Kentucky Derby Winners: The 10 Best Horses

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One of the most eagerly awaited sporting occasions of the year is the Kentucky Derby. The history and tradition of the Kentucky Derby is vast. Although every Kentucky Derby is a special occasion, certain years stand out more than others. 

Southerners anticipate the race all year long, preparing everything from standout hats to mint juleps and everything in between. Since its creation in 1875, there have been a lot of winners.

However, we have created this article with our expert picks on the 10 best horses and winners of the Kentucky Derby. By the end, you will have a better understanding on what makes these horses so amazing. 

1. Secretariat

Among all the horses who have competed in the Kentucky Derby, Secretariat is probably the one with the most well-known names. He won the race in 1973, the race’s 99th installment. 

Given that he went on to claim the Triple Crown and still retains the Derby record with a time of 1:59:40, Secretariat is still well-known to the public. All three of the Triple Crown events’ records still belong to Secretariat.

2. Genuine Risk

The Kentucky Derby is usually filled with male horses. While it is rare, only three fillies have ever won. The first filly to ever win the Kentucky Derby was in 1980, thanks to Genuine Risk. 

The other two fillies to ever win was in 1988, thanks to Winning Colors and Regret in 1915.

3. American Pharoah

The second-most recent Triple Crown champion, American Pharoah, won the Kentucky Derby in 2015. American Pharoah ran the final quarter-mile of the Derby faster than Secretariat, which was an impressive 24.32 seconds.

4. Seattle Slew

Seattle Slew won 14 races in 17 career starts while going undefeated for his first two years. Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown winner, outlasted the competition to claim what is arguably the greatest Kentucky Derby victory in history. 

Seattle Slew at the time became the only Triple Crown victor without a loss. The unbeaten career of this horse is remembered as one of the most remarkable in racing history.

5. Citation

Citation won the Triple Crown in 1948, becoming the eighth Kentucky Derby winner to do so. There are many studies and reports on this stunning horse, known by the nickname “The Big Cy,” who participated in 29 races as a three-year-old and took first place in 27 of them. He was the first horse to earn more than $1 million in his whole career.

6. Donerail

This horse beat the odds to win the Derby in 1913. At 91-1, the longest odds of any winner. Throughout the race, a number of horses held the lead, but Donerail and his jockey, Roscoe Goose, sprinted ahead to win the roses.

The next horse to do this was Rich Strike in 1914, who won with 80–1 odds. 

7. Affirmed

Affirmed had a fantastic career, with 13 victories in 1978–1979. In 1978, this horse claimed the Triple Crown, becoming the 12th champion. Alydar, a horse Affirmed raced eleven times, was noted for their neck-and-neck competition. 

When Affirmed triumphed the year after Seattle Slew won, Affirmed broke another record, since it was the first time the Triple Crown had been won after back-to-back years.

8.Spectacular Bid

Spectacular Bid won the Preakness Stakes and the Kentucky Derby in 1979. He had a career of 26 victories out of 30 races. In addition, Ronnie Franklin, riding Spectacular Bid, won the event in his first Kentucky Derby.

Bid set a record at 10 furlongs at Santa Anita in the 1980 Strub with a time of 1:57.4. This horse never lost between seven furlongs and 1 1/4 miles, and he never finished worse than third.

He is undoubtedly one of the best horses of all time due to his versatility on both short and long tracks.

9. Smarty Jones

Due to being a more recent horse, Smarty Jones may be the only horse that people can recall. In 2004, Smarty Jones won the Kentucky Derby, as well as the Preakness Stakes. By becoming the first unbeaten horse to win the Derby since Seattle Slew’s victory in 1977, this colt put an end to a long wait. 

Since Ronnie Franklin’s victory with Spectacular Bid in the 1979 Derby, the jockey Stewart Elliott also became the first jockey to win a Kentucky Derby on their debut.

10. Monarchos

Monarchos won the Kentucky Derby in 2001. He, alongside Secretariat, are the only two horses in this competition to ever complete the race in under two minutes.


The Kentucky Derby is a beloved and anticipated event every year. This horse race has been happening for over almost 150 years, and the love of this derby isn’t slowing down. There have been many winners over the years, but certain horses have made a greater impression on the race than others. 

In this article, we have spoken about the 10 best horses which have won the Kentucky Derby. All of these horses are amazing in their own ways and have set records that every other horse and rider are trying to beat. 

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