The obituary for John Thomas Cosdon Jr., who died on September 6, 2013 at age 72, described him as “a Louisville (Ky.) rock n’ roll pioneer known to his fans as ‘Cosmo’…”

The man recognized professionally in the music business as Cosmo had a long involvement with Thoroughbred racehorses, including as an owner, jockey’s agent, bloodstock advisor, and trainer.

It is hard to conceive of a surer recipe for sleep deprivation than belting out rock n’ roll sounds with a band late into the night and training racehorses at dawn.  Cosmo also owned and operated several restaurants over the years.

Cosmo sang at events across the state of Kentucky during the late 1950s and 1960s with bands named the Sultans and the Counts.  He never made it big nationally but recordings such as “It’ll Be Easy” and “Just Words” were regional hits.  Cosmo would sometimes open concerts featuring some of the top artists of the day…the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, and Ricky Nelson, to name a few.  He continued to entertain occasionally until he became too ill near the end of his life.

Cosmo’s most noted–or notorious–moment as a racehorse trainer came in 1969, when he ran a hopelessly overmatched grey gelding named Rae Jet in the Kentucky Derby against the likes of future Racing Hall of Fame inductees Majestic Prince and Arts & Letters, who ran first and second, in that order, in an eight-horse field.

The terse comment in the race chart for Rae Jet’s last-place finish, 43 lengths behind the winner–a gap of about 115 yards–said:

“RAE JET was squeezed back when caught in a speed jam entering the first turn and soon lost contact with the field.”

Rae Jet would surely have “lost contact” even with the benefit of a perfect trip.  When a reporter asked Cosmo why he ran the gelding in the Derby he deadpanned that “the owner never had a horse this good.”  Rae Jet, a grandson of the mighty War Admiral, completed his career with six wins from 86 starts and would certainly be in the mix for the appellation of “worst horse ever to run in the Kentucky Derby.”

I was acquainted with Tommy Cosdon when we were teenagers and very young men, listened and danced to his music, shared with him a going-away-to-the Army send-off party for both of us, and watched on television as his trainee Rae Jet ran in the Kentucky Derby.

About a dozen years ago, I was visiting Louisville and happened to see in a newspaper that Cosmo was singing that night at a restaurant and bar.  My wife and I went to see him perform and the place was packed with fans who looked to have been adolescents or very young adults in the music era dominated by the likes of Elvis, Fats, and Jerry Lee.  He crooned mostly sedate tunes and his audience listened intently, still appreciative and no doubt reminiscing.

The legendary Kentucky rock n’ roll singer–who moonlighted as a racehorse trainer, or vice versa–and the gelding he saddled up for the 95th Run for the Roses are indelibly part of the recorded history and folklore of inimitable characters associated with the Kentucky Derby.

May you rest in peace, Tommy and Rae Jet.  And thanks for the memories.


You can travel back to the heyday of Rock n’ Roll and listen to Cosmo’s music on YouTube.   Click here and here for two of his recordings.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business

Look for a Kentucky Derby history post every Monday, beginning February 20 and ending May 1.


  1. Your blog is better reading than the racing media. Really enjoy coming here every week. Never heard the story about Cosmo and Rae Jet…it was before my day…but found it both amusing and touching. Not all the owners and trainers were rich. That’s refreshing. Similar to when Mine that Bird upset the applecart.