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Man O'War - 3/29/17 to 11/1/47

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Man O'War Statue

The Man O'War statue at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

Cindy Pierson Dulay

      Hold your strength till the barriers fly,
      then close with the leaders eye to eye.
      Thundering hooves and the mad jammed race,
      blood in the nostrils, sweat in the face.
      And children, remember wherever you are,
      you carry the blood of Man o' War.
            - Anonymous

Over Fifty years ago the great Man O'War passed away at the age of 30 as the result of a failing heart. His lifetime companion and groom, Will Harbut, had died only a month earlier. He was embalmed and lay in state for several days in a specially made casket lined with his racing colors, the first horse ever buried this way. As many as 2000 people attended his funeral, lining up for one last look or a pat on the neck and racing fans all over the country mourned him. Today his grave is marked by the famous Man O'War statue by Haseltine at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Even 50 years later when racing is not nearly as popular, almost everyone has heard of Man O'War. He is the yardstick that greatness is still measured against in horse racing. His lifetime record was 21 starts with 20 wins and a second place and he retired as the leading money winner in America at the time. He set 8 records, 3 world records, 2 American records, and 3 track records and broke most by several seconds. He carried as much as 138 pounds, conceding as much as 30 pounds to his rivals and still beat them by large margins. He was so superior to other horses of his time that the Jockey Club handicapper said he would put more weight on him than any horse had ever carried as a 4 year old. Rather than tempt fate and risk a breakdown under ridiculously heavy weights, his owner opted to retire him after his 3 year old campaign.

As a sire, he had many excellent offspring including the Triple Crown winner War Admiral. His stud career is often described as mismanaged as his owner mostly allowed him to be bred to only to his own mares. Had he been handled better, there is no telling how influential he could have been. As it is, he still appears in many pedigrees of today's thoroughbreds but mostly via he daughters who became excellent broodmares. His sire line still survives today in a few stallions like Relaunch.

Take a minute to remember Man O'War today on the anniversary of his death.

More about Man O'War:

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