Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 58 Days to Go!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 58 Days to Go!

Carry Back, a very modestly bred race horse, was affectionately known as C.B., or “The People’s Choice”. Jack Price acquired Carry Back’s dam, Joppy, for a few hundred dollars that was owed as a board bill. Joppy was a non-winning mare with a nasty temper that Price trained. She only earned $325 at the track before being banned from racing for her refusal to break from the gate. Her previous owner, who had fallen on hard times, thought that she was good enough to produce a Derby winner, though Price just thought of retraining her as a riding horse for his family. Price, the recently retired GM of his family’s manufacturing company, planned to move to Florida to become a full-time trainer. During the family’s move, they stopped to breed Price’s three mares to the Maryland stallion, Saggy.  Joppy and the two other mares were bred for less than $1000 to the stallion, a horse best known for handing Citation his only defeat as a 3YO.

Named for an income tax term after a few years of losses, the colt was named in hopes of his earning enough to “carry back” the profits to the years of loss. As a yearling, Price gave his wife the choice of yearlings on the farm. She chose Carry Back, resulting in his running under Katherine Price’s name. The brown colt was bred to mainly be a claimer, for this reason he was raced often as a 2YO, having a record of 5-4-4 from 21 starts. Carry Back discovered his true form when the distance was stretched out, with 4 of his victories being in stakes races. In the Juvenile Purse, Carry Back would set a track record of :57 2/5 for 5-furlongs. Price would put up a supplemental entry fee of $5000 to enter the Cowdin Stakes, with a happy outcome of a 1 ½ length victory from his charge. Taking on the Garden State Stakes, Carry Back would unleash his devastating rush to win by 3 ½ lengths after coming from second to last over a muddy track. In contesting the Remsen Stakes, he would carry at least 9 pounds more than his competitors, managing a victory of a ½ length in another driving finish.

In his 3YO season, Carry Back would finish fourth in his first start before winning a mile and 1/16 Purse race in addition to the Everglades and Flamingo Stakes. After finishing third in the Fountain of Youth, C.B. would rebound with a win in the Florida Derby. Not as lucky in the Wood Memorial, the determined colt still managed second.

In the lead up to the Derby, Price would tell the press that he believed that the race would come down between the East Coast horses, his Carry Back, and Derby Trial winner Crozier. Not many paid attention to him, even when the track turned up good after the rain the day and night prior, as some of Carry Back’s best races were over a muddy surface. The public still believed in the hard-knocking colt, making him one of the favorites in the field of 15.

Carry Back and jockey John Sellers would break slowly, running toward the back of the pack in 11th the first time past the grandstand. After running a half mile, the pair was 16 lengths behind the front running Wood Memorial winner, Globemaster.  Knowing his mount, Sellers knew that he could start to ask Carry Back to pick it up after the first half-mile. Shaking the reins at the colt, Carry Back picked up the bit and started to move up the pack.  Swinging Carry Back to the outside to begin his move when they reached the stretch, the duo still trailed by 13 lengths. As Crozier and Four-and-Twenty battled past the 1/8 pole, Carry Back was four lengths behind and eating up ground in fourth. At the 1/16 pole, Crozier was on top, with Carry Back in a furious drive. They would be nose-to-nose with 40 yards to go, when “The People’s Horse” would draw away in the final few strides to cross under the wire first by ¾ of a length in a time of 2:04, due to the sticky track. With the victory, Carry Back would become the second Florida-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby.

The connections would head to Pimlico, where Carry Back would win the Preakness; after starting slowly and being 14 ½ lengths off the lead. Once unleashing his annihilating stretch run, he would again prevail by ¾ of a length. Made the overwhelming favorite for the Belmont, the front runners would slow the pace, and though he started to make up ground, he didn’t have his normal closing ability, finishing 7th.  The colt would come back after the race with a cut, finding out that he had suffered an ankle injury in the race.

After nearly three months off, Carry Back would return to win an allowance race and then the Jerome Handicap. Following a few losses, he would close out the year winning the Trenton Handicap, earning 3YO Champion Colt honors.

As a 4YO, Carry Back would win the Metropolitan Handicap and Monmouth Handicap, defeating the great Kelso in both races, as well as setting new track records. He would win the Whitney Handicap, going on to be the 4th horse to earn $1 million, behind Citation, Nashua, and Round Table. He was retired at the end of the season and sent to stud in Florida.

Following his first breeding season, Carry Back was returned the track to race as a 5YO. It was a trying return with several races, however he would win the Trenton Handicap for a second time, after which he was retired again for good. After Carry Back’s final race, Price would also retire from training, feeling like he had worked with the best horse that he ever would. Both retired to Price’s Dorchester Farm in Ocala, where Carry Back would sire a few stakes winners, although there were never any on his level. At the age of 23, Carry Back developed a tumor in his leg. While he was being operated on for removal, it was discovered that it had spread throughout, leading to the heart-breaking decision to put the beloved stallion down. He was cremated, with his ashes eventually being buried at the Kentucky Derby Museum.

(Shoes courtesy Kentucky Derby Museum archives)

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum