man o’ war – “race of the century ”
Perhaps the greatest thoroughbred in the long history of horse racing was Man o’ War. In what came to be known as the Race of the Century because of the incredible prize of $75,000 and a $5,000 gold cup, a world-class race was held at Kenilworth Race Track in Windsor, Ontario. Kenilworth beat out the Kentucky Horse Park and the New York Race track in bidding for the race. Pari-mutuel betting is illegal in Michigan, Kenilworth in Canada provided the ideal venue.
The challenger was Sir Barton, owned by Commander J.K.L. Ross of Montreal. The colt was the first horse to win the triple crown, winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes in 1919.
It was no doubt the biggest sporting event in the history of the city and perhaps still deserves the title. When the gates of Kenilworth Park were opened at 9:00 a.m., more than 20,000 people were waiting to enter. When the race began an estimated 32,000 fans filled the stands.
Sir Barton led only for the first few yards but by the time they crossed the finish line, Man O’ War had a seven-length lead. It was the climax of a superb career and would turn out to be Big Red’s last race and only race in Canada.
With nothing more to prove owner Samuel Riddle retired Man O’ War to stud immediately after the Windsor victory.
Sadly, the great Man O’ War never raced in the Kentucky Derby, America’s greatest horse race. Owner Sam Riddle believed as many horsemen did, that the first Saturday in May is too early in a three-year-old’s year to run a mile and one quarter with 126 pounds aboard. Man O’ War died in 1947, after a highly successful stud career, of almost 30 years.
A beautifully framed Suchiu Art “Race of the Century” proudly hangs in HRM Queen Elizabeth II’s collection. It was the first gift she had accepted from the country of Canada in over seven and a half years.