Skip to main content

What is the Curse of Apollo in Horse Racing?

Sports' oldest curse is also its most unknown.

Most sports fans are superstitious. And horse racing fans are no different.

The dreaded curse dates all the way back to 1882, when Apollo won the Kentucky Derby by defeating 4-5 favorite Runnymede. Since then, no horse has won the race after not starting as a two-year-old.

Everybody has heard of The Curse of the Bambino, The Curse of the Billy Goat and even the Curse of Bobby Layne. But The Curse of Apollo is one of the longest, if not the longest curses in sports.

In the past decade, some horses have come close. In 2017, Battle of Midway finished in third place. In 2012, Bodemeister came in second place. and In 2007, Curlin also finished in third place. But since 1882, no horse has won the race after not starting as a two-year-old.

Will the curse finally be broken this year? Since 1937, 61 such horses have entered the Derby. This year, Justify will be the next to test the curse.

Trainer Bob Baffert believes the end may be near for the curse.

“It’ll be broken whether it’s this year or whatever," Baffert told USA Today. "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.”

Here's how Kentucky Derby horses have fared in the past 10 years in trying to break the curse:

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

​(A full list dating back to 1944 can be found at