Man o’ War Exhibit Gallops into the Kentucky Derby Museum

Photos by James Eaton.

By Minda Honey  |  Out & About

Collector Ken Grayson isn’t going to share his Derby pick with you — he told us it was too early to call it with a secretive glimmer in his eye — but he has generously loaned many items to the new Man o’ War exhibit at the Kentucky Derby Museum. “Man o’ War: The Legacy” opened Saturday, April 8, and is an opportunity for longtime fans and newcomers alike to experience “the life of Man o’ War, his impressive racing career, his ties to the Kentucky Derby and his lasting mark on Thoroughbred racing.” This is the first Man o’ War exhibit the museum has held in 20 years and it coincides with the 100th anniversary celebration of the horse’s birth. Kentucky Derby Museum President Patrick Armstrong says, “[Visitors] will walk away from this exhibit with a new appreciation for this magnificent horse and what he meant to the sport of horse racing.”

Man o’ War never ran in the Derby but he did win 20 of his 21 starts, and more than 40 Derby winners can trace their bloodline back to Man o’ War — the very first being 1937 Derby winner War Admiral. Grayson is confident that had Man o’ War raced in the Derby, he’d have easily taken home the roses. “‘Easily’ was a word regularly attributed to Man o’ War,” says the collector.

Grayson’s favorite item in the exhibit is the saddle from Man o’ War’s match race against Sir Barton, the first ever Triple Crown winner. The jockey’s daughter, who was living in a nursing home in upstate New York, sold the saddle to Grayson in 1982. Visitors will also be delighted to see “the official program from the famous 1938 match race between War Admiral, son of Man o’ War, and the legendary Seabiscuit,” a 1947 “It Really Happened!” comic book featuring Man o’ War, and even a lock of the Thoroughbred’s mane.

Man o’ War super fans should sign up for one of the two-day-long tours the Kentucky Derby Museum will offer in partnership with Mt. Brilliant Farm and Horse Country Tours. The tours will take place on Wednesday, May 31 and Wednesday, August 23. The tour will begin at the museum, head over to Churchill Downs to watch workouts and then join Grayson back at the museum for a private gallery tour before traveling to Mt. Brilliant Farm in Lexington where participants will be treated to a tour of the farm including the renovated Man o’ War barn complete with memorabilia. Mt. Brilliant Farm Chief Operating Officer Gay Bredin says, “We are excited to be a part of Man o’ War’s 100th birthday celebration. It is a fun time for the horse industry to celebrate one of the greatest horses.”

The exhibit will run through December 2017 and is included in general admission to the Kentucky Derby Museum. Visit derbymuseum.org to learn more about the exhibit or to reserve your ticket for one of the two-day-long tours. VT