Sunday, October 24, 2010

Man 'O' War

Man 'O' War was is considered one of the greatest racehorses of all time. During his career just after World War 1, he won 20 out of 21 races and 249, 465 in purses. By the pominent sire of Fair Play, out of the mare Mahubah, Man 'O' War was owned and bred by August Belmont, Jr. (1851-1924), who's father's accomplishments were recognized through the naming of the Belmont Stakes.
Belmont Jr. joined the United States Army at age 65 to serve in France during World War 1. While he was overseas, his wife named a new foal "Man 'O' War" in honor of her husband. However, the Belmonts decided to liquidate their racing stable. At the Saratoga yearling sale in 1918, Man 'O' War was sold at a final bid of 5,oo to Samuel D. Riddle who brought him to his Glen Riddle Farm near Berlin, Maryland.
The underbidder at the auction was believed to be Robert L. Gerry, Sr. Above is Man 'O' War. He was a reddish dark brown horse.

A painting of Man 'O' War. (Above and below.)

As a two year old
Trained by Louis Fuestel and ridden by Johnny Loftus, Man 'O' War made an impressive racing debut on June 6, 1919, winning by six lengths. Three weeks later he won the Keene Memorial Stakes.
In the early 1900s, there were no starting gates. Jockeys circled around and then gathered their horses in a line behind a flimsy piece of webbing known as the barrier and were sent away when it was raised. In Man 'O' Wars only loss, the Sanford Memorial Stakes, he still was circling with his back to the starting line when the barrier was raised (though some accounts give other reasons). After the jockey got Man 'O' War turned around, he already was far behind the pack.
In frustration, Johnny Loftus, the jockey, made major errors. Three times he put Man 'O' War in bad positions, getting boxed in by other horses.
Despite this, he came close to winning, losing by half a length as Man 'O' War charged across the finish line, going much faster than any other horse on the track, and ultimately finishing second. The winner was Upset, whose name is sometimes erreneously thought to have popularized a new phrase in sports ("upset" meaning an upstart beating the favorite) Man 'O' War finished his two year old campagne with nine wins from ten starts.