Man O War was a Chestnut Colt born in 1917, in Lexington at Nursery Stud. He as sired by Fair Play; out of Mahubah, the daughter of Rock Sand (winner of the British version of the Triple Crown). He was named by Mrs. Belmont “My Man O’ War”, in honor of her husband who was a solider in WWI. Belmont debated on selling the horse at the yearling sale, but at the last minute he was added to the lot and sent to Saratoga. Man O’ War’s was purchased for $5,000, by Samuel Riddle owner of Glen Riddle Farm.
He was not an easy horse to break. He had a fiery disposition. It was said that you could not force Man O’ War to do anything he did not want to do. Man O’ War’s running gait was unusual. It as a bounding leap that covered a tremendous amount of ground. His stride measured 25 to 28 feet. He was a tall and powerfully muscled horse, who despite his size was very agile and had a quick acceleration at the break. By the age of three, he was 16.2 hands and weighed about 1,125 pounds with a 72- inch girth. He ate about 12 quarts of oats a day, which is about 3 quarts more than the average racehorse.
He was a favorite in his racing debut, which he won by 6 lengths, on June 6, 1919. Within the next month, he would win his next three starts. In his first two races, ha had carried 115 pounds, was bumped up to 120 pounds by his third race, and up to 130 pounds by his fourth race.
Man O’ War suffered the only loss of his career to Upset, at the Sanford Memorial Stakes. He lost by half a length, which was not bad considering he had been boxed in and he was caring 15 pounds more than Upset. This was not the only time he faced Upset. They would face each other six times, and only once was Upset able to beat Man O’ War.
Man O’ War did not race in the Kentucky Derby, because his owner Samuel Riddle believed that a soft-boned 3-year-old should not have to run 1 ¼ miles early in May. He did take the Preakness and the Belmont. Without a doubt, had he entered the Kentucky Derby, he would have been a Triple Crown winner.
Man O’ War’s last race was run against Sir Barton, the first horse to win the Triple Crown. The race was held at Kenilworth Park, in Canada. Man O’ War defeated Sir Barton by 7 lengths, winning the $75,000 purse, and the $5,000 Gold Cup.
Man O’ War was sent back home to Kentucky to stud. Among his 386 registered foals 64 were stakes winners, including 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral, 1929 Kentucky Derby winner Clyde Van Dusen, and the 1938 Grand National Steeplechase winner Battleship. He died in Lexington in 1947 of a heart attack.