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Path to the Kentucky Derby

By

2008 Florida Derby winner Big Brown

Big Brown in 2008 is just one of three Florida Derby winners to go on to wn the Kentucky Derby since 2001.

© EquiSportPhotos.com
Updated April 13, 2009
Everyone always watches the Kentucky Derby prep races looking for that special horse who will eventually win the roses on the first Saturday in May. Will he come from Florida, California, New York, Kentucky, or elsewhere? Looking at 1980-2008 and the number of Derby starters to come out of each major prep, here are the ones which produced the most:

  1. Blue Grass ... 112
  2. Santa Anita Derby ... 95
  3. Florida Derby ... 93
  4. Arkansas Derby ... 81
  5. Wood Memorial ... 73
  6. Fountain of Youth ... 71
  7. San Felipe ... 63
  8. Lane's End ... 55
  9. Louisiana Derby ... 52
  10. Lexington ... 36
  11. Illinois Derby ... 13

As expected, Kentucky, California, and Florida have sent the most horses to the Derby, but Arkansas has been gaining in popularity in recent years. Of course this list is only starters and not winners. To get an idea of which races are hot, here is a list of the Kentucky Derby winners since 1970 with their final prep race and where they finished in it.

  • 2008 - Big Brown ... 1st Florida Derby
  • 2007 - Street Sense ... 2nd Blue Grass
  • 2006 - Barbaro ... 1st Florida Derby
  • 2005 - Giacomo ... 4th Santa Anita Derby
  • 2004 - Smarty Jones ... 1st Arkansas Derby
  • 2003 - Funny Cide ... 2nd Wood Memorial
  • 2002 - War Emblem ... 1st Illinois Derby
  • 2001 - Monarchos ... 2nd Wood Memorial
  • 2000 - Fusaichi Pegasus ... 1st Wood Memorial
  • 1999 - Charismatic ... 1st Lexington
  • 1998 - Real Quiet ... 2nd Santa Anita Derby
  • 1997 - Silver Charm ... 2nd Santa Anita Derby
  • 1996 - Grindstone ... 2nd Arkansas Derby
  • 1995 - Thunder Gulch ... 4th Blue Grass
  • 1994 - Go for Gin ... 2nd Wood Memorial
  • 1993 - Sea Hero ... 4th Blue Grass
  • 1992 - Lil E. Tee ... 2nd Arkansas Derby
  • 1991 - Strike the Gold ... 1st Bluegrass
  • 1990 - Unbridled ... 3rd Bluegrass
  • 1989 - Sunday Silence ... 1st Santa Anita Derby
  • 1988 - Winning Colors ... 1st Santa Anita Derby
  • 1987 - Alysheba ... 3rd Bluegrass (won but was disqualified to 3rd)
  • 1986 - Ferdinand ... 3rd Santa Anita Derby
  • 1985 - Spend a Buck ... 1st Garden State
  • 1984 - Swale ... 2nd Lexington
  • 1983 - Sunny's Halo ... 1st Arkansas Derby
  • 1982 - Gato Del Sol ... 2nd Bluegrass
  • 1981 - Pleasant Colony ... 1st Wood Memorial
  • 1980 - Genuine Risk ... 3rd Wood Memorial
  • 1979 - Spectacular Bid ... 1st Bluegrass
  • 1978 - Affirmed ... 1st Hollywood Derby
  • 1977 - Seattle Slew ... 1st Wood Memorial
  • 1976 - Bold Forbes ... 1st Wood Memorial
  • 1975 - Foolish Pleasure ... 1st Wood Memorial
  • 1974 - Cannonade ... 1st CD allowance race
  • 1973 - Secretariat ... 3rd Wood Memorial
  • 1972 - Riva Ridge ... 1st Blue Grass
  • 1971 - Canonero II ... 3rd race in Venezuela
  • 1970 - Dust Commander ... 1st Blue Grass

As you can see, it is very unusual for a horse to win the Kentucky Derby off a finish worse than third place and it has also been a very long time since that final prep was not a major graded stakes. So beware of "wise guy" picks who don't have these credentials.

Another thing to think about is which preps it is best not to win. The Santa Anita Derby has produced 13 Kentucky Derby winners since 1950, but it has been 20 years since the winner of the race also went on to win the Derby. The Florida Derby has produced 21 Kentucky Derby winners since 1950 with three winners of the race winning since 2001. The Blue Grass has produced 16 Kentucky Derby winners since 1950, but the winner hasn't won the Derby since 1991. To look at the stats for more preps, check the list of top Kentucky Derby preps which shows all the Derby winners to come from each prep since 1950 and where they finished in that race.

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