Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Man O' War - actual video footage at the bottom of post

I found a favorite book from my childhood the other day.  It has my name written in my mother's handwriting and dated May 1978.

And my favorite story was "Big Red", by Arthur Bartlett.

The following is an excerpt from Laurie Powers blog:

Man O'War was this big red machine who set three world records and two American records, one of which still stands today. He was idolized from almost the very beginning, a true celebrity. It wasn't unusual for him to carry 135 or 138 pounds - an enormous weight for a racehorse to carry. In one race he carried 32 pounds more than the horse that came in second. By the time Man O'War was nearing the end of his career as a three year old, no one wanted to race against him, and a few races were sparse affairs where only two or three other horses were entered. In one of his last races, he almost won by default as no one else entered their horse. At the last minute a horse was entered. Man O'War won by 100 lengths. He was a freak of nature and by many people's opinion, the greatest racehorse of all time.

Since then, he has become an iconic figure of racing, but I wonder how many people nowadays really appreciate his stature in racing history. They certainly did back in 1947 when he died. Two thousand people attended his funeral.

His influence as a sire is unmatched. This link lists all of the annual racing champions since 1935, in every sex and age category. The descendants of Man O'War are shown in red. Besides the famous close descendants (War Admiral, Count Fleet, Seabiscuit), virtually every champion from 1993, in all categories, is a descendant of Man O'War. 

MAN O'WAR is a nostalgic look at horse racing back when there were no starting gates, when horses were brought along very slowly, and when trainers didn't want to race their horses when they were too young. Man O'War's owner refused to enter him in the Kentucky Derby because he disapproved of running a three year old over a mile and a quarter that early in the year. Hence why Man O'War was ironically not a Triple Crown winner. (But he did beat the horse that was the first Triple Crown winner - Sir Barton - in a match race.)

Back then, horses were solid and sound for the most part and could race every two or three weeks. Nowadays thoroughbreds are bred for speed, not soundness, and it's a longshot that a horse will even make it to the track. If they do, they run every four to six weeks. But don't get me started. 

Even though the great horse had outrun the Triple Crown winner, set numerous track records, and set world records that still stand today, Man o' War had never been fully extended, and he was retired without ever having the opportunity to display his full potential.

...proved that the Man o' Wars could jump as well as they could run. Apparently Samuel Riddle's first evaluation of Man o' War, the potential hunter, was correct. Big Red's offspring not only jumped well on the steeplechase course, but also with some style, as evidenced by the titles won by Holystone in the show ring.

Man o' War

There is very little video of Man O'War racing that exists; in fact, his match race with Sir Barton was the very first horse race filmed from beginning to end. This video, while presenting some claims in the beginning that are the subject of debate, has some of the best video of Man O'War, both racing and retired. Various parts of his race with Sir Barton are shown here. There's even a shot at the end at his funeral (he was embalmed and laid out) which is a little disturbing, but hey that's what they did back then. 

A living flame...

Am I re-reading C.W. Anderson's Favorite Horse Stories and falling in love with each one of them again as if I was 12 years old...  Yes.


Wayside Artist said...

Great post! When I was a kid, back in the 1960's - 70's you still saw Thoroughbreds like Man O' War - big legged horses. That pretty much ended with Secretariat I think. It's hard to enjoy horse racing anymore as the horses are so fragile I worry about breakdowns.

Deanna said...

Great post! The first horse I owned, after having my pony, was a Qtr.Horse/Thoroughbred mix - I did a lot of studying up on the breed back then. This was a fun reminder!!

horse care courses said...

He was so beautiful! and talented of course. He'll definetly be featured on our Horse of the Week sometime soon, thanks for the inspiration.

Cheryl Ann said...

I agree! Wonderful post. I even saw his beautiful red color at one point! I bet he was something to look at!

Shirley said...

There was a horse.

I had that book too, and loved it.

Anonymous said...

I had that book too and loved it - read it over and over again. Great videos - thanks for sharing! Our Dawn goes straight back to Man O'War on the top line through War Admiral - it's neat to know that she shares a little bit of the magic.

Judy Sceggel said...

That was one of my very favorite books read over and over. Glad you reminded me of it.

Margaret said...

Thanks everyone. I am reading this book again and I realize why I loved it so much!

Kate - that is so cool about Dawn!

Judy - find it... ebay buy it if you have to. Your kids and grandkids will love it just as much. It is a timeless read. :)

Judy Sceggel said...

great idea, thanks I will.