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