50 Fastest Horses in Kentucky Derby History

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Horse racing’s most prestigious event, the Kentucky Derby, will be run for the 145th time on Saturday, May 4. The Derby is one of the great sporting events in America, drawing 150,000 fans to Churchill Downs Racetrack each year. It is also one of the best things about the state of Kentucky. By the early evening, horse racing fans will know if the winner of the annual Run for the Roses is among the fastest horses ever to cross the finish line.

To identify the 50 fastest horses in Kentucky Derby history, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the list of Kentucky Derby winners since the race began in 1875.

The 3-year-olds will take aim at the Derby speed record set by the legendary Secretariat, who covered the 10 furlongs in 1:59.40 in 1973. Monarchos, the winner of the 2001 Kentucky Derby, is the only other horse to win the race in less than 2 minutes.

Of the 13 Triple Crown winners, only four are among the fastest Derby-winning horses ever: Whirlaway (1941), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), and Affirmed (1978). Last year’s Derby winner Justify, who would go on to win the 2018 Triple Crown, won the Derby in 2:04.20, the slowest time in eight years. As Triple Crown winners, these horses all became among the most iconic to ever run in the Derby.

To identify the 50 fastest horses in Kentucky Derby history, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the list of Kentucky Derby winners since its inception in 1875. We ranked the finish times of the winning horses from 1875 to 2018. The horses that appear on this list have completed the course in 2:02.75 or less. The Derby track was shortened in 1896 to 1.25 miles from 1.50 miles because the original distance was considered too long for 3-year-olds.

Rank Year Winner TIME
50 2005 Giacomo 02:02.75
49 2009 Mine That Bird 02:02.66
48 1951 Count Turf 02:02.60
47 1960 Venetian Way 02:02.40
46 1979 Spectacular Bid 02:02.40
45 1982 Gato Del Sol 02:02.00
44 1984 Swale 02:02.00
43 1997 Silver Charm 02:02.40
42 1959 Tomy Lee 02:02.20
41 1968 Forward Pass 02:02.20
40 1977 Seattle Slew 02:02.20
39 1983 Sunny’s Halo 02:02.20
38 1988 Winning Colors 02:02.20
37 1998 Real Quiet 02:02.20
36 2007 Street Sense 02:02.17
35 2011 Animal Kingdom 02:02.04
34 1953 Dark Star 02:02.00
33 1966 Kauai King 02:02.00
32 1975 Foolish Pleasure 02:02.00
31 1980 Genuine Risk 02:02.00
30 1981 Pleasant Colony 02:02.00
29 1990 Unbridled 02:02.00
28 1993 Sea Hero 02:02.00
27 2012 I’ll Have Another 02:01.83
26 2008 Big Brown 02:01.82
25 1931 Twenty Grand 02:01.80
24 1955 Swaps 02:01.80
23 1963 Chateaugay 02:01.80
22 1969 Majestic Prince 02:01.80
21 1972 Riva Ridge 02:01.80
20 1950 Middleground 02:01.60
19 1952 Hill Gail 02:01.60
18 1976 Bold Forbes 02:01.60
17 1941 Whirlaway 02:01.40
16 2006 Barbaro 02:01.36
15 2016 Nyquist 02:01.31
14 1957 Iron Liege 02:01.20
13 1965 Lucky Debonair 02:01.20
12 1978 Affirmed 02:01.20
11 1995 Thunder Gulch 02:01.20
10 2003 Funny Cide 02:01.19
9 2002 War Emblem 02:01.13
8 1996 Grindstone 02:01.00
7 2000 Fusaichi Pegasus 02:01.00
6 1967 Proud Clarion 02:00.60
5 1962 Decidedly 02:00.40
4 1985 Spend a Buck 02:00.20
3 1964 Northern Dancer 02:00.00
2 2001 Monarchos 01:59.97
1 1973 Secretariat 01:59.40