnut yearling didn’t succeed as a race horse, he could perhaps be trained as a show jumper. The horse was shipped to Riddle’s training farm, “Glen Riddle, ” in Maryland. Man o’ War was trained by Louis Feustel who had trained Mahubah, Fair Play, and Hastings. Here Man o’ War grew to the size and name of “Big Red.”

When he was sent off to his first race at Belmont Park, a retired bay hunter named Major Treat accompanied him and would continue to travel with Man o’ War throughout his racing career.

Racing Career “By Himself”


Man o’ War went undefeated as a three-year-old in 1920, and reduced the American record for the mile by two-fifths of a second, to 1:35 4/5; and even at that, his jockey – now Clarence Kummer – had held him back. Later, in the Belmont Stakes, he went 1 3/8 in 2:14 1/4 which stood for 50 years. By the time of the Dwyer Stakes at Aqueduct, Man o’ War could find only one opponent, John P. Grier, a horse from the Whitney Stables. In this race, Grier challenged Man o’ War, and Kummer used his whip for the first time. Man o’ War dashed to victory, and set a new American record at 1:45 1/5.

The crowning event of Man o’ War’s career came in a match race against the celebrated Canadian horse Sir Barton, the first winner of the Triple Crown. On October 12, 1920, he and Man o’ War met in Windsor, Ontario. Man o’ War won by seven lengths! In his career “Big Red” won 20 of 21 races.

Watch a segment of Man o’ War’s famous match race with Sir Barton.