Saturday’s 149th running of the Kentucky Derby has some interesting subplots. While there is an established favorite in Forte, the possibility of an upset when the Run for the Roses is held at Churchill Downs is always possible.
That was never more apparent than last year.
Rich Strike, an 80-1 longshot, won the 2022 race from the 20th post position, entering the event after a late scratch. He was only the second horse in Kentucky Derby history to win the race from the No. 20 spot since the modern starting gate was introduced in 1930. Big Brown was the first, in 2008, according to ESPN.
Here are some fun facts heading into Saturday’s race.
Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, with three horses in Saturday’s race, is trying to become the seventh trainer in history to win the Kentucky Derby three times. His horses this year include pre-race betting favorite Forte, who won the Grade 1 Florida Derby; Tapit Trice, who won the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes; and Kingsbarn, who won the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.
Pletcher has entered more horses in the Derby than any other trainer with 62, according to The Athletic. He won with Super Saver in 2010 and Always Dreaming in 2017, but this is only the second time he has saddled the favorite for the race, according to the Henry Herald.
“We feel great about the hand we have right now,” Pletcher told reporters after the post-position draw.
Louisville trainer Brad Cox has four horses in the field on Saturday — Angel of Empire, Verifying, Hit Show and Jace’s Road, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Cox’s first victory at the Derby came in 2021, when Mandaloun was declared the winner. Medina Spirit, who won on the track, was disqualified 10 months after the race in February 2022 because of a positive drug test.
Touch of gray
Only eight gray or roan horses have ever won the Kentucky Derby, but there were four entered in this year’s race, the Courier-Journal reported. According to Horse Racing Sense, roan is the mixing of white hair with a horse’s base hair.
Most of the horses competing in the Derby are bay or chestnut, according to the Courier-Journal.
The last gray or roan horse to win at the Derby was Giacomo in 2005. Since then, 36 gray or roan horses have run for the roses, but only Essential Quality came close, finishing third in 2021, according to the newspaper. Barber Road placed sixth last year.
Before Giacomo, gray or roan horses to win the Derby were Determine (1954), Decidedly (1962), Spectacular Bid (1979), Gato Del Sol (1982), Winning Colors (1988), Silver Charm (1997) and Monarchos (2001). Of the eight grays, only Winning Colors was a filly.
This year’s entries are Tapit Trice, who is one of the favorites to win. The others are Reincarnate, Hit Show and Rocket Can.
The No. 17 post is 0-for-43 in the Kentucky Derby, according to the Courier-Journal. It is the only post position not to win at the Derby; Forty Niner came close in 1988, finishing second to Winning Colors.
Breaking out of the No. 17 gate this year is longshot Derma Sotogake, a horse from Japan.
The horse earned a spot in the Churchill Downs field after winning the UAE Derby with the fastest time at the event in five years.
Horses from the UAE Derby have been 0-for-18 at Churchill Downs, according to CBS Sports. The best finish came from Master of Hounds, who took fifth place in 2011.
Drive from No. 5
The No. 5 post position has produced the most winners in Kentucky Derby history with 10, according to The Sporting News. That is good news for Tapit Trice, who drew the No. 5 spot for this year’s race.
Other recent winners from the No. 5 gate are Always Dreaming in 2017 and California Chrome in 2014.
Second place goes to the No. 10 post, which has nine winners. The last winner there was Giacomo in 2005, according to The Sporting News.
In third place is the No. 8 gate, with eight winners. The last horse to win from that spot was Mine That Bird in 2009.
Secretariat dominated 50 years ago
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Secretariat’s win at the Kentucky Derby, the beginning of a five-week record-shattering effort by “Big Red.”
Secretariat won all three legs of the Triple Crown in 1973 with record times, according to the Courier-Journal. He took the 1 1/4-mile Derby in 1 minute, 59 2/5 seconds. Two weeks later he won the Preakness, finishing the 1 3/16-mile race in 1:53. Finally, Secretariat won the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths over Twice A Prince, finishing in 2:24 to become the first Triple Crown winner since Citation in 1948.
Two weeks before the Derby, Secretariat lost the Wood Memorial to Sham. Big Red had an abscess at the base of one of his teeth, which affected his performance. Secretariat would top Sham at Churchill Downs and two weeks later at Pimlico during the Preakness.
“I can’t compare Secretariat with any other horse I rode or saw,” Ron Turcotte, his jockey during the Triple Crown run, once said. “I don’t think we’ll see another one.”
Forte is trying to become the third horse to win the Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, following in the hooves of Street Sense (2007) and Nyquist (2016).
Forte has won six of his seven career starts. His fifth consecutive win came at the Florida Derby on April 1 at Gulfstream Park, The Athletic reported.
Meanwhile, Lord Miles, a 59-1 longshot at the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, won by a nose on April 8 over Hit Show. The last horse to win both the Wood and the Kentucky Derby was Funny Cide in 2003.
Not a favorite
Since 2000, only 10 post-time favorites have won the Kentucky Derby, according to The Athletic. Six came between 2013 and 2018.
Skipping a year
Kingsbarns and Mage are trying to become only the third horse to win the Kentucky Derby without winning as a 2-year-old. The others were Apollo in 1882 and Justify in 2018.
Both are longshots. Kingbarns had 12-1 odds on Thursday, while Mage was listed at 15-1.
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