Kentucky Derby Winners

In 2015, American Pharoah ended the Triple Crown drought and became the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. American’s Pharoah’s final Kentucky Derby odds were 5-2. His Triple Crown win followed a series of heartbreaking near misses, with California Chrome in 2014 winning the Derby and Preakness but fell short in the Belmont Stakes.

Nyquist, the champion two-year-old in 2015, kept his undefeated streak intact and won the Kentucky Derby in 2016 only to falter in the Preakness. I’ll Have Another won the Derby and Preakness before being scratched out of the Belmont Stakes one day before his Triple Crown bid. Popular runners such as Silver Charm and Real Quiet won the first two legs then missed by inches in the final race.

Three years after American Pharoah, Justify won the Triple Crown in 2018. Both horses were trained by Bob Baffert. While American Pharoah went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Justify was retired as the only Triple Crown winner to have a completely unbeaten career. Justify’s Kentucky Derby odds were 3-1.

Another Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew, won the series in 1977 but then was defeated afterward. American Pharoah is the only horse to win both the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic.

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Only two winning horses have ever broken the two-minute mark at the Kentucky Derby. The legendary Secretariat still holds the record, completing 1 1/4 mile in 1:59:40 during the 1973 edition. In 2001, Monarchos came close to besting the record, becoming the second-fastest horse at the Derby with a time of 1:59:97.

Only three fillies have ever won the Derby, with the most recent being Winning Colors in 1988. Genuine Risk preceded her in 1980, while Regret won in 1915. The most recent filly to try the Run for the Roses was Eight Belles in 2008; she finished second.

Kentucky Derby Final Odds

Donerail in 1913 is the highest-priced winner in Derby history at 91-1. It wasn’t until Country House was put up at 65-1 in the 2019 Derby after the disqualification of Maximum Security that anyone else got close, though Rich Strike came even closer in 2022 when he won at 80-1 odds, running down favored Epicenter on the square!

In 2005, Giacomo won the race at 50-1. Mine That Bird followed four years later with another 50-1 upset. These races were attributed to there being too much precocious speed in the race, they faded and paved the way for deep closers to upset. Since the Kentucky Derby points rules were put into place in 2012, there has not been a big upset like this save for Maximum Security’s disqualification and Country House’s promotion.

Trainer Bob Baffert has won six times, tying Ben Jones’s all-time record. The most a jockey has won is five, accomplished by both Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack. In 2010, Calvin Borel won three out of four Kentucky Derbies, following victories on Street Sense in 2007, Mine That Bird in 2009, and Super Saver in 2010.

Some of the game’s biggest trainers have only won the race once, such as Shug McGaughey in 2013 with Orb, and Bill Mott with Country House in 2019. Todd Pletcher, who trains likely Kentucky Derby favorites Forte and Tapit Trice, has won it twice.

The most expensive Kentucky Derby winner was Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000. The son of Mr. Prospector commanded a price of $4 million as a yearling in 1998 and won six races before being syndicated for over $60 million. In comparison, California Chrome came from a dam that cost $8,000 and a stallion that cost $2,000 and went on to earn back $14.7 million on the track.

Final entries and the post position draw for the 2023 Kentucky Derby will take place on Monday, May 1.  The 2023 Kentucky Derby is on Saturday, May 6 at Churchill Downs. Post time is approximately 6:30 Eastern time.

Best Kentucky Derby Bets 2023

As the race draws closer and post positions and past performances are finalized, we will have even more expert picks for the race. But, with futures markets already open, you may want to bet now at your favorite online sportsbook to try to lock in a price better than you will get in pari-mutuel pools!

So, here are the best contenders for the Kentucky Derby.

Kentucky Derby favorite

The most likely winner of the 2023 Kentucky Derby is Forte. He was the top two-year-old of 2022, losing only once and winning marquee two-turn races like the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). Not all juvenile champions train on as 3-year-olds, but Forte dazzled in both the Fountain of Youth (G2) and the Florida Derby (G1), proving that he is is still at the top of his class.

Of course, favorites do not always win the Kentucky Derby, meaning that bettors always need to think carefully about their handicapping and consider mid-priced horses and even long shots in their strategies for exotic wagers like exacta, trifecta, and superfecta bets, as well as straight win bets, place bets, and show bets.

Mid-priced contenders

Two other major contenders to consider include Tapit Trice and Practical Move.

Tapit Trice comes out of a strong victory in the Blue Grass, a race whose importance has been resurgent lately. Though he showed some trouble at the start in previous races, he got away a little better in the Blue Grass, maneuvered out from the rail despite the big field, and finished strongly. With quality stamina pedigree and tactical versatility, he has a lot of keys to Kentucky Derby success.

Practical Move is the leader of the West coast spur of the Kentucky Derby trail, and won his last three races. Though he only won the Santa Anita Derby (G1) by a nose, he did so over a well-intended Japanese runner and an improving local, showing the tenacity that a Kentucky Derby horse needs. And, even though he is by miler Practical Joke, his female family is replete with stamina and Into Mischief (Practical Joke’s sire) has produced a Derby winner before.

Kentucky Derby longshot

For an even longer shot, make sure to include Two Phil’s. Though his final Kentucky Derby prep came in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) over Tapeta and not dirt, he racked up the best Beyer speed figure of any Derby prep runner in that race. He has also shown talent on the Kentucky Derby’s own dirt, too: last year he won the Iroquois (G3) over the Churchill main track.

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Qualifying for the Kentucky Derby

To compete in the Kentucky Derby, a horse must qualify for the race through a series of prep races called the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The series features races that begin for two-year-olds and extend through the sophomore season. The points are scaled depending on when the race is run and only the twenty horses with the most points earn a spot in the starting gate for the Run for the Roses.

Major prep races include the Santa Anita Derby (G1) at Santa Anita, the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct, the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park, the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park, the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland, and the Louisiana Derby (G2) at the Fair Grounds. The winners of these races are always able to get a spot in the Derby, while others who finish second or third rely on points earned from other races, or horses who defect.

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Only the top 20 American points holders get in, fewer if a horse makes the trip from overseas. There is a Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby and a European Road to the Kentucky Derby; one slot is reserved for each. Japan’s Road to the Derby includes the Unicorn Stakes, Fukuryu, and Hyacinth Stakes. The European Road to the Derby includes the Patton Stakes and the Vertem Futurity Trophy in the United Kingdom.

One spot in the Kentucky Derby is reserved for each of those series. However, horses from those European and Japanese races do not always choose to come to Louisville, so often 20 American-based horses do get into the race.

The points emphasis is on three-year-old racing, with even the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), the premier race for two-year-olds, getting only 20 points for the win.

Aside from the Blue Grass at Keeneland, which is a short three-week meet, the other races all have preps with lower points, such as the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream preceding the Florida Derby, and the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita coming before the Santa Anita Derby. For Oaklawn it is the Rebel Stakes (G2), and for the Fair Grounds, it is the Risen Star (G2).

Some smaller tracks also offer a lot of Derby points. The Tampa Bay Derby (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs offers 50 points to the winner; the Sam F. Davis (G3) is its local 10-point prep. Turfway Park also offers a pair of points races; the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) offers its winner 100 points, and the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes is its 10-point local prep.

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