Man O'War, page 1
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THE BLACK STALLION SERIES BY WALTER FARLEY
THE BLACK STALLION
THE BLACK STALLION RETURNS
SON OF THE BLACK STALLION
THE ISLAND STALLION
THE BLACK STALLION AND SATAN
THE BLACK STALLION’S BLOOD BAY COLT
THE ISLAND STALLION’S FURY
THE BLACK STALLION’S FILLY
THE BLACK STALLION REVOLTS
THE BLACK STALLION’S SULKY COLT
THE ISLAND STALLION RACES
THE BLACK STALLION’S COURAGE
THE BLACK STALLION MYSTERY
THE BLACK STALLION AND FLAME
MAN O’ WAR
THE BLACK STALLION CHALLENGED!
THE BLACK STALLION’S GHOST
THE BLACK STALLION AND THE GIRL
THE BLACK STALLION LEGEND
THE YOUNG BLACK STALLION (with Steven Farley)
Published by Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books a division of Random House, Inc., New York
Copyright © 1962 by Walter Farley
Copyright renewed 1990 by Rosemary Farley, Alice Farley, Steve Farley, Tim Farley, and Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law. For information address Random House Children’s Books.
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This book was originally cataloged by the Library of Congress as follows:
Man o’ War
New York, Random House 
SUMMARY: “A Fictional biography of Man o’ War.”
I. Man o’ War (Racehorse) SF355.M3F3 636.12 62-9000
Reprinted by arrangement with Random House Children’s Books
Other Books by This Author
1. RACETRACK SPECIAL
2. MARCH 29, 1917
3. MAHUBAH’S FOAL
4. MAN O’ WAR
5. THE WEANLING
6. FLYING LEGS
7. DARK DAYS
8. “LOOK HIM OVER”
11. RIDER UP!
12. FALL BREEZES
13. THE TRIALS
15. THE STIRRING UP
16. FIRST START
17. RISING STAR
18. GOLDEN BROOM AGAIN
21. THE UNWINDING
22. THE PREAKNESS
23. THE WAY OF A CHAMPION
24. JOHN P. GRIER
25. AGAIN, SARATOGA
26. RACING HIS SHADOW
27. THE CAMPAIGN ENDS
28. MATCH OF THE AGES
29. RULING MONARCH
30. THE BIG GAMBLE
31. THE SUMMING UP
About the Author
What you are about to read is a fictional biography of Man o’ War, in that there was no stableboy named Danny Ryan. His actions and conversations with others are purely imaginary on my part and used to tell the story of Man o’ War as I know it. That such a person as Danny may have existed (comparable, if not as I have drawn him) among the large entourage following the champion, I have little doubt. Such love and devotion as Danny had for Man o’ War are not uncommon among those tending a racehorse, or any horse, be he a champion or not.
I saw Man o’ War before his death in 1947. Like many boys and girls, I wanted to visit the well-known horse farms in Kentucky, and one summer my father took me there. I saw many fine stallions, for all horse lovers are welcome in that country and no one who behaves himself is ever turned away. When we reached Faraway Farm, there were many visitors swarming through the gates. For my father this was the highlight of our tour, since he had seen Man o’ War race and “the flame-colored stallion was the greatest horse that ever lived.” To someone like myself, who had not been around long enough to see Man o’ War race, he was a legendary horse, a monument, a part of the history I had read on American racing. I was excited, too, but not prepared at all for the moment to come.
I recall adding my name to a guest book, which according to my father already totaled over half a million visitors. I followed the large group into the stallion barn, thinking that if Man o’ War had belonged to the public in his racing days, things hadn’t changed much for him.
We approached his big stall, and Will Harbut, the black groom who took care of him, looked us over, rather critically, I thought, as if deciding for himself how much we knew about horses and Man o’ War in particular. Like others in the throng, I had read many stories in magazines about Will Harbut’s love and care for Man o’ War in these—his later years—at Faraway Farm. I was prepared to listen to his well-publicized and very complete monologue on Man o’ War’s record and the accomplishments of his foals. But at that moment my father’s hand tightened on my arm, directing my attention to the stall itself.
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. There was a lordly lift to his head and his sharp eyes were bright. He didn’t look at us, but far out over our heads. If his red coat and mane and tail had faded with time, as my father said later, I was not aware of it. Nor did I notice the dip of his back, deepening too with age. I could not even have said whether his massive body was red or gold or yellow. I was aware only of one thing—that for the first and perhaps the only time in my life I was standing in the presence of a horse that was truly great, and it would be a moment always to be remembered.
What accounted for this stirring of the heart? For that is what it was. If one attributes it to the emotions of youth, what about my father’s adulation of Man o’ War? And all the others of his generation who had seen this horse and felt no differently? Was the look in Man o’ War’s eyes responsible for it? His gaze, I recall, shifted occasionally to look at us. They were deep, intelligent eyes and very bright. More often than not, however, he seemed not to know we were there at all, his gaze fixed and far away, so intent that I could have sworn he was watching something far beyond our vision.
Or was it the regal lift of his head, the giant sweep of his body, or the dignity with which he held himself up for our inspection? Or, perhaps, a combination of everything, for there was nothing about him that did not seem right to me. Whatever accounted for it, I stood in his
It has also been said of Man o’ War that “he touched the imagination of men and they saw different things in him. But one they all remember was that he brought exaltation into their hearts.” Whatever else may be written or said of Man o’ War, I know this to be true from my one visit to an aged but majestic stallion. It was with the hope that I could impart something of what I felt to you that I wrote this book.
Many years have passed since Man o’ War raced. The few who remember him on the track will tell you that all the great champions that have raced since—Equipoise, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Assault, Citation, Native Dancer, Nashua, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, to name a few—were only “the best since Man o’ War.” To them Man o’ War is the one to be remembered. He alone is their yardstick of time.
There are fewer people still who remember Man o’ War as a yearling. If you believe them, most all saw in him the spark of greatness at the time. But the facts usually indicate otherwise. And there is only a mere handful of people who recall Man o’ War as a suckling colt at the side of his dam, Mahubah, at Nursery Stud.
To reconstruct this story of Man o’ War, I have used to best advantage the city newspapers and national magazines published at the time, as well as the many excellent publications devoted especially to Thoroughbred racing and breeding—among them, Daily Racing Form, The Morning Telegraph, The Blood Horse, The Thoroughbred Record, and American Racing Manual.
I have used also the facilities of many fine libraries and referred often to John Hervey’s Turf Career of Man o’ War, which would have been published in book form had it not been for the noted track historian’s untimely death before the manuscript was completed; the rough manuscript is part of the Harry Worcester Smith Collection at the National Sporting Library, Middleburg, Virginia, and has also appeared serially in Horse Magazine. Without the use of all these sources to supplement my own file, this story of Man o’ War could not have been written.
It was hardly the time or the place to be thinking about a horse, any horse, the man decided, even Man o’ War. He pulled up the collar of his overcoat and pushed his head against the drizzling, chilling dampness that penetrated everything he wore right down to the flannel undershirt beneath his heavy gray suit. It was unusually cold for only the 22nd of October. But one couldn’t count on anything in New York. Full of surprises, always.
He glanced up at the buildings rising like giant pyramids above him. Even Times Square wasn’t square. It was a triangle, noisy and garish. And now that the morning was just about over, Broadway was coming to life, with theater and store managers trying to pierce the milkiness with pale, flickering lights. It was a losing battle. The fog wasn’t going to lift for a while. Maybe he wouldn’t even be able to see the backstretch of the big track at Aqueduct.
As he turned west on 42nd Street his way became more crowded and noisier than ever. Yet as he pushed his way through the surging throng he allowed his large head to emerge a bit more from his overcoat, much like a giant sea turtle peeking out from its heavy shell. He watched the marquee lights flashing on and off and, somehow, they seemed to warm him. He became less uncomfortable, less dissatisfied with the weather. He didn’t try to understand his love for the hum and roar of the city, not just any city, just New York. He was a country boy and he should be thinking more about the warm October days of his youth in Kentucky. Now those were the good years of quiet and peace and horses. But he wouldn’t trade one inch of this paved street for all of Kentucky’s green acres, not anymore! The way he’d felt as a kid was long since over.
Reaching the subway entrance, he turned into it and left 42nd Street’s lights and hubbub behind. He stopped at a newsstand, picked up several papers, then hurried down a flight of steep steps as if diving into a cellar.
The smell of the subway grew stronger in his nostrils and he could see the long line forming before the change booth. Over the booth a sign read:
He pulled out a dollar bill from his pocket and glanced at his watch. Only 11:45, so there was plenty of time to make the racetrack train. The line waiting to get to the change booth was fully two blocks long, and he realized Aqueduct would have a full house today despite the weather. Slowly he moved forward with the others.
At the change booth he got two halves for his dollar, put one in the turnstile, and took the escalator to the lowest platform in the station. There he leaned against one of the pillars with the big “42” painted on it and waited for the train. He didn’t read his newspapers. It was far more interesting to watch the others and catch snatches of their conversation.
“Wonderboy should take the third race,” a man said. “He likes distance and he’s been working good.” The speaker was leaning against the same pillar, almost rubbing shoulders with the big man but talking to no one in particular, just mumbling his thoughts.
Somebody in back answered, “No, that one will drop dead at the half-mile pole. He ain’t got a chance.”
But the big man listening knew that the fellow could have meant, “You’re dead right. That’s the bravest, fastest horse in the race but let’s not spread it around, Mac. Let’s keep him to ourselves.”
The big man nodded to let everyone know he was glad to be included in the discussion. He felt completely happy and at peace with himself and the world. Taking a stub pencil from his pocket, he wetted the end and made a note on the margin of his paper regarding the third race. Everyone was a giant going to Aqueduct and a dwarf coming home. On the way out all horses sounded good, all had a chance.
Suddenly the train came roaring into the station and stopped with one of the car doors opening directly in front of him. It was a good omen. Open Sesame, he thought to himself, and smiled. He had no trouble getting a good seat and soon would be on his way to what he called his very own “Arabian Nights.”
The train remained in the station, its doors open. After a few minutes the first signs of impatience became noticeable as passengers put down newspapers to glance at their watches.
The big man shifted uneasily with the others. He, too, had reasons for wanting to get to the track ahead of time, and he couldn’t understand the delay. He became grumpy, suddenly hating the hollow-eyed, unshaven man standing in front of him.
The train finally started and the tension cleared. Once again the passengers pored over their newspapers, ignoring each other and rocking to the train’s motion. The stations began flashing by with no slowing of the Special … first 34th Street, then Washington Square, then Canal Street. Faster and faster the train traveled, now into a turn with screeching wheels, now downgrade into the tunnel beneath the East River.
The big man felt better. It was his job to go to the track. He had to be there whether he liked it or not. Looking across the aisle, he found a young man staring at him curiously. When their gazes met, the youth looked away with a shrug.
For some reason he, too, turned away quickly. Once more his mood became surly. He even found himself raising a mental barrier between himself and the young fellow across the aisle … as if it had suddenly become very necessary for him to protect himself. He took out his pipe and refilled it slowly, taking all the time in the world, studying it.
The train slowed and finally came to a screeching halt in what must have been the very middle of the tunnel beneath the river. He looked up at the roof of the car, wondering how many gallons of water lay above. He glanced around at one passenger after another, ignoring only the youth across the aisle. Everybody else was reading, seemingly unaware of the sudden stop, the deathly quiet. New Yorkers were used to traveling the perilous, rickety lanes beneat
He found the young man’s eyes upon him again. This time their gazes held. “Do you smell something?” he asked finally, grimacing and sniffing.
“Only the brakes, Pops. Don’t worry about it.” Pops? Pops? Once again the big man raised the mental barrier between the youth and himself. The young squirt. What right had he to be calling him Pops, a man only in his fifties? Why did this kid annoy him so much, even before the Pops? Was it the hat pushed back so cockily on his head? Was it the smile on his face, that one-sided, familiar, maybe even mocking smile?
“The subway route isn’t all it’s supposed to be,” he said, not knowing why he kept the conversation going.
“But look at the bright side of it,” the young man countered. “We’re dropped off right at the track door. What other track in the country has the luxury of a subway entrance?”
“Yes, New Aqueduct is a fine track,” the big man admitted. “They did a good job of renovating it.” Again he studied the other, noting the torn trench coat that did not speak well for the youth’s prosperity. Yet there was that smile again, revealing his fine, white teeth.
“Aw, it’s just a big supermarket,” the youth went on. “A fellow could bring his girl to Aqueduct now and lose her for a week. Too big, too much comfort, too much courtesy. You know what I think? It’s too good for us now. Take all those plush restaurants and escalators—”
“It also has the best horses,” the big man interrupted, hoping to put this flashy boy with the flashy dark eyes in his place.
“Yeah, a Taj Mahal with horses, that’s what it is. You can have the New Aqueduct an’ I’ll take the old, inadequate Aqueduct. It’s too heady for me. I like to be able to find people … maybe even get pushed around a little and kid about ‘Footsore Downs’ like we did before. Now we got seats to park in. It’s all too lush, too lavish.”
The big man put his pipe in his mouth without lighting it. His eyes didn’t leave the youth’s. Was it the uncommon energy evident in every movement that bothered him so much? Was he truly getting old and resenting youth? No, it couldn’t be. He knew too many other young people whose company he enjoyed. Then what was it?
Other author's books:
- Son of the Black StallionThe Black Stallion ReturnsThe Black Stallion's Sulky ColtBlack Stallion and SatanThe Black Stallion's GhostThe Black Stallion RevoltsThe Horse TamerThe Black Stallion Legend
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