Horse racing’s most prestigious event, the Kentucky Derby, will be run for the 144th time on Saturday, May 5. 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 at Churchill Downs.
At least 150,000 spectators will congregate at Churchill Downs to witness history. Among the favorites looking to capture the first leg of horse-racing’s Triple Crown this year are Justify, Mendelssohn, Magnum Moon, and Audible.
Justify is trained by Bob Baffert, who worked with three of the fastest Derby winners of all time. Other trainers with the fastest Derby-winning horses include D. Wayne Lukas and Leroy Jolley. Calumet Farm has four horses on the fastest Derby winner list. Jockey William Hartack has been in the saddle for five of the fastest Derby-winning horses.
The three-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 12 Triple Crown winners, only four are among the fastest Derby-winning horses ever: Whirlaway (1941), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), and Affirmed (1978).
To identify the 50 fastest horses in Kentucky Derby history, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the complete list of winners since the race’s inception in 1875 posted on the event’s official site, Kentuckyderby.com. We ranked the finish times of the winning horses from 1875 to 2017. Those horses that appear on this list have completed the course in 2:02.75 or less. The Derby track was shortened in 1896 from 1.50 miles to 1.25 miles because the former distance was deemed too long for three-year-olds.