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"1937 Triple Crown Winner"
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SEABISCUIT - MAN
1937 Triple Crown Winner
The best of Man o' War's sons began racing fifteen years after the start
of the legendary chestnut's stud career. War Admiral, bred by Samuel
Riddle, was foaled at the Faraway Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1934.
His pedigree combined the blood of Fair Play, Ben Brush, and Domino,
who had founded the three most influential American lines. Sweep, the
sire of War Admiral's dam Brushup, was by Ben Brush, and out of the
Domino mare Pink Domino. Fair Play, of course, was the sire of Man o'
The royally bred little colt became known to his
fans as The Mighty Atom, or simply The Admiral, and
he is considered to be his great sire's finest son,
although it was another of Man o' War's sons, the
1926 Belmont Stakes winner Crusader, who was most
like the legendary horse in appearance. The Admiral,
on the other hand, was a full hand smaller than his
famous sire, standing only 15.3 hands high, and he
was so darkly colored that many fans mistook him
as a black horse.
War Admiral was raced by his breeder, who also had
raced his sire, and was conditioned by George Conway.
Exercise rider Tom Harbut, the son of Man o' War's
groom Will Harbut, described War Admiral as high
strung, saying he "would jump three times every
time you took him out."
As a two-year-old, War Admiral showed promise, despite
his hatred for the starting gate. He broke his maiden
at first asking, and won once more before stepping
up into stakes company. Although War Admiral failed
to beat divisional leader Pompoon in the National
Stallion Stakes, he still showed class by closing
strongly for third money.
Next, War Admiral was paired with jockey Charley
Kurtsinger for the first time in the Great American
Stakes wat Aqueduct. The two held the lead into the
stretch, but failed to hold off William du Pont's
chestnut gelding Fairy Hill and were forced to settle
for second money.
After an eleven week layoff brought about by a cough,
War Admiral returned to score his first stakes victory
with a five length wire to wire romp in the Eastern
Shore Handicap. The Mighty Atom then ended the season
with a second place finish in the Richard Johnson
Stakes. He ranked eighth on the Experimental Free
Handicap, which was topped by juvenile champion Pompoon.
Come spring, War Admiral scored an easy victory
in a six furlong overnight at Havre de Grace. Next
came the Chesapeake Stakes. The Admiral delayed the
start by seven minutes before wiring the field and
winning by an easy six lengths.
The Admiral became the first horse to carry Mr.
Riddle's silks postward in the Kentucky Derby. After
War Admiral delayed the start for eight minutes,
the starter finally sent off the field of twenty.
Riddle's colt easily earned his roses, leading from
start to finish and cantering home a length and three-quarters
ahead of his previous conqueror, two-year-old champion
Pompoon. The same evening, War Admiral boarded a
Baltimore bound train.
The talented Pompoon provided more of a fight at
Pimlico, catching War Admiral when he bore out on
the turn, and it was only after one of the most exciting
stretch drives in Pimlico's history that War Admiral
was victorious in his quest for the black-eyed susans.
Next it was on to Belmont Park for the mile and
a half long Test of Champions. After another eight
minute battle in the starting gate, disaster struck
at the break. War Admiral stumbled, and sliced off
about a quarter inch of his right heel. Despite the
injury, The Mighty Atom led from wire to wire and
tied the American record of 2:28 3/5.
The Mighty Atom was back that fall. He easily bested
the field in an overnight at Laurel. Then both War
Admiral and the older champion Seabiscuit were entered
in the Washington Handicap at Laurel. Racing fans
looked forward to the meeting with much anticipation,
but Seabiscuit trained poorly and was scratched,
leaving The Admiral to win as he pleased. He finished
off the season with victory in the inaugural running
of the Pimlico Special.
With an unbeaten season, the Triple Crown winner
was named Horse of the Year, although Charles S.
Howard's Seabiscuit took honors as the season's leading
money winner, topping the Admiral's $166,500 by a
In 1938, War Admiral continued his string of victories
with the McLennon Memorial Handicap. A confident Charley
Kurtsinger didn't even carry a whip. Next came an impressive
score in the Widener Handicap, in which Riddle's star
carried 130 pounds to second place finisher Zevson's
104 pounds. The public clamored for a meeting with
Seabiscuit, the star of the west coast, and racetracks
conducted an informal national bidding war as they
attempted to bring the two champions together. Suggested
dates stretched well into the fall, and possible locations
included New York, New England, Chicago, and California.
One hundred thousand dollar purses were offered, and
the event was finally scheduled for Memorial Day, at
the historic Belmont Park. With a winner take all purse
of $100,000, the match race offered the most valuable
prize in racing history.
The upcoming race dominated conversation, and everyone
had a favorite. There was no doubt as to which horse
Joe Palmer favored. He wrote in The Blood-Horse:
"Seabiscuit has a perfectly maddening habit
of having his nose just behind Rosemont or Aneroid
or Stagehand or Esposa at the finish of important
races. The record further shows that War Admiral
does not have this habit or anything resembling it.
Seabiscuit is unquestionably a very high class horse
and there have not been a dozen like him in the last
twenty years, but how many years has it been since
we have had a genuine stayer which did his staying
from two or three lengths in front of his field?
If you don't remember, Man o' War was retired after
his race with Sir Barton at Kenilworth Park, October
Unfortunately, Seabiscuit was withdrawn six days before the scheduled
event, after leg trouble developed, and the two champions were forced
to postpone the clash.
War Admiral defeated the good horse Snark in the
Queen's County Handicap, giving him six pounds and
winning by a length.
Fans disappointed by the postponement of the match
race were dealt a second blow when War Admiral failed
to go to post in the Suburban Handicap on the twenty-eighth,
allegedly because he was asked to give four pounds
to his former rival Pompoon. The former juvenile
champion's ten race winning streak came to an end,
however, when he was nosed out by Snark, who was
forced to break the stakes record to claim victory.
Ironically, dodging Pompoon didn't prevent an end
to War Admiral's winning streak. He went to Suffolk
Downs for the Massachusetts Handicap instead of running
in the Suburban, and ended up finishing out of the
money for the first and only time in his career.
The winner was the three-year-old Menow, the previous
season's juvenile champion and the future sire of
the great Tom Fool. War Minstrel, a grandson of Man
o' War, was third, and then headed for Chicago where
he beat Seabiscuit in the Stars and Stripes Handicap.
The reason for War Admiral's failure was a minor
injury to the same right forefoot that he had damaged
in the Belmont Stakes. The muddy track contributed
to a misstep which resulted in the self inflicted
The poor showing attracted more attention than his
wins. He bounced back to winning form immediately,
however. First, he proved it wasn't the mud that
defeated him by galloping home eight lengths the
best in a muddy Wilson Stakes. Among the defeated
were such quality horses as Fighting Fox, successful
full brother to Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox,
and the champion mare Esposa, conqueror of both Discovery
The Admiral beat Esposa again in the Saratoga Handicap.
He had to work a bit harder for that win, giving
away fourteen pounds and fighting to hold off the
mare in the stretch and claim a neck victory.
Esposa didn't stop trying, running second to War
Admiral twice more in the Whitney Stakes and the
Saratoga Cup. New York Racing then returned to Belmont
Park, where The Mighty Atom galloped to a three length
win in the two mile long Jockey Club Gold Cup.
While War Admiral reeled off his series of victories
at Saratoga, Seabiscuit grabbed attention in the
west, scoring in the Hollywood Gold Cup.
The public continued to crave a meeting between
the heroes. In the end, Pimlico Race Course became
the upset winner in the fight to hold the great match
when its president, Sagamore Farm's A.G. Vanderbilt,
went to New York and was successful in convincing
the two owners to race their horses as a "sporting
venture," rather than a "financial venture," by
competing in the second running of the Pimlico Special
for a purse of only $15,000, in comparison to the
$100,000 that Belmont Park had offered that spring.
The conditions seemed to be tailor-made for War Admiral,
with a walk-up start due to the Triple Crown winner's
dislike for the starting gate. George Cassidy traveled
from New York to start the race, since Sam Riddle
had a disagreement with Pimlico's starter, the distance
was confirmed at a mile and three sixteenths, since
both horses had won at that distance when racing
at Pimlico in the past, and each horse carried 120
War Admiral was the betting favorite, and after
two false starts the race was underway. Seabiscuit,
who was usually a come-from-behind horse, changed
the anticipated race strategy when he took command
immediately, and although War Admiral stuck beside
him into the homestretch, Seabiscuit gamely fought
off War Admiral's bid for the lead and won by four
Following the Pimlico Special, War Admiral won once
more before the end of the season, scoring over Mucho
Gusto in the Rhode Island Handicap. Seabiscuit was
named Horse of the Year.
As a five-year-old, The Admiral won his only start,
a purse event in which he beat 1938 Belmont Stakes
winner Pasteurized, before an injured ankle forced
the end of his racing days.
Retired to stud, War Admiral stood first at Faraway
Farm, and was then moved to Hamburg Place in 1958.
The Admiral led the Sire's List in 1945, and was
the leading sire of juvenile performers three years
later. War Admiral was also an excellent broodmare
sire, with his daughters including the great handicap
mare Busher, who beat Calumet Farm's champion gelding
Armed in the Washington Park Handicap and was named
1945 Horse of the Year, as well as Busanda, a multiple
stakes winner whose victories included the 1951 Suburban
Handicap and two runnings of the Saratoga Gold Cup,
and whose offspring included Buckpasser, the 1966
Horse of the Year.