The $2 million Kentucky Derby (G1), the first leg of the Triple Crown and the ultimate target for every horse owner, was contested at Churchill Downs on Saturday before a crowd of 157,770. Sunny skies were a welcome change from the wet conditions on Friday. A maximum field size of 20 went to post, with Florida Derby winner Big Brown sent off as the 5-2 favorite, attempting to become the first horse to win the Derby off of just 3 prep races. Colonel John was the 9-2 second choice, exiting a win in the Santa Anita Derby and making his first start on a dirt track after racing on synthetics so far. Louisiana Derby winner Pyro was the 6-1 third choice, but he was well beaten in the Blue Grass last time out. Fantasy Stakes winner Eight Belles, the 13-1 fourth choice, was the only filly in the race, the first to run in the Derby in 9 years.
When the gate opened, Santa Anita Derby runner-up and 6 furlong world record holder Bob Black Jack went right to the front to set the pace, joined on the front end by 39-1 Cowboy Cal and 49-1 Recapturetheglory. He set fractions of 23.30, 47.04, and 1:11.14, while favorite Big Brown, who broke from the far outside 20 post, angled in and settled four wide most of the way around, away from traffic. Turning for home, Kent Desormeaux asked Big Brown to make his way to the front, and he did this easily, cruising to the lead at the 1/4 pole after a mile in 1:36.56. Pacesetters Bob Black Jack and Recapturetheglory tired and faded, allowing Big Brown to open up a 2 1/2 length lead at the 1/8 pole, with Eight Belles coming through between horses to challenge. However, she was no match for Big Brown, who pulled away in the final eighth mile to win by 4 3/4 lengths in 2:01.82 over a fast track. It was another 3 1/2 lengths back to late-running 27-1 Denis of Cork third.