A half century ago, racing fans were eagerly anticipating another electrifying stretch run, this time at Churchill Downs, by Carry Back, who was named for a provision in federal tax law. He was a small colt, 15.1 hands, a Florida-bred born at Ocala Stud, and not a blueblood by any means, being by Saggy, whose claim to fame was once having defeated Citation, and out of the pedestrian mare Joppy by Star Blen.

Carry Back’s connections were not racing patricians, in contrast to many of the prominent owners of the day. The colt was bred and trained by former Cleveland, Ohio, manufacturer Jack Price and was officially owned by Price’s wife Katherine or Kay. Jack Price took the mare Joppy for the $300 overdue bill he was owed for boarding her at his Ohio farm and then paid a $400 stud fee to breed her to Saggy.

In Carry Back’s 2-year-old season in 1960, in which he started a remarkable 21 times, he won the Cowdin, Remsen, and Garden State. During his sophomore campaign, he won the Everglades, Flamingo, Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Jerome, and Trenton Handicap.

Price was not a sentimental type of person and his apparent lack of reverence for the Kentucky Derby offended traditionalists.

Carry Back went to the post in the 87th edition of the Kentucky Derby under jockey John Sellers as the 2 ½-to-1 favorite. He was 18 lengths off the lead early in the race and 13 lengths behind at the top of the stretch, when announcer Bryan Field observed: “Carry Back is far out of it at this stage and is moving.” Even Jack Price thought it was too much of a gap to close. In mid-stretch the race looked to be among three colts: Four-and-Twenty, Globemaster, and Crozier. Field cautioned: “Carry Back (is) too far (back) to make it count…unless he hurries.” The little colt then unleashed a devastating run and caught Crozier to win by three-fourths of a length. The official chart of the race described Carry Back’s victory, as follows:

“Start good. Won driving. CARRY BACK, slow to begin as usual, was kept wider than necessary when his rider elected to find the better going, lost additional ground to avoid any possible interference on rounding the second turn, rallied when roused at the top of the stretch to come on strongly and wore down CROZIER even though being carried out slightly by that one in midstretch.”

Carry Back won in a time of 2 minutes and four seconds. He was the second Florida-bred to win the Kentucky Derby (Needles was the first in 1956).

Two weeks later in the Preakness, Carry Back came from 15 lengths back to beat Globe Master and Crozier, again by three-quarters of a length. Carry Back’s attempt to complete the Triple Crown went awry when he injured an ankle during the Belmont and finished 15 lengths back in seventh place. He ran six more times in 1961—winning three of these–and was voted best 3-year-old of the year.

As a 4-year-old in 1962, Carry Back beat Kelso in winning the Metropolitan and Monmouth Handicaps—albeit with less weight–and captured the Whitney under a 130-pound impost. Price, being a sportsman, sent Carry Back to Longchamp in France for the mile-and-a-half Arc de Triomphe on the turf, Europe’s richest race. Price and his colt were the toast of the town and Carry Back was cheered by the French fans in the paddock and on-track in the lead up to the race. He finished tenth of 23 runners and was beaten only about 5 lengths, despite the long travel to France and the switch from dirt to grass.

Over a four-year racing career, Carry back had a record of 21 wins, 11 seconds, and 11 thirds from 61 starts, winning $1,241,165, which was the fourth highest amount at the time he was retired in 1963.

In Carry Back’s career as a stallion, he sired 12 stakes winners and the dams of 31 stakes winners. He died in 1983 at age 25 and was cremated. Today, his remains are interred in the garden terrace at the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame in 1975.

John Sellers had his trophy from the 1961 Kentucky Derby stolen when his house was burglarized in the 1970s. In 1999, a friend saw the trophy for sale on eBay and alerted Sellers. The trophy was ultimately returned to him.

(Bryan Field’s call of Carry Back’s stretch run in the 1961 Kentucky Derby is exciting to hear, although the recording has deteriorated badly over time and it is difficult in spots to discern Field’s exact words. The last half of the recording is much clearer than the first half. Click here to listen.)

Copyright © 2011 Horse Racing Business


  1. I remember Carry Back! He was the most exciting horse in the world. I wish more people today knew about him. Fifty years later, even though the replay is in black and white, it’s bold color in my mind.
    He has a psychic connection to Zenyatta in the way he almost makes your heart stop. Thank you for writing this article. I Love Carry Back

  2. Karen Hanover says

    I, too, remember Carry Back. Oh yes–and I was 9 years old at the time of this Kentucky Derby. If you saw him move in all his races, you’d never forget him. I never before or since saw a horse that could consistently start at the back and PASS EVERY SINGLE HORSE IN THE FIELD in the backstretch. He was a marvel. I guess only horse i think as much of would be, of course, the great Man-O-War.

  3. I was 11 and saw him in the 1961 Florida Derby on TV. My first horse race…I fell in love with him and racing. I actually have one of his horse shoes and I kept a scrap book on hi. That scrap book is now safe in the archives of the Kentucky Derby Museum.

  4. My first and only thoroughbred love.
    Love you, Carry Back.

  5. My first love in horse racing was Carry Back. He remains my #1 horse of all time. I’ve seen the last 4 Triple Crown winners win their Belmont Stakes, a race Carry Back didn’t win. I was lucky to have corresponded with Jack Price over the years and have several photos, a post card and a wonderful drawing that are part of a large scrap book of Carry Back that I go thru when I want to reminisce and smile. His Derby was the BEST.

  6. I am trying to find any information on horse Iron Rail that beat Carry Back, Hail to Reason and Globemater in smaller races.
    Debra Kelty Fine

  7. David Shorr says

    I was st the Belmont when Carry Back lost. I did bet on him. I think he was a 2 to 5 bet.
    The race was won by Sherluck who was a 65-1 shot. I still have that program from old Belmont Park.

  8. Debra Sine says

    Iron Rail was my grandfather’s horse . I am searching for all the info I can get. I am mainly interested in pictures.
    I find it interesting that Iron Rail beat Carry Back and Hail to Reason in the Juvenile Derby but the story is very difficult to find.

    Thank you for your input.

  9. Susan Boyle Culligan says

    My grandmother’s horse. I knew him from the farm but never saw him race. Thank you for posting these.

  10. Debra Sine says

    My grandfather John Kelty and Don Ford owned Iron Rail.
    I love Carry Back as well.
    I can not find any articles covering “Iron Rail” and would pay to find.

  11. Debra Sine says

    Would love info on racehorse Iron Rail.
    He beat Carry Back in Juvenile stakes not derby.
    I love Carry Back!

  12. Bill Shanklin says

    There are three horses registered as Iron Rail. Following is a link to the pedigree of the Iron Rail born in 1958.

    Iron Rail won 7 of 18 career starts.

  13. Debra Sine says

    Thank you Bill Shanklin.

  14. Is there a book about Carry Back or at least one that has a fairly good lot about him? Thank you

  15. Steve Zweig says

    2021 will be the 60th anniversary of Carry Back’s historic Derby win. Glad to see all the great comments and that CB is still remembered. Carry Back was my great uncle and aunt’s horse, Jack and Katherine Price. I wasn’t born when Carry Back ran the Triple Crown races, but enjoyed hearing all the stories growing up. Jake and Katherine were wonderful people and always there for family. I have wondered what would have happened in the Belmont had Carry Back not been injured. I was told he had beaten every horse in that field in other races. Jake would say Carry Back had a big personality and connected with his race fans. The cheers fueled some of those big finishes he was famous for. He was called the People’s horse during the day.

  16. Steve Zweig says

    Thanks to Bill Shanklin for the article on Carry Back.

  17. Marilynn Summers says

    Dear Steve
    I am still watching Carry Back win the Derby and Preakness and losing the Belmont. I am so sorry that he worked so hard but lost Belmont.
    I’m happy that you and others are still talking about our boy.
    My best
    Marilynn Summers

  18. Linda Hanypsiak says

    I was12 when i completely fell in love with Carry Back, that sweet little come-from-behind colt. He made me a racing fan.. God bless his memory!