Even one hundred years after his birth—March 29, 1917—Man o’ War remains one of the biggest names in racing. While the black-and-white photos and grainy video footage of Man o’ War might be fading, his legend—20 wins in 21 starts during a golden age of sports in the 1920s—still thrills us. He topped “The Blood-Horse’s Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century” back in 1999.
Anyone remotely interested in the sport knows at least something about Man o’ War and his groom, Will Harbut, who called him “Big Red” and referred to him as the “mostest hoss.
A strong link to the “mostest” lies on Greg Goodman’s Mt. Brilliant Farm north of Lexington. Expanding on his original footprint in 2002, Goodman purchased the old Faraway Farm—which had been owned by Samuel Riddle and later by Walter Jeffords—which Man o’ War called home as a stallion.
Goodman holds history in his hands.
“The old Faraway Farm was attached to our farm,” Goodman said. “It was really run down. There hadn’t been any horses on it since 1967…it looked like it hadn’t been mowed since 1967. The place had really been neglected.
“I knew it was Man o’ War’s farm, and I was really excited about buying it. No one told us, but we figured out which barn was Man o’ War’s because his stall door still had his name on it. It used to have those little brass letters on it and someone had taken those, but the sun had bleached his name in the door.”
Goodman said in front of the barn was a gallows that had a beautiful bell on it. The bell has been restored with a new stand.
“A tree had fallen in on the barn years before,” he said. “We got the tree off and really cleaned it up, and we had to replace the shingles on the roof, but as far as the structure went, we really only had to replace about 12 decorative boards on the deck and about three joists. Everything that is in there is original except for about five pieces of wood.
“That barn was built in 1920 or 1921, and it was really well-built. For back then, it was state of the art. In the aisleway it used to be gravel and clay and the stall flooring was gravel. We put some brick pavers inside the barn. Beside that, it’s exactly as it was.
“Even today when I walk in that barn…it just gives me chills,” he said.
During the renovation process Goodman also discovered a graveyard behind Man o’ War’s barn that had the remains of some of the Jeffords family’s top mares including Furlough (a daughter of Man o’ War) and her daughter Ace Card.
“It was really exciting to find that,” Goodman said.
Goodman took Man o’ War’s door from the barn and hung it in his office at Mt. Brilliant.
“We loaned it to the Horse Racing Hall of Fame for this year…but I miss it so much,” Goodman professed. “Whenever we have guests, that’s the first thing they want to see. It’s really cool having that in there.
“All of the people that have come to look at our horses over the years before the September sales—and these are people that have been in the business all their lives—every big-time guy has asked me without fail if they could go see Man o’ War’s barn,” he said.
“Man o’ War means a lot to everybody,” Goodman acknowledged. “People call to come see it and the older people that loved Man o’ War…some literally break down and cry when they see the barn.
“Before we started doing tours with Horse Country, we’d have a bunch of people call and want to come see it. People call out of the blue. It’s amazing how many people are still fans of his.
“It’s like going to Mt. Vernon…you know, ‘George Washington slept here.’ You know, Man o’ War slept here.”
That’s a legend that isn’t going to fade anytime soon.