It was, by the measure of purse earnings, trainer King Leatherbury’s worst season since 1963. But it was more remarkable for what it was than what it was not.

Leatherbury – the Hall of Famer, the man who won more than 300 races in four consecutive seasons and more than 200 11 straight times – won just three times in 2020. His horses earned $82,128.

It’s a far cry from his heyday, when he turned onetime claimer Taking Risks into a Grade 1 winner, or guided runners of more recent vintage, like the homebreds Ah Day and multimillionaire Ben’s Cat.

Put a different way: Leatherbury, who once commanded a stable that routinely registered more than 1,000 starts a season, now oversees four horses, all owned by the same owner, Norman Lewis.

Yet when our Vinnie Perrone caught up with him in November, Leatherbury wasn’t complaining.

“This has been my life; it’s somethin’ that’s more than just a job,” Leatherbury said then. “I never got into it to make any money; I got in it because I loved it so. As long as I had a nice car to drive and a couple hundred dollars in my pocket, that’s all I needed.

“Now, I’m never gonna have another good horse like Ben or Ah Day. But I can’t complain about anything. Everything I’ve done in my life, I’ve managed to have a good time doin’.”

Leatherbury won three times in 2020 – one via a post-race DQ – which marked the 62nd consecutive year the trainer won at least once. He’s won more than 6,500 races in his career – good for fifth all time – with purse earnings in excess of $64 million.

It’s been a remarkable run, this lengthy career, and while Leatherbury, 87, is in what he describes as “the process of fading,” there are still horses to train and races to handicap and part of the story still to write.


  • Inducted into racing Hall of Fame, 2015
  • 6,506 wins, good for 5th all time
  • More than $64 million in purse earnings
  • Top earner Ben’s Cat ($2.6 million)
  • Other major horses include Grade 1 winners Taking Risks and Catatonic, as well as additional graded winners Ah Day, Thirty Eight Go Go, Wait for the Lady, etc.

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