Man O’ War: Mystery of the All Time Greatest Racehorse

Anyone who loves horseracing must have heard of the thoroughbred by the name of Man O’ War. The Kentucky born horse ruled the tracks for an extended period beginning around 1920, and, over seventy years after his demise, he is still considered the greatest racehorse that ever lived.

Here’s the Man O’ War story to captivate those who have never heard of him, and to once again excite those who already hold him in awe.

Man O’ War was born in 1917 in Kentucky to owner Samuel Riddle. He was raised in the same location but moved when the time came to start his racing career. For the entirety of his lengthy competitive career, he never competed in Kentucky but came back here for his final days and burial 30 years later.

Dominance from the Start

Man O’ War made his racing debut in 1919, just as the world was getting back on its feet after World War I. In that year, he won ten of the eleven races he participated in. He only lost at Saratoga, a racecourse that later earned the nickname ‘Graveyard of Champions.’ The winner in that race was ironically named ‘Upset.’

Many people argue that he lost because he was facing away when the race was started, owing to the style used of having racers circle the starting line before the gates opened. Man O’ War still managed to come second in that competition.

From that point on, Man O’ War became America’s favourite racehorse and was especially loved by bettors. He became a firm favourite in practically every race he participated in, with an odds-on superiority in every single race that he started.

After the loss to Upset, Man O’ War went on to beat the same horse four other times. He dominated races in the three and four-year categories, winning by as much as 20 lengths in some instances. He is widely hailed as the horse that single-handedly earned America a racing reputation.

His swansong race was the 1920 Kenilworth Park Gold Cup, in which he won by a seven-lengths margin over second placed Sir Barton. Riddle then decided not to enter the horse in any other competition, to avoid weight handicaps, opting to retire him to become a stud instead.

His lineage has been long and star-studded, producing great racers like Secretariat and Sea Biscuit. Most American thoroughbred horses you will find today come from Man O’ War’s pedigree.

Legend in Death

Following a heart attack in 1943, Man O’ War retired from stud and died three years later aged 30. He was buried in a specially designed casket in a live broadcast funeral. Later, he was re-interred and a statue sculpted in his honour.

Several films have been based on Man O’ War’s life. In 1957 he entered the racing Hall of Fame.