May is racehorse month at ISDP. Having thus far essayed the great Secretariat and the tragic Barbaro we’re going back in time. This month’s subject is arguably the most dominant thoroughbred in the history of racing, the legendary Man o’War.
|Man o'War with owner Samuel Riddle|
Man o’War began his racing career in impressive fashion with a six length victory at Belmont Park. After winning his first six starts Man o’War walked up to the starting line of his next race. In this era of racing there was no starting gate. Horse races started with the lifting of rope along the starting line. Unfortunately the race started with Man o’War facing the wrong direction. Having to turn 180 degrees just to begin the race, he was in catch up mode from the get go. As the race came down the stretch Man o’War was bearing down on the leaders, but came up a nose short, finishing second. The winning horse was fittingly named Upset. It turned out to be the only loss of Man o’War’s 21 race career.
|Man o'War in his only career loss, an upset to Upset|
|Man o'War's final resting place at Kentucky|
Horse Farm. I was there by myself so I
used the standard 'Phillies hat in the
shot' to verify an authentic visit
Now for the big question – who’s the greater horse - the better "Big Red" - Man o’War or Secretariat? Here’s how I break it down. Man o’War's race record is simply amazing. And his success as a stallion in producing winners is remarkable. Secretariat was just faster. And Secretariat ran overall against better competition and larger fields. What sets Secretariat apart is that his best times remain extraordinary times even compared to competition nearly forty years after he ran his last race. Like all time records, improvements in the sport over time should result in lower race times. But Secretariat's Belmont race remains the greatest single performance by a racehorse in history. So the winner, by a nose, is Secretariat!
|Just for fun, your blogger on the backstretch at Pimlico |
track (site of Man o'War's first triumph) a few minutes
after the 2012 Preakness, won by I'll Have Another