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.