A classic winner and unbeaten at 3 in 1920, Man o’ War closed out his historic career with an emphatic victory over the previous year’s star Sir Barton, who is recognized as the first winner of the Triple Crown.
Such is Man o’ War’s renown as a racer that some fans do not know his time at stud – 22 seasons until he was pensioned after the breeding season at age 25 – was both exceptional and lasting. In an article a couple of weeks ago, I delved into the contemporary male lines tracing to Man o’ War. That is the most competitive position in pedigrees, and most lines die out.
Man o’ War has not, but his male line is relatively scarce. In other positions within pedigrees, the great son of Fair Play and Mahubah is almost as common as cockroaches.
Among Man o’ War’s sons, Triple Crown winner War Admiral was prominent during his lifetime and particularly through his daughters, War Admiral is an important part of the fabric of pedigrees. His daughters produced such major racers and breeding stock as Buckpasser and Hoist the Flag.
The other highly visible son of Man o’ War who has come down in pedigrees is War Relic, especially through In Reality and his stock.
Man o’ War, however, is widely distributed through pedigrees and through numerous sources. A measure of how pervasive the chestnut son of Fair Play has become is seen from a quick count of the number of times that Man o’ War appears in some of the major stakes winners over the past weekend.
The Sunland Derby winner Hence (by Street Boss) carries 15 pedigree presences of Man o’ War, and Dubai World Cup winner Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song) has 23 in his.
In all likelihood, the breed average for pedigree presences of Man o’ War probably lies in the 15 to 20 range. He is not in pedigrees from strongly European sources such as Teddy, Blenheim, Nearco, and Hyperion, but for the strains coming out of the old American lines, Man o’ War is present in spades.
One overachiever in this regard is Fast and Accurate (Hansen), the winner of the Spiral Stakes at Turfway. The gray son of champion 2-year-old Hansen (Tapit) has 34 presences of Man o’ War, which makes Fast and Accurate the winner of this particular sweepstakes, as well.
This volume of presences of a horse from a century ago is a sure indication of the importance of Man o’ War as contributor to our modern pedigrees; otherwise his name would have died out.
There was every reason for Man o’ War’s influence to continue because he was a powerful factor for class and staying ability, plus a surprising amount of speed.
From 381 registered foals, Man o’ War sired 62 stakes winners (16 percent), and from his total foals, 199 were fillies. Due to the small books of mares that the champion covered, he led the general sire list by total earnings only once (1926) and never led the broodmare sire list, which was dominated by the remarkably prolific Sir Gallahad III. But Man o’ War was second to Sir G III no fewer than eight times as leading broodmare sire.
One of the interesting things about researching my archives with regard to Man o’ War’s influence as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth is the realization that quite a number of the great horse’s daughters, as well as sons, have survived in contemporary pedigrees.
This is a considerable accomplishment because most mares do not have a large number of foals, unlike stallions, and the likelihood that the mares’ lines of descent will live on are naturally smaller.
As an example, consider two full sisters out of the Hainault mare Baton. The better racer was Wand, winner in three of her four starts, including the Matron Stakes at 2. She produced a pair of high-class performers in Caduceus (Sickle) and Halberd (Blenheim). The former was third in the Futurity Stakes, and the latter won the Saratoga Special. Those were two of the mare’s only three foals, however, and all were colts.
In contrast, Wand’s full sister Baton Rouge was a nonwinner from six starts. At stud she produced eight foals, with five winners. Among them were the top racehorses Firethorn (Sun Briar), winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup twice, Suburban Handicap, and second in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Firethorn’s sibling out of Baton Rouge was Creole Maid (Pharamond II), winner of the Coaching Club American Oaks.
Baton Rouge is one of the Man o’ War lines still vibrantly present in pedigrees today.
So, as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Man o’ War’s birth, it is inspiring to note the influential and continuing legacy he has bequeathed to our sport.