The 5 Most Surprising Horse Racing Results of All Time

Sports, by nature, are full of surprises but horse racing results can be even more surprising because you've got an animal in the mix. While one can be as calculative and predictive as one wants to be, the stories of underdog winners and shocking results are not uncommon.

Such stories are even more frequent when it comes to horse racing results. Not to say that horse racing is any less predictable than other sports. In horse racing too, we do have all the stats, past records, probability predictions, and gut feelings.


But the numerous instances of upsetting horse racing results and surprises are a testimony to the fact that the finish is usually a nail-biting event. In this article, we look at the 5 of the most surprising horse racing results which defied all calculations and speculations to become memorable. 

Calvin Borel and Mine That Bird, Kentucky Derby, 2009

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most popular and high-profile races in America. The highlight of the 2009 edition of the Kentucky Derby was the surprise win of Calvin Borel riding Mine That Bird.

Mine That Bird was bought at a modest amount of $9,500. Though the horse had earlier won four races in Canada, he was coming after an underwhelming fourth-place finish at the Sunland Derby in New Mexico. 


But here’s what happened - Mine that Bird was 50/1 when the gates opened. However, a few moments into the game, the horse rang a big surprise and exploded down the lane to mark a win by about 7 lengths. It is yet another surprise that the horse Mine That Bird never won a race again after this surprising win. 

Apollo, Kentucky Derby, 1882

In the 1882 Kentucky Derby, the horse Runnymede was the hot favorite and was bet at 4-5 odds. Another horse, Apollo was bet at 10-1 odds through bookmakers. As per all the expectations, Runnymede looked like the clear winner, and Apollo was not even anywhere near. 

However, all predictions came climbing down when  Apollo started a cyclonic rush an eighth of a mile from home. The final margin with which Apollo won the race was about a half-length. 


The Animal Kingdom and Uncle Mo, Kentucky Derby, 2011

John Velazquez was supposed to ride the season’s favorite, Uncle Mo in the 2011 edition of  Kentucky Derby. However, the horse developed an infection just before the race. John decided to ride on Animal Kingdom, a horse that had never raced on a dirt track before. 

In fact, Animal Kingdom had competed in just four races in his entire career at that point in time. Guess what happened? The horse pulled off a surprise and a shocking upset for the competitors. It ended up winning the race with a margin of over three lengths. 

Giacamo, Kentucky Derby, 2005

The 2005 Kentucky Derby had two favorites for the season - Wood Memorial winner Bellamy Road and Arkansas Derby winner Afleet Alex. As the race opened, Spanish Chestnut led the field. And by the time the field turned for home, there were about 10 horses seemingly with a chance.

However, the big surprise ringed in at this point. While Closing Argument, a 71.60-1 shot, was competing with the season’s favorite Afleet Alex for the top finish even in the final sixteenth of a mile, but both the frontrunners were shockingly left behind by a 50.30-1 beast named Giacomo. 

Giacomo had come after a disappointing single win from seven starts for Jerry and Ann Moss. However, its surprise win in this race proved how unpredictable the horse racing results can be.

Volponi, Breeders Cup, 2002

In the 2002 Breeders Cup Classic, which was run at Arlington Park outside of Chicago, a 44/1 shot Volponi romp by nearly seven lengths. This was a major upset for the racing world. The reason being that Volponi was a horse known for racing on grass, and not on a dirt course.  

Volponi’s win came as a major shock for betters everywhere. After all, it had beaten the Derby and Preakness winner War Emblem, Travers champ Medaglia d’Oro, and Europe’s best Hawk Wing!

The Bottom Line

These 5 surprise wins are only a few of the many instances when horse racing results shocked and surprised audiences and betters from around the world. When you've got a human and an animal working toward one end goal, you're just never going to know the results. 

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