In 140 runnings of the Kentucky Derby, there have been many entries scratched for various reasons, usually injury.   The most significant ones involved colts that were betting favorites before being withdrawn.

The view here is that the three best horses ever scratched from the Kentucky Derby were General Duke in 1957, Sir Gaylord in 1962, and A. P. Indy in 1992.  All of these colts were exceptional racehorses with the very real potential of winning not only the Kentucky Derby but also the Triple Crown.

General Duke, 1957.  This edition of the Derby is still widely regarded as having the best overall cast ever.  The names of three colts in the field of nine are enshrined in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.  Gallant Man, Round Table, and Bold Ruler finished second, third, and fourth, respectively, in the Derby.  The winner was Iron Liege, the second string entry of Calumet Farm behind General Duke, who, prior to the Derby, was regarded as the most talented colt of 1957.  In fact, most of the prominent race writers of the day predicted greatness for the colt based largely on his resounding defeat of Bold Ruler in the Florida Derby in a world-record time.

Calumet Farm trainer Ben Jones scratched General Duke only minutes prior to the opening of betting windows on Derby Day owing to what was thought to be a bruised foot from his last prep race.  It turned out to be a broken bone and General Duke never raced again.

Sir Gaylord, 1962.  This colt was a blueblood of bluebloods, being the older half brother of Secretariat.  Their dam was the Princequillo mare Something Royal.   Sir Gaylord’s sire was the esteemed Turn-To and his owner and breeder was Christopher Chenery (Meadow Stable), whose daughter Penny campaigned Secretariat in 1972 and 1973.

Sir Gaylord was a solid favorite to win the Kentucky Derby but the day before the race he suffered a hairline fracture of the sesamoid bone.  Meadow Stable trainer Casey Hayes scratched the colt and his racing career had ended.

In a what-might-have-been sidenote, Sir Gaylord’s stablemate was the formidable Hall of Fame 3-year-old filly Cicada.  Had Sir Gaylord’s injury occurred a bit earlier, Hayes would likely have put her in the Derby instead of the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, which she won.

A. P. Indy, 1992.  A. P. Indy is one of the rare horses that demonstrated greatness both on the racetrack and at stud.  He had the background:  His sire was Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew and his dam was the Secretariat mare Weekend Surprise.  He won eight of eleven races in 1991 and 1992, including the Santa Anita Derby, the Belmont Stakes, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

On Derby morning, trainer Neil Drysdale scratched A. P. Indy due to a quarter crack in the colt’s left front foot.  A. P. Indy was not ready in time for the Preakness Stakes but resumed racing by winning the Belmont Stakes.

A. P. Indy came back with a vengeance after his injury and Sir Gaylord went on to a successful career at stud.  By contrast, General Duke would experience no such redemption.  His life ended prematurely and tragically when he developed the neurological condition known as wobbler’s syndrome and died in 1958.  If fate had been kinder, he might have been talked about in the same vein as the greats of the turf, especially if he had prevailed in the Triple Crown against Bold Ruler, Gallant Man, and Round Table.

Copyright © 2015 Horse Racing Business


  1. A. P. Indy was by far the best of his foal crop. I have little doubt that he would have won the Derby and Preakness. Can’t prove a coulda woulda shoulda though. General Duke was a sad story, maybe a great horse by Bull Lea and trained by one of the top five of all time.