Indiana Horse Racing Commission
By March 24, 2021 Read More →

What Are the Biggest Upsets in Horse Racing History?

We all love to see a longshot surge to victory in a big race, but what are the most memorable upsets in the history of horse racing?

Check out our list of the results that surprised the odds.

Arcangues – Breeders’ Cup, 1993

Arcangues actually had a decent winning record coming into this race. Yet, he was rated a complete longshot at odds of 133-1 for the $3 million race at Santa Anita Park.

Jockey Jerry Bailey was called in at the last minute to ride the French horse, who produced a rousing finish to catch up with Bertrando in the home stretch. A $2 bet on Arcangues would have given a $269.20 return, which is still the record for the Breeders’ Cup.

Given that this horse had won the likes of the John Henry Handicap and the Prix du Prince d’Orange, it seems that the odds were probably too high for him. Having said that, Arcangues had never before run on dirt or in the States. And jockey Bailey didn’t understand the trainer’s instructions or even how to pronounce the horse’s name.

Mine That Bird – Kentucky Derby, 2009

2009 produced another spectacular upset, when Mine That Bird dashed home at long odds of 50-1. The build-up to this race didn’t produce any stand-out favorites, but few people appeared to have faith in this horse, who went on to become one of only nine geldings to win the Kentucky Derby.

The Kentucky-born horse had been sold for under $10,000, and the cowboy hats worn by little-known trainer Ben Wooley Jr. added to the uniqueness of this story. Mine That Bird wasn’t expected to ride in the race, but his owner decided to take him there at the last minute.

He was well off the pace early on, in the very last position. However, Mine That Bird and jockey Calvin Borel then pulled off an incredible recovery, surging past all of the other runners to win by six lengths. It was so unexpected that the commentator famously failed to name the horse until he was pulling clear of the rest.

This year the Derby happens in May again, as opposed to the unusual date in September last year. Here are the current odds: https://www.twinspires.com/kentuckyderby/odds

Saravana – Belmont Stakes, 2002

War Emblem was the big favorite coming into this race, as he looked to win the Triple Crown following his victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. However, his chance of an historic victory evaporated when he stumbled early on in the race and although he eventually recovered, it had sapped too much of his energy.

Saravana was 70-1 when the race began, making the least-fancied horse in the race. He would go on to become the biggest longshot to ever win the Belmont Stakes. This came not long after the first victory of his career, which had come in the Sir Barton Stakes.

Saravana started off brightly and stayed near the front for the whole race, finally out-pacing Medaglia d’Oro. He won by half a length, and even his owners said afterwards that they were shocked by his performance.

Upset – Sandford Memorial Stakes, 1919

The reason that this race is usually included on the list of the big horse racing shocks is more about who didn’t win it, rather than who did. The winning horse was the aptly-named Upset and it was made even more impressive by the fact that he handed the legendary Man O’War his only defeat.

Man O’War is regarded as possibly the finest race horse of all time. This was the only one of his 21-career races that he failed to win. After the race was over, Man O’War’s jockey, Johnny Loftus, accepted the blame, saying that his poor decisions and positioning was what cost them the race.

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