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Kentucky Derby Horses

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In 2015 American Pharoah became the 12th winner of the Triple Crown of American thoroughbred racing, sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Will another horse join that exclusive club this year?


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Kentucky Derby Race Records

The race record for the Kentucky Derby was set by Secretariat when “Big Red” won the 1973 Derby in a time of 1:59 2/5, beating out second-place Sham by 2 1/2 lengths. Perhaps the key for this year’s winner at Churchill Downs is to take the race by exactly eight lengths. That’s the record margin of victory in the Kentucky Derby, set four times. Two of those winners, Whirlaway in 1941 and Assault in 1946, went on to win the Triple Crown.

Notable Kentucky Derby Jockeys

One record that won’t be broken at this year’s Kentucky Derby or likely any time soon is the five Derby victories by Hall of Fame jockeys Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack. Arcaro’s first was on Larwin in 1938 and last on Hill Gail in 1952. Hartack saddled his first winner in 1957 on Iron Liege. His last came in 1969 on Majestic Prince.

The most dominant run by a jockey had to be by Calvin Borel. He won in 2007 on Street Sense, 2009 on Mine That Bird and 2010 on Super Saver, giving Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher his first Kentucky Derby victory. Mine That Bird went off at 50-1 online horse odds to become the second-biggest upset winner of the Derby behind 91-1 Donerail in 1913.

Latin American jockeys have taken control of Churchill Downs. It started in 2011 when John Velazquez, born in Puerto Rico, won on Animal Kingdom. Mexico’s Mario Gutierrez won in 2012 on Super Saver. In 2013 Joel Rosario, from the Dominican Republic, won on Orb, and Victor Espinoza, from Mexico, won on California Chrome in 2014 and on American Pharoah in 2015.

Hall of Famer Gary Stevens is a three-time Derby winner – Winning Colors (1988), Thunder Gulch (1995), Silver Charm (1997) – who retired in 2005 but returned in 2013 in surprising Kentucky Derby betting news and was sixth in the Derby on Oxbow.

The first female jockey in the race was Diane Crump, who finished 15th in 1970 aboard Fathom. Only a handful of women have raced in the Derby since then and none have won. The best finish for a female jockey was New Jersey native Rosie Napravnik taking fifth in the 2013 Derby on Mylute.

Meanwhile, African-American jockeys used to be very commonplace at Churchill Downs. A whopping 13 of the 15 riders in the first Derby in 1875 were African-American and black jockeys won 15 of the first 28 runnings of the Derby. However, no African-American has won it since Jimmy Winkfield went back-to-back in 1901-02.

The only jockey to ride a Kentucky Derby winner and train one was John Longden, who rode the Triple Crown winner Count Fleet in 1943 and trained Hartack’s Majestic Prince in 1969.