Man o’ War, often considered the greatest racehorse of all time, grew up in Maryland, grazing on the sweet Eastern Shore grass and galloping on the sandy tracks at the expansive Glen Riddle Farm near Ocean City. Bought at a yearling sale in 1918, the Kentucky-born Man o’ War landed at the 1,000-acre farm, in Berlin, a century ago to train for a Hall of Fame career that would earn him kudos as the No. 1 thoroughbred of the 20th century by Blood Horse magazine.
A chestnut colt with a 25-foot stride, Man o’ War won 20 of 21 races, including both the 1920 Preakness and Belmont Stakes, and caught the fancy of the public in the aftermath of The Great War. At a Pimlico workout, several days before the big race, “Big Red” drew nearly 20,000 railbirds to watch him strut his stuff.
On May 18, a record Preakness crowd (23,500) arrived on a warm spring Tuesday to root their favorite on. Man o’ War was fractious beforehand, rearing up during the post parade and at the gate, delaying the start by almost 6 minutes. But he took the early lead and won by 1½ lengths in what The Baltimore Sun called “nothing much more than mere gallop.” He also avenged his only loss as a 2-year-old to Upset, who finished second.
Retired to stud at year’s end, Man o’ War died at age 30 in 1947. It’s said that 2,000 people attended his funeral.