On this day in 1920, Man O’ War raced in the Potomac Handicap at Havre De Grace. He carried 138 pounds, spotting his opponents 24-33 pounds.
The morning of the race owner Sam Riddle and his wife Elizabeth arrived at the barn. Everything was good with Man O’ War, he was sound as always and ready to run. But his trainer Lou Feustel was worried, not of the competition, which included some great colts and fillies, but the track. Havre De Grace was a very deep, soft track and alot of horses went lame running on it. Even some great horses before Man O’ War couldn’t handle it. The first words out of Feustels mouth were “If the colt was mine I wouldn’t start; the track is very bad.” Mr. Riddle’s response was “It so happens, that I own him.”
At the start Man O’ War had to be held by an assistant starter after he ran off several times. When the barrier finally lifted he shot to the lead with a brown colt named Blazes. Big Red secured the lead after the first furlong, which he ran in 11 and change. Blazes ran the first furlong in 12 flat. Red ran the second furlong in 11 flat, the fastest he had ever run.
As he ran around the track, Man O’ War struggled to get good traction, a common problem for many horses racing at Havre De Grace. He was challenged by every horse in the race, but the big chestnut colt won by 1 1/2 lengths and took 1/5 of a second off the track record. The next day the New York Times had Man O’ War on the front page, “Heavy Burden Fails To Stop Man O’ War”, the Washington Post simply said “Man O’ War cannot be stopped”. But what they didn’t know was that Man O’ War’s career was in trouble.
That night Red returned to his stall with a swollen right foreleg. He had bruised a tendon. Grooms wrapped his leg with cold bandages and probably soaked it in an ice bucket. During the race Man O’ War had slipped and struck his foreleg with a hind hoof. After a few hours the swelling went down. Man O’ War would soon be shipped to Canada to face Sir Barton.
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