The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of America’s fabled Triple Crown and it takes place each year on the first Saturday in May.
The ‘Run for the Roses’ is dubbed the greatest two minutes in sport by the host nation and it has provided some magnificent stories in close to 150 years of history.
Here are five of the most memorable Kentucky Derby winners.
Mine That Bird – 2009
A 50/1 outsider, Mine That Bird stunned the Derby field with a daredevil run up the inside rail before cruising away to win for jockey Calvin Borel and trainer Bennie Woolley Jr.
Mine That Bird had only one horse behind on the home bend but he surged along the rail – only deviating to pass one rival – before powering through a tiny gap on the rail to hit the front.
So unexpected was his surge, iconic commentator Tom Durkin missed the move completely, focusing as he was on a three-way duel already going on for the lead. Mine That Bird was already in an unassailable lead by the time Durkin noticed. The Bird, as the saying goes, had flown.
Northern Dancer – 1964
Trainer Horatio Luro and jockey Bill Hartack made it two Derby wins in three years when Northern Dancer scored in 1964, stopping the clock in an impressive even two minutes – at that time the fastest Derby in history.
In a thrilling finish, the small horse with the big heart held off the rapid Hill Rise by a neck at the post. Northern Dancer went on to become a hugely successful sire, including fathering Nijinsky – winner of the UK Triple Crown in 1970 – still the most recent time it has been completed.
Big Brown – 2008
Big Brown’s win in 2008 was remarkable as he was drawn in stall 20 – the widest berth of all. Such a wide draw in a Kentucky Derby is routinely a major negative, but Big Brown and Kent Desormeaux ran a giant quarter-mile diagonal to the Clubhouse Turn ensuring they were only five-wide heading into the bend from their improbable gate.
With a good start behind him, Big Brown cruised through the race in a prominent position and kicked clear to win by five lengths.
American Pharoah – 2015
Not only did American Pharoah win the Derby in 2015, he went on to complete the Triple Crown for trainer Bob Baffert, winning the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, before also rocking up in the Breeders’ Cup Classic later that same year.
He was the first American Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 and just the 12th in history, though Baffert would do it again with Justify in 2018.
Secretariat – 1973
For many, Secretariat remains the greatest Kentucky Derby winner of them all. It had been 25 years since a horse had won the Triple Crown when trainer Lucien Laurin landed back-to-back renewals after Riva Ridge had scored a year earlier.
Under rider Ron Turcotte, Secretariat clocked a time of 1:59.40, the fastest in 139 years of the Kentucky Derby and still unmatched to this day.