150th Kentucky Derby: Wins Eluded Top Trainers, Jockeys

It looked like his long drought in the Kentucky Derby was about to end on May 7, 2022.

Steve Asmussen

Epicenter surged to the front in upper stretch and looked like the winner until the final strides. That’s when 80-1 shot Rich Strike spurted by along the inside to devastate Steve Asmussen.

Asmussen is 0-for-25 heading into 150th Kentucky Derby

Asmussen’s reaction to being upset by a 1-for-7 former claimer who drew into the race at the last minute:

“When they tell me tomorrow that this happened, I’m still going to go say ‘Are you sure? Really? Like, that’s what happened?’”

The trainer with nearly 10,500 victories, most in North American history, is 0-for-25 in the world’s most coveted race. It’s so hard to win, because everything must go right, or it’s wait until next year. But as Asmussen says, “If it’s meant to be, then it’s meant to be.”

He’s back this year with Track Phantom, a speedy longshot with two stakes victories. “The Derby is the pinnacle of the sport,” Asmussen said, “and I’ve always loved being a part of it.”

Even though it’s tormented him.

No Kentucky Derby wins for Hall of Famers Frankel, McAnally, Mandella

Asmussen is one of many top horsemen who never won it. Hall of Famers Bobby Frankel, Allen Jerkens, Hirsch Jacobs, Jerry Hollendorfer, Ron McAnally, and Richard Mandella are a combined 0-for-40. Irish wizard Aidan O’Brien is 0-for-6. Todd Pletcher (2-for-64) was 0-for-25 before his 2010 breakthrough with Super Saver.

Nakatani 0-for-18, Castellano 0-for-15 before Mage

Corey Nakatani

Derby triumph also has eluded many terrific jockeys. As trainer Whit Beckman said, “The Derby is a funny race. It’s not always won by one of the top five riders.”  Corey Nakatani has a record of 0-for-18, and Javier Castellano went 0-for-15 before scoring on Mage last year. Both are in the Hall of Fame. So are Pat Day (1-for-22), successful on his 10th attempt, and Laffit Pincay, Jr. (1-for-21), who needed 11.

Top trainer Chad Brown seeks first Kentucky Derby

Many superstars will try to get off the Kentucky Derby schneid May 4. Future Hall of Fame trainer Chad Brown (0-for-7) calls likely second favorite Sierra Leone “probably our best chance so far.” Irad Ortiz, Jr., Jose Ortiz, Tyler Gaffalione and Luis Saez are among the world’s best jockeys but were frustrated in seven, eight, six and 10 tries, respectively. (Saez finished first on Maximum Security in 2019 but was taken down for interference.)

Brad Cox

Inherited Kentucky Derby winners: Mott, Cox

Multiple Eclipse Award honorees Bill Mott (1-for-12) and Brad Cox (1-for-9) inherited Derby wins with Country House (2019) and Mandaloun (2021) via DQs. Mott’s came after a 22-minute stewards’ inquiry, and the next morning he said, “I feel terrible that I have to apologize for winning.”

Cox was put up the following February because of Medina Spirit’s medication violation. “Victory” felt hollow.

“I think the thrill of winning the Kentucky Derby is watching your horse cross the wire first and walking to the winner’s circle with everybody in the world watching,” Cox said. “We didn’t get to experience that, and we need to get back there and win it that way.”

He’s got live horses in Catching Freedom, Just a Touch, and Encino so maybe this will be the year for Cox. Or for someone else who’s often been denied glory on the first Saturday in May.



Posted on