03/27/2017 1:52PM

Chasing Man o' War - the photo blog


MAN O' WAR (March 29, 1917 - November 1, 1947) 
Original photo 1947 by James W. Sames III, photoshopped and colored by Barbara D. Livingston

As near to a living flame as horses get, and horses get closer to this than anything else....

All horses, and particularly all stallions, like to run, exultant in their strength and power.  Most of them run within themselves, as children at play.  But Man o’ War, loose in his paddock at Faraway, dug in as if the prince of all the fallen angels was at his throatlatch, and great chunks of sod sailed up behind the haunches of power.  Watching, you felt that there had never been, nor could ever be again, a horse like this.

- Joe Palmer, longtime editor of The Blood-Horse

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For many, Man o’ War remains the benchmark for greatness – both in ability and of spirit – 100 years after his birth. Even his name stirs the emotions. As a companion piece to the article “Chasing Man o' War's Ghost,” below are many photos of several of my Man o' War-related shoots, as well as photographs of Man o' War by photographer James W. Sames III.

Although I've visited many places related to Man o' War - from his marker on the Hoofprints Walk of Fame at Saratoga to Man o' War Boulevard signs in Lexington - I'm most touched by places Man o' War actually breathed, walked, raced, slept, died.  Also included in this blog, out of admiration for all associated with him, are Will Harbut's, and Fair Play and Mahubah's, graves.  

I hope you enjoy a glimpse into my lifelong obsession....chasing Man o' War.

:: Barbara D. Livingston: Chasing Man o' War's ghost

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BELOW:  Normandy Farm, Lexington, KY - Whose graveyard, that primarily features Joseph Widener's horses of yesteryear, includes Man o' War's sire and dam, Fair Play and Mahubah 

Above:  FAIR PLAY stands guard in front of the gravestones of Fair Play and Mahubah on private property at Normandy Farm.  Traces of gold can still be found on the statue, such as under his throatlatch.  The statue was originally entirely painted gold and, according to stories, remarkably brilliant.

Above:  FAIR PLAY and MAHUBAH's graves, in the old Widener cemetery in Lexington, KY

Fair Play and Mahubah are buried under marble slabs on Joseph E. Widener's Elmdorf (sic) farm near here and overlooking the graves is a gold-colored life-size statue of Fair Play (Widener bought Man o' War's parents at Belmont's disposal sale in 1925.).

Some believe the statue of Man o' War, now being made by Herbert Haseltine...may be placed near that of Fair Play, but so far no official announcement has been made regarding the location...

-J.R. Anderson, Cumberland Evening Times, 3/16/42

:: Man o' War at 100: Champion's legacy echoes through century

Above:  Among the other horses buried in the Normandy Farm cemetery are Chance Shot, Sickle, Peace, and Stagecraft.

Above:  FAIR PLAY's is my all-time favorite statue...beautifully classic and proud and magnificent.  Kudos to the brilliant sculptor Laura Gardner Fraser.

Fair Play is the best horse I have ever owned - I expect him to show by his get that he is the superior of his sire (Hastings), Rock Sand, Singleton, and all the other sires I have had.

- August Belmont, Daily Racing Form, February 1910

Fair Play had justified the faith of Major Belmont, and he deserves the monument, sculpted in bronze, that stands above his final resting place at Elmendorf in Kentucky.
- Man o' War (1950, by Cooper and Treat)

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GLEN RIDDLE FARM, Berlin, MD - Where Man o' War received early training.  In addition, he spent time there between campaigns and immediately after his retirement.

Above:  The driveway into Glen Riddle Farm was wonderful, easily evoking ghosts of the countless visitors of bygone years.  The farm was owned by the Riddle and Jeffords' families, and among the many grand horses who trained there were War Admiral, Kiss Me Kate, Crusader, War Relic, One Count, and Man o' War.

Above/below:  One of the two main barns, of many buildings there, was the Riddle training barn in which Man o' War resided.  Per the 1932 book Maryland and the Thoroughbred, Glen Riddle was "one of the most complete and up-to-date training plants in the country."  Riddle's barn featured his stable colors - black and pale yellow.  

Above:  Riddle training barn interior 

Above/below:  One of the most interesting finds in the Jeffords' barn was this old tack room, complete with abandoned halters with pedigree names with sires like Count Fleet and Alsab.  It was quietly thick with history (and a few more tangible things, like mice). 

Above:  The old Glen Riddle racetrack where Man o' War went through his paces - including being matched against the Jeffords' wonder colt Golden Broom before the two went to the actual races.

All winter Red worked with Golden Broom...running a furlong, two and finally three, and with the increase of the distance, he had closed up on Golden Broom. Mr. Riddle was not discouraged.  He knew he had a good horse.

- Man o' War (1950), by Cooper and Treat

Above/below:  This rickety (collapsing) arch that stood near the Riddle training barn read MAN O' WAR across the top.  When the property was sold, the developers tried to keep it for display but it was too difficult a job.  They instead created another arch, with MAN O' WAR across it, which stands in front of their golf clubhouse.

Above:  Racetrack observation stand and water tower at the Glen Riddle training track, 2000

Above: Upon Man o' War's retirement in late 1920 he headed back to Glen Riddle one last time, again spending time on the track there.  

At Glen Riddle again Red had a short vacation, four months in which to fatten on the lush grass and prance in the paddocks where he had grown to the stature of maturity.  But it was not all play....every day he was worked for a while...sometimes on the old race track where he had first tried out against Golden Broom and again along the country lanes where the trees were turning gold.
- Man o' War (1950), by Cooper and Treat

Above:  The 2000 view from the Glen Riddle observation stand, showing the training track, at the finish line.  Nowadays, the stand is gone and the area is an upper-class housing development and golf course.

Above:  A Glen Riddle scene in 1998 and, below, a similar spot in 2004

Above:  The Riddle training barn was preserved and restored into a golf clubhouse at GlenRiddle.  

Above:  How remarkable is this old starting gate, which stood sinking into the earth in the woods.  Man o' War raced before the age of starting gates, but it's odds-on some very special horses broke from these stalls.  

When the property was developed, they kept the starting gate and it is on the golf course.  I've been back to Glen Riddle since it became GlenRiddle, and it is a lovely property.  But the ghosts have long since galloped away.

A 2004 Baltimore Sun article by Tom Keyser quoted the longago Glen Riddle farm foreman Frank Holloway:   

Holloway (82) began working there in 1941, and he became foreman in the 1960s.  He said Glen Riddle Farm ended with a whimper in 1977.

"The horses left in the spring," Holloway said, "and never came back." 

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FARAWAY FARM, Huffman Mill Pike, Lexington, KY (now Mt. Brilliant Farm, Faraway division) - Man o' War's home from May 1922 through late 1936 or early January 1937

Above/below:  The old entry gates at Faraway Farm on Huffman Mill Pike in Lexington, KY, long-time home of Man o' War.  The sign in the photo above this disappeared long ago.

Above:  Man o' War's long-abandoned stallion barn in 1998 and, below, in 2008.  By 2008, the property had been purchased by Greg Goodman of Mt. Brilliant Farm and Man o' War's barn was being beautifully restored.  The "mostest horse" resided in the front left stall for about half of his life.

Above:  This wonderful old sign stood by the driveway to Man o' War's barn.  I should get bonus points for never even having considered stealing it.

Above:  Man o' War at Faraway Farm in 1932, when he was 15. James W. Sames III photo.  Sames/Livingston collection

A myriad cameras have focused on him, ranging from those of the foremost experts to those of amateurs from all parts of the world who, attracted by his fame, have visited him, kodak in hand, anxious to secure his "counterfeit-presentment" for their albums.  During his turf career he was literally besieged by both professional and other levelers of the lens, so much so that he finally had to be protected from them - there would have been little rest for him had all their solicitations been granted.

- Unpublished Man o' War biography by John Hervey & Harry Worcester Smith

It was that even when he was standing motionless in his stall, with his ears pricked forward, and his eyes focused on something above the horizon which mere people never see, energy still poured from him.  He could get in no position which suggested actual repose, and his very stillness was that of a coiled spring, of the crouched tiger.

- Blood-Horse editor Joe Palmer

Above:  Talk about ghosts...

Above:  The back of Man o' War's old stallion barn at Faraway Farm, 1998.  There were quite a few equine graves back there in the weeds, and finding the stones was a bit of a challenge.  Among them were Golden Broom, Mars, Natchez, Furlough, Lady Comfey, Open Sesame, Creole Maid, Ace Card, Christmas Star, The Nurse, War Regalia, Regal Lily, Rambler Rose and Coquelicot.  Interestingly, at least two of those names - Ace Card and Coquelicot - also appeared on the halter nameplates at Glen Riddle Farm in Maryland.

Above:  Golden Broom is among those buried behind the Faraway Farm/Mt. Brilliant stallion barn. Golden Broom, owned by the Jeffords family, was the highest-priced yearling at the 1918 Saratoga sale at $15,600 (Man o' War sold at that same sale for $5,000).  He was the colt who trained with Man o' War from the early days and beat him in pre-race career competitions at Glen Riddle Farm.

Per a 1919 Washington Post article by Harry Price, about Golden Broom finishing behind Man o' War in the Sanford Stakes:  ...when it came to real honest racing Golden Broom showed he has a hole in his somewhere, and he quit.  There have been few horses marked as Golden Broom is marked with four white legs that have not shown a yellow streak.  And herein comes the old legend of the Arab - Beware of a horse with four white legs....

Of course, it's quite likely much of that "quit" in Golden Broom may have been because he was facing Man o' War.  

Above/below:  The words MAN O WAR could still be read on Man o' War's old stall door in 1998, a reminder of the countless tourists' hands who'd rubbed across long-ago raised letters.  It is said some 1.5 million - yes, million - people visited Big Red during his years at Faraway.  After Greg Goodman bought the property, the original stall door was removed and fixed up, being placed in Goodman's office.  A very nice replica (below) was hung in its place at the farm.

Above/below:  An exterior door on Man o' War's longtime stall opened into a sizable paddock.  When standing in that stall, it was easy to imagine Man o' War peering out through the slats, awaiting turnout time (photos 2000 and 2008).

Above:  Exterior view of the side door opening of Man o' War's stall

Above/below:  The Faraway Farm stallion barn in 1998 and ten years later.  Man o' War's stall is the first one at left, barely visible in these photos.

Above/below:  After Greg Goodman's purchase of the Faraway Farm property, the stallion barn was carefully restored.  Racing owes a debt to Mr. Goodman for that costly gesture.

Above:  This small house and the large bell to its right were in front of the stallion barn in 1998.  The bell was rung back when Man o' War lived there -  each time a Man o' War offspring won a race or won a stakes race, depending on which story you read.  The small house is no longer there and the bell was moved to a place of honor behind the stallion barn (below).

Above:  The view behind Man o' War's stallion barn in 2008, which includes the relocated bell.  Also, along the sides of the walkway back to the barn are the old gravestones, now well-maintained.

Above:  Man o' War and Will Harbut, undated negative. James W. Sames III photo, Barbara Livingston collection.

It is curious, as well as instructive, when among turfmen and breeders today and various great horses are under discussion, to note the involuntary attitude of homage which they adopt toward him.  He is accepted as supreme among all modern performers, practically without dissent, and dominates the landscape like some towering monument.

- Unpublished manuscript by John Hervey and Harry Worcester Smith

The door had been swung open and Man o' War stood there.  I was prepared to see a great champion and sire.  But suddenly, I knew that while I had never seen him race it made no difference at all.  I felt as my father did.  I was lucky to be there, close enough to touch him if that had been allowed.

Man o' War stood in the doorway, statuesque and magnificent...  He didn't look at us, but far out over our heads.

I was aware of only one thing, that for the first and perhaps the only time in my life I was standing in the presence of a horse which was truly great, and it would be a moment always to be remembered.

Walter Farley, author of Man o' War and The Black Stallion series

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FARAWAY FARM, Huffman Mill Pike, Lexington, KY (now Man o' War Farm) - where Man o' War lived from late '36 or early January '37 through his death in 1947.  He was also originally buried there before his remains were moved to the Kentucky Horse Park.

Imagine the people who have streamed onto this farm, now called Man o' War Farm, and how they felt upon seeing the greatest of all racehorses.

Civic bodies of Lexington have posted along the “pikes” leading out of that city the now-familiar signs, “This way to Man o’ War,” and just how to reach Faraway Farm almost any man, woman, or child living within a radius of miles can tell the enquirer on demand.

- Unpublished manuscript by John Hervey and Harry Worcester Smith

Above:  The stallion barn in which Man o' War was housed for his final decade.  As with his previous barn, Man o' War lived in the front left stall.  Behind the barn is the attached breeding shed.

In January 1937, Brownie Leach wrote in The Cincinnati Enquirer: Man o' War, greatest of all attractions of the Bluegrass country, is receiving guests in a new home this year.   Recently ..."Big Red" and his three stablemates - Crusader, Mars and Big Blaze - were moved to their new home which is one of the finest barns in Central Kentucky....

Above:  The stallion barn that received countless visitors, from children to princes, for a decade.

Once Lord Halifax, then British Ambassador, listened to (Will Harbut), spellbound for twenty minutes.  Will had been bribed to outdo himself and he found it easy for such an appreciative audience. After he had finished, Lord Halifax exclaimed, "It was worth coming halfway around the world to hear that."  Even discounting the diplomatic language, it was clear the Ambassador was impressed.

- Man o' War (1950), by Cooper and Treat

Above:  This portrait of Man o' War was obviously taken later in his life but is undated.  It's not Will Harbut holding the shank, which is unusual in itself.  And is one of six photos taken the same day - of his sides, front and rear, as if for a painting or sculpture.  The photos were taken with a camera with a wide-angle lens so, unfortunately, there is a bit of distortion.

Above:  The stallion barn from the side - Man o' War's stall is at the far right, at the front of the barn.  The breeding shed is to the left.  Below:  Man o' War's side stall door

Above:  The farm office, which is evident in the background of some photos of Man o' War.  Think of that! (the chimney is barely visible at far right in the photo below)

Above:  Man o' War, Will Harbut and American Legion members. Photo dated January 1946 by James W. Sames III.  Sames/Livingston collection.  The negative holder reads, "A very cold day."

From a 1947 Jacksonville Daily Journal story about a visit to see Man o' War:

We had a kodak on that trip.  We noticed a sign in the stable, however, announcing “No Snapshots.”  The rest of the visitors were busy watching Man o’ War…  We spied War Admiral in another stall.  Just one little snapshot of him wouldn’t hurt a thing, we figured.  But as the kodak came up Harbut raised a restraining hand.  “No pictures in here - those are the rules,” he said politely.

In way of explanation Harbut said “Mr. Riddle believes that every photograph of Man o’ War should do him justice.  That is why he doesn’t want snapshots.  When a picture is taken, Mr. Riddle wants it done posed-like, by a professional."

Above/below:  Man o' War's stall at Man o' War Farm in 1999, around the time the barn underwent renovation; and below in 2016

Above:  Man o' War's stall interior.  He spent his final decade here.

Mr. Riddle...closed the gates of Faraway Farm to visitors (in spring 1947); the stream of admirers who had been coming to view Red daily for a quarter of a century were beginning to tire the aged prince.  

In the twenty-six years he had been on view at Faraway more than a half million people had signed his guest book; and those were only a fraction, for most of them were so enthralled by Will Harbut's story that they forgot to sign...
- Man o' War (1950), by Cooper and Treat

Above:  This unusual portrait of Man o' War was taken in either 1946 or 1947, per James W. Sames' words on the envelope.  It looks like Mr. Harbut, rather than his final caregiver Mr. Cunningham Graves, but I can't quite tell.  If so, it couldn't be 1947 but could be very early 1946, before Mr. Harbut suffered a stroke in March of that year.  The things I find most interesting are how long Man o' War's mane was - quite a few photos of Red in his later life reflect this.  Also, although he still looks grand and proud, notice how his eyes look wistful, or perhaps tired....as the article above says, like an "aged prince."  (of course, it's possible Man o' War was sleepy before the shoot, was dragged outside, and was simply not in the mood to look like Man o' War).

About Man o' War's death on November 1, 1947:
The Lexington Herald-Leader recalled the news as a simple announcement to the Associated Press:  “Our big horse just died.”  Many Lexington residents, who perhaps more than any other cradled Man o’ War in their hearts as a part of their lives, first got the news when it was announced during a University of Kentucky football game.

- Man o' War (Thoroughbred Legends' series, Eclipse Press), by Edward Bowen

Above:  Man o' War's body lay in state in the barn aisleway as his grave was prepared, and while his connections waited for rains to stop to conduct his burial.  An obituary mentions War Admiral and War Relic resided in the barn and had view of their sire's casket in the aisleway.  So did the countless mourners who came by before the funeral service to pay their respects.

Above/below:  The spot where Man o' War was originally buried.  Pin oak trees were planted around the moat that surrounded his grave, some of which are still standing.

Above:  The day of the unveiling of Herbert Haseltine's Man o' War statue over Red's grave in 1948. Haseltine here poses with Faraway Farm manager Patrick O'Neill. 1948 James W. Sames III photo.  Sames/Livingston collection

Mr. Haseltine's studio on West 59th Street in Manhattan was home to the Man o' War statue much of the time he worked on it - "proudly surveying Central Park," a 1944 Palm Beach Post article read. And Haseltine spent so much time at Faraway Farm during the seven years he worked on the statue that he even received his mail there, "c/o Man o' War."  

"Man o' War will pose several hours a day and he's good at it," said Mr. Haseltine, whose Paris home and studio have been confiscated (during World War II). "In fact we welcome company.  It makes Man o' War proud; he tosses his head and shows off.  We take time off only for his marital duties..."

- The Courier-Journal, 5/4/41

Mr. Haseltine was world-renowned for his sculptures, which often featured horses.  He also used Man o' War as his equine subject for a famous statue of George Washington, riding a horse, at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.  Haseltine had been told that the "greatest American" should be riding "the greatest American horse."

Said Haseltine of Man o' War, "
There was something that emanated from that noble animal that took my breath away."

Above:  The upward view at Man o' War's (first) final resting place, December 2016

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Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, KY - Man o' War's final resting place

A Maryjean Wall article about Man o’ War’s exhumation, in The Lexington Herald in 1977, included: The old gravesite was torn up more than necessary when someone failed to research sufficiently the exact location of the grave, forcing construction men to dig around to find it….Someone neglected to clean out the casket and completely, leaving behind a gone and some tail hairs....

Per an article by beloved historian Jim Bolus in a 1981 Keeneland magazine, those items were re-interred with Man o' War.

Above/below: Man o' War's grave is surrounded by a moat, with signs that describe various stages of Big Red's storied life.  Well worth the read.

Above/below:  Several other graves were moved from Faraway Farm, along with Man o' War's, to the Kentucky Horse Park, including War Relic, War Admiral, Brushup (dam of War Admiral), War Kilt and War Hazard.  The last two named are stakes-winning daughters of Man o' War.

Above and below:  Stride markers at the Kentucky Horse Park for three great Thoroughbreds - Man o' War, John Henry and Secretariat.  They are interesting, in part, because sometime over the years they switched the numbers of John Henry's and Secretariat's lengths.  Either way, Man o' War still reigns in this particular competition at 28 feet (Native Dancer's was said to be 29 feet).

Above/below:  I've spent countless mornings, afternoons and sunsets at Man o' War's grave at the Kentucky Horse Park, gaining inspiration through time spent as close to him as possible.  I often ponder about what Man o' War symbolizes for so many of us - even now, one hundred years after his birth:  True greatness.


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Huffman Mill Pike and Maddoxtown Baptist Church Cemetery, Lexington, KY

Above:  If you find yourself wandering out Huffman Mill Pike, from Lexington, take a look just before the sharp right-hand turn.  There on the left stands the small, tidy Harbut house, with his son Tom's name is still on the mailbox (Tom died in 2014).  Will Harbut lived there, making the short trek down the road to tend to his famous equine friend at Faraway Farm.  Think of that...

... And also on Huffman Mill Pike, near the Harbut home, is the Maddoxtown Baptist Church Cemetery where Will and other members of his family are buried.  Stop by for a moment to pay respects. Really consider the name etched on that elegant stone.  Think of that great man - both of the countless lifetime memories that he gave to others, and to those that he undoubtedly took with him.

Will Harbut's obituary in The Blood-Horse mentioned that he was survived by "his wife, six sons, three daughters, and Man o' War."

“He’s got everythin’ a horse ought to have and he’s got it where a horse ought to have it.  He's the mostest horse.”

- Will Harbut

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Horses come and go on the American Turf and on the heaths and plains of other nations, but one name remains forever on the lips and in the minds of lovers of the Thoroughbred. That is the name of Man o' War...

"Big Red"....flashed across the firmament of racing in 1919 and 1920 and left a glowing trail that remains vivid in the minds of all who saw him run.  Even those who got the story second hand knew that this great chestnut was "different", and that his fame would never die.

- Turf and Sport Digest, 1963

For me, the words below, of the countless stirring tributes the greatest horse in our history has inspired, speak best for me.  The simple lines still relate to so many of us, even now, a hundred years since the chestnut son of Fair Play and Mahubah took his first shaky steps.

Almost from the beginning, he touched the imagination of men, and they saw different things in him. But one thing they will all remember was that he brought exaltation into their hearts.

- Kentucky horseman Ira Drymon, at Man o' War's funeral service

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Chasing Man o' War's Ghost, about my lifelong obsession with Man o' War: http://www.drf.com/manowar

Remarkable final tribute for majestic champion, which I wrote for Daily Racing Form in 2011.  It includes some interesting stories related to Man o' War's burial day and remarkable photographs by James W. Sames:  http://www.drf.com/blogs/man-o-wars-funeral-remarkable-final-tribute-majestic-champion

With a heartfelt thanks to photographer James W. Sames III, for his remarkable and unique photographs of Man o' War at various ages throughout his stallion career and beyond.  Some of the photos in this story have never been published - a priceless record.

For additional reading on Man o' War, there are quite a few books available.  If you already love Man o' War, any of these can bring goosebumps.  And if you are just learning about Man o' War, they can also bring goosebumps.  They include Man o' War (Thoroughbred Legends), by Edward Bowen (2000);  Man o' War - A Legend Like Lightning, by Dorothy Ours (2007); Man o' War, by Walter Farley (rerelease, 1983); Man o' War, by Cooper and Treat (1950, rerelease 2004)

And take time to google, if inspired, as many good articles have been written about Man o' War for his 100th anniversary.

Two of several Youtube videos with Man o' War footage: 


If you find yourself either at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY, or the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, NY, please stop by to enjoy their 100th anniversary exhibits, both running throughout 2018.

With thanks to those who've helped me to chase Man o' War, which always fuels me.  Any clues as to other places I should go?  Please share them.  (Below, chasing ghosts at Glen Riddle Farm in Berlin, Maryland, in 1998.  We'd heard there was an equine cemetery in the track's infield and, although the infield was planted with corn, we just had to find it to see if there were any Man o' War-related graves out there.  We picked up both chiggers and ticks in the process but finally found the graveyard in a densely overgrown area -  a very old human one.  Photo by friend and fellow chigger/tick recipient Tamara Faulkner.)