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In all the history of horse racing no Thoroughbred has ever quite matched either the brilliance or popularity of a fiery chestnut with the ferociously appropriate name of Man o' War. Sold as a yearling by August Belmont to Samuel D. Riddle for the bargain price of $5,000, Man o' War swept Riddle's famous black and yellow silks past his bewildered and powerless opposition in 20 of 21 races during 1919 and 1920. Upon retirement Man o' War had amassed the then-record earnings of $249,465. His lone defeat, at the hands of Upset in the 1919 Sanford, was the fault of a very bad start.
Last week, just 40 years after Riddle's "de mostest horse" started on his sensational career, racing finally got around to honoring the old boy. And it seemed only appropriate that the first Man o' War Stakes—a mile and a half on the turf—was so appealing to horsemen converging on New York's Aqueduct track that it drew 21 starters. More important, however, to the owners of these hopefuls was the fact that the New York Racing Association, which is doing things in an ever-so-big way these days, created history of a financial sort by splitting the huge field and for the first time anywhere staging two $100,000-added races on the same card. For those who watched with wonder 40 years ago as Man o' War won race after race for purses of $7,000, it must have seemed ironic that the total gross value of this inaugural Man o' War double-header was a whopping $225,100.
One oldtimer who was at least both stunned and pleased by it all was Man o' War's trainer, 75-year-old Lou Feustel, who had been whisked away from his Pasadena home to be the guest of the NYRA and to present the first cup. Looking over the horses he saw at Aqueduct last week, Lou Feustel mused, "The big horse will always be the best. There was nothing he couldn't do—and do easily too."
Although Man o' War never raced on the turf it is doubtful whether he would have had to work up much of a lather disposing of the fields which first honored his name.
The first division was won by the only mare entered, King Ranch's veteran 6-year-old Dotted Line (when Lou Feustel stepped front and center to make the award it was fitting that he should hand the hardware to an old friend, King Ranch's 79-year-old Trainer Max Hirsch). Dotted Line, overlooked by nearly everyone in the park—there were 34,109 on hand—turned in one of her best races. After letting first Babu and then the favored Amerigo set the pace, Jockey Bill Boland moved Dotted Line up in the stretch and drew away by a length and a half. The disappointment was Bald Eagle, who was fourth behind Amerigo and Prince Willy. Dotted Line paid a fancy $57.50 and made Trainer Hirsch think about entering her next in this week's Gold Cup.
Form held up properly in the second division as Mrs. Herbert Herff's Tudor Era, with Bill Hartack up, led from flagfall to finish and won from Marlow Road and Anisado. Tudor Era, who lost last year's Laurel International on a foul, made no mistakes this time.
And neither did the NYRA, which launched the Man o' War Stakes in an auspicious fashion.