What Is the Curse of Apollo?

The Curse of Apollo is something that you will hear about quite a few times during this year’s Kentucky Derby. The curse came about after the 1882 Kentucky Derby winner, Apollo, won the Run for the Roses without having raced prior to age three. Apollo is the only Kentucky Derby winner who didn’t race at age 2.

Thoroughbred race horses generally start competing in Juvenile races when they turn 2. However, some don’t start competing until January of the following year.

“All horses born in the same year share their official birthday as the 1st January. When racing as two-year-olds, a horse born in the early months of the year is likely to be more mature than one born later, despite officially being the same age,” according to Racing Explained.

In this year’s Kentucky Derby, there are two horses — both of whom are frontrunners — who will be taking on the curse. Both Justify and Magnum Moon didn’t start racing until age 3.

Both Justify and Magnum Moon are undefeated this year. Justify, trained by Bob Baffert, won all three starts on his road to the Derby, with his biggest win coming at the Santa Anita Derby. Magnum Moon, trained by Todd Pletcher, has won four of his starts, clinching the Arkansas Derby title with relative ease. Neither Baffert nor Pletcher are strangers to winning the Kentucky Derby — Baffert has been in the winner’s circle four times, while Pletcher has won twice. However, neither trainer has won the Kentucky Derby with a horse that didn’t race at age 2.

Many people feel that 2018 could be the year that the curse is finally broken.

“Curses are meant to be broken. At some point, some horse is going to come along and do it and I really hope it’s Justify. I get it because there is a certain foundation a horse needs to run the mile and a quarter in the spring of his 3-year-old year, but this horse gives me goosebumps like no other 3-year-old has ever done, so maybe he’s the one,” Sean Tugel, WinStar Director of Bloodstock Services and Assistant Racing Manager, told News and Tribune.

Justify’s trainer, Bob Baffert, shared a similar opinion on the matter. However, Baffert isn’t putting too much thought into the curse — he’s going into today’s race with one of the best horses on the track.

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“It’ll be broken whether it’s this year or whatever. I think it’s changed. In the modern day we don’t get in a rush with these horses. The Apollo curse is something I don’t even think about,” he told USA Today earlier in the week.

Over the past 10 years, the following eight horses were up against the Curse of Apollo. The only horse to come close was Bodemeister in 2012, who was also Baffert-trained. Bodemeister came in second, losing to I’ll Have Another, who overtook him by one and a half lengths in the final furlong.

2009 – Dunkirk, 11th
​2009 – Summer Bird, 6th
2011 – Midnight Interlude, 16th
2012 – Bodemeister, 2nd
2013 – Verrazano, 14th
20​15 – Materiality, 6th
2017 – Patch, 14th
2017 – Battle of Midway, 3rd

If Magnum Moon or Justify can win the 144th Kentucky Derby, history will be made.

Source: Heavy Sports