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Locustwood / Gotham Civic Association
Elmont, Long Island, New York 11003


Next Meeting:

December 18
7:30 PM

 

 

 

Man O' War


Jamaica Racetrack on June 22, 1920

Man O' War

When 65-year-old sportsman August Belmont II, son of the founder of Belmont Park, volunteered to fight in World War I in 1917, his young wife named their new colt My Man O' War in honor of her husband's patriotism. Still at war, Belmont sold the chestnut-colored horse to textile magnate Samuel Riddle the next year. Man O' War galvanized the slumping sport of horse racing and became a national hero.

Man O' War won 20 of 21 races during a career that spanned 1919 and 1920. He ran with sheer dominance winning one race by 100 lengths even though handicapping rules required him to carry as much as 138 pounds. Nicknamed Big Red and described as a living flame, he became so valuable that Riddle turned down a blank-check offer for him. In 1999, a panel assembled by the Associated Press deemed Man O' War the greatest horse of the twentieth century.

Intrigue followed the powerful thoroughbred. He required 24-hour security, as fans tried to pull souvenir hairs from him and he regularly received death threats. In his only loss, Big Red was caught sideways at the start and lost by a half-length to a horse appropriately named Upset. The starter of the race was blamed for springing the starting tape prematurely, and rumors of a fix persisted.

After Riddle retired Man O' War, due to his increasing handicap weight, the big horse sired nearly 400 foals (including 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral). Man o' War died in 1947 at the age of 30 of an apparent heart attack only a very short time after his longtime groom, Will Harbut died. Big Red's burial service was broadcast nationally and included nine eulogies.

He was originally interred at Faraway Farm, but in the early 1970s his remains were moved to a new burial site at the Kentucky Horse Park where his grave is marked with a statue by American sculptor, Herbert Haseltine.

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