A Kentucky Derby winner is exalted and memorialized.  But what does the future typically hold for the worst of the laggards in the Run for the Roses, the horses who finish dead last in America’s most venerated race? How often do these dawdlers have racing careers that compensate for such a dismal performance on the first Saturday in May?

The answer, at least for the past ten Kentucky Derby runnings, is frequently.

Here are the nine colts and one gelding who finished last (either 19th or 20th) in the Kentucky Derby from 2005-2014, followed by their career earnings and career race records.

2005 High Limit, $922,500, 12 starts, 5 wins, 1 place, 1 show

2006 Keyed Entry, $322,852, 12 starts, 4 wins, 1 place, 1 show

2007 Cowtown Cat, $562,228, 16 starts, 4 wins, 1 place, 2 shows

2008 Monba, $669,034, 10 starts, 3 wins, 0 places, 2 shows

2009 Flying Private, $346,203, 20 starts, 2 wins, 6 places, 1 show

2010 Backtalk, $405,051, 15 starts, 4 wins, 4 places, 3 shows

2011 Comma To The Top, $1,349,406, 33 starts, 14 wins, 3 places, 2 shows

2012 Daddy Long Legs, $1,348,231, 16 starts, 3 wins, 0 places, 0 shows

2013 Falling Sky, $420,118, 14 starts, 5 wins, 1 place, 2 shows

2014 Vicar’s In Trouble, $1,228,292, 11 starts, 4 wins, 1 place, 4 shows

Kentucky Derby’s “biggest losers” from 2005-2014 have average career earnings of $757,392.  Three of them earned over $1 million and another earned close to a million dollars.  They had 159 combined career starts with 48 wins, 18 places, and 18 shows.  This equates to 52.8 percent in the money and a 30.2 win percentage.

Two of the ten last-place finishers were conditioned by Hall of Fame trainers (Robert Frankel and D. Wayne Lukas), two were conditioned by a certain future Hall of Fame trainer (Todd Pletcher), and one was conditioned by Europe’s leading trainer (Aidan O’Brien).   In summary, half of the last-place finishers in the Kentucky Derby from 2005-2014 were conditioned by four of the best trainers in the modern era in the United States and Europe.

Whichever colt in Kentucky Derby 141 passes under the Churchill Downs finish line in last place won’t receive any accolades and his connections will likely be disappointed if not embarrassed.  Yet recent history suggests that tomorrow offers a fresh start and redemption is ultimately a distinct possibility.

Copyright © 2015 Horse Racing Business


  1. Really enjoyed your posts during the Derby. Yours are better than the “professional” publications. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Extrapolating the careers of last place finishers in the Kentucky Derby as an example of anything meaningful to the careers of thoroughbred race horses generally is a pointless exercise. The maximum 20 entrants in the Derby QUALIFY to be in the race based on their career earnings up to the entry deadline. Thus, by definition, they represent the Top 20 of all 3-year-old graded stakes or allowance racers throughout the country who also just happen to be bred for the Derby’s brutal mile and a quarter distance, and of the thousands of Derby “eligible” thoroughbreds, precious few are stakes runners bred for distance.

    Most race horses, even moderately successful “claimers,” pass through multiple owners hands in a desperate attempt to turn a profit. Thoroughbred ownership is hardly a fast track to easy wealth.

  3. Bill Shanklin says


    You write: “Extrapolating the careers of last place finishers in the Kentucky Derby as an example of anything meaningful to the careers of throroughbred race horses generally is a pointless exercise.”

    The article does not extrapolate as you indicate nor is it an exercise. I have a long background in market research and certainly know when to make inferences and when not to from samples. You can find no language in my article indicating that I drew conclusions about “careers of race horses in general.” To do so would erroneously assume external validity.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment and for reading my article.

    Happy Derby Day!