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Worst Kentucky Derby Trainers

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Not all good trainers have been lucky at the Kentucky Derby. Some may win lots of other big races but have yet to win the roses at Churchill Downs. Here is a list of recent top trainers, in alphabetical order, who have entered many horses in the Derby without success. It may surprise you just how badly some have done.

1. Steve Asmussen

Trainer Steve Asmussen
© Cindy Pierson Dulay
Steve Asmussen wins lots of races and holds the record for most wins in a season. He has trained many champion horses including recent two-time Horse of the Year Curlin and last year's Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. However, he has not had very good luck on the first Saturday in May. Out of 10 Kentucky Derby starters so far, he only has two in the money finish. Here are his Derby horses and how they finished.
  • 2001: Fifty Stars, 9th
  • 2002: Private Emblem, 14th
  • 2004: Quintons Gold Rush, 18th
  • 2006: Storm Treasure, 11th
    Private Vow, 15th
  • 2007: Curlin, 3rd
    Zanjero, 12th
  • 2008: Pyro, 8th
    Z Fortune, 10th
  • 2011: Nehro, 2nd

2. Bobby Frankel

Trainer Bobby Frankel
© Cindy Pierson Dulay
Sadly 5-time winner Eclipse Award winning trainer Bobby Frankel won't get another chance at the Derby since he passed away in 2009. Better known for his older horses and turf runners, he still didn't have that bad of a record at the Derby with 8 starters and 3 in the money finishes.
  • 1990: Pendelton Ridge, 13th
    Burnt Hills, 14th
  • 2000: Aptitude, 2nd
  • 2002: Medaglia d'Oro, 4th
  • 2003: Empire Maker, 2nd
    Peace Rules, 3rd
  • 2004: Master David, 12th
  • 2005: High Limit, 20th

3. Ron McAnally

John Henry was trained by Ron McAnally
© Cindy Pierson Dulay

California trainer Ron McAnally is known more for his success on the turf with John Henry (left) and with South American imports like Bayakoa and Paseana, but he has also taken unsuccessful 10 shots at the roses in the past. It has been a while since he sent anyone, but he is still training and could show up again if he gets a hot 3-year-old.

  • 1980: Super Moment, 4th
  • 1982: Water Bank, 4th
    Cassaleria, 13th
  • 1989: Hawkster, 5th
  • 1990: Silver Ending, 5th
  • 1991: Sea Cadet, 8th
  • 1992: Dr Devious, 7th
  • 1994: Valiant Nature, 13th
  • 1996: Matty G, 17th
  • 1997: Hello, 8th

4. Shug McGaughey

Trainer Shug McGaughey
© Cindy Pierson Dulay
New York-based trainer Shug McGaughey doesn't send many to the Derby, often waiting for the Belmont Stakes with his 3-year-olds. Of the 6 he has sent, he has one 2nd and one 3rd place finish, both in the same year. He seems to bypass the Derby unless he really feels he has a shot, so his is the shortest list I included here.
  • 1984: Pine Circle, 6th
    Vanlandingham, 16th
  • 1988: Seeking the Gold, 7th
  • 1989: Easy Goer, 2nd
    Awe Inspiring, 3rd
  • 2002: Saarland, 10th

5. Bill Mott

Trainer Bill Mott (left) with Court Vision
© Vanessa Ng
Bill Mott has two trainer Eclipse Awards to his credit, but the Kentucky Derby has not been kind to him. Even his Horse of the Year winner, Favorite Trick, crashed and burned at Churchill Downs. An 8th place finish is his best in 7 tries at the roses.
  • 1984: Taylor's Special, 13th
  • 1988: Favorite Trick, 8th
  • 1998: Rock and Roll, 14th
  • 2002: Blue Burner, 11th
  • 2008: Court Vision, 13th
    Z Humor, 14th
  • 2009: Hold Me Back, 12th

6. Todd Pletcher

Trainer Todd Pletcher
© Vanessa Ng
Trainer Todd Pletcher has to be the all-time king of Kentucky Derby failures. With 29 starters so far and only 1 winner (Super Saver in 2010) and 3 in the money finishes, he is a pretty bad bet statiscally speaking.
  • 2000: Impeachment, 3rd
    More Than Ready, 4th
    Trippi, 11th
    Graeme Hall, Eased
  • 2001: Invisible Ink, 2nd
    Balto Star (Glitterman) 14th
  • 2002: Wild Horses, 18th
  • 2004: Limehouse, 4th
    Pollard´s Vision, 17th
  • 2005: Flower Alley, 9th
    Coin Silver, 12th
    Bandini, 19th
  • 2006: Bluegrass Cat, 2nd
    Keyed Entry, 20th
  • 2007: Circular Quay, 6th
    Any Given Saturday, 8th
    Sam P., 9th
    Scat Daddy, 18th
    Cowtown Cat, 20th
  • 2008: Cowboy Cal, 9th
    Monba, 20th
  • 2009: Join in the Dance, 7th
    Dunkirk, 11th
    Advice, 13th
  • 2010: Super Saver, 1st
    Mission Impazible, 9th
    Devil May Care, 10th
    Discreetly Mine, 13th
  • 2011: Stay Thirsty, 12th

7. Saeed bin Suroor

Trainer Saeed bin Suroor with Music Note
© Vanessa Ng
The main trainer for Godolphin, Saeed bin Suroor has had many big name horses but so far has only had failure at the Kentucky Derby. Winning the roses is a big goal for his main owner Sheikh Mohammed, but so far they are zero for 7 on the first Saturday in May.
  • 1999: Worldly Manner, 7th
  • 2000: China Visit, 6th
    Curule, 7th
  • 2001: Express Tour, 8th
  • 2002: Essence of Dubai, 9th
  • 2009: Regal Ransom, 8th
    Desert Party, 14th

8. Nick Zito

Trainer Nick Zito
© Terence Dulay
Although Nick Zito is also on my list of top Derby trainers, his 2 wins came 15+ years ago and he has only been in the money once since, so I thought I would put him here as well.
  • 1990: Thirty Six Red, 9th
  • 1991: Strike the Gold, 1st
  • 1994: Go For Gin, 1st
  • 1995: Suave Prospect, 11th
  • 1996: Diligence, 9th
    Louis Quatorze, 16th
  • 1997: Jack Flash, 7th
    Shammy Davis, 12th
  • 1998: Halory Hunter, 4th
  • 1999: Stephen Got Even, 14th
    Adonis, 17th
  • 2001: A.P. Valentine, 7th
  • 2004: The Cliff's Edge, 5th
    Birdstone, 8th
  • 2005: Bellamy Road, 7th
    Andromeda's Hero, 8th
    High Fly, 10th
    Noble Causeway, 14th
    Sun King, 15th
  • 2008: Anak Nakal, 7th
    Cool Coal Man, 15th
  • 2009: Nowhere to Hide, 17th
  • 2010: Ice Box, 2nd
    Jackson Bend, 12th
  • 2011: Dialed In, 8th
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