By Miriam Lee
The most days between a Kentucky Derby win and their previous start belong to Regret (1915, 259 days) and Sir Barton (1918, 238 days). Records prior to the 1929 are incomplete. The following is a list of Kentucky Derby winners and the number of days between their Kentucky Derby win and their previous start since 1929.
This year, some runners haven’t started for just a month and at least one – King Guillermo – hasn’t started in more than four months. How much does time between races affect runners? Most recently, in 2011 had a 42-day break between his win in the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes and the Derby. Needles in 1958 also had a 42-day break between his final Derby prep and the Run for the Roses. Barbaro in 2006 had 35 days between his Florida Derby score and the Kentucky Derby.
Conversely, a number of runners had just four days to prep for the Derby, including legends Ciation, Whirlaway and assault.
Kentucky Derby Winners: Days Between Derby and Last Start
- 42 days: 2
- 35 days: 5
- 34 days: 1
- 28 days: 9
- 27 days: 1
- 21 days: 16
- 20 days: 1
- 18 days: 1
- 17 days: 1
- 16 days: 1
- 15 days: 1
- 14 days: 14
- 13 days: 1
- 10 days: 1
- 9 days: 12
- 8 days: 1
- 7 days: 10
- 6 days: 1
- 4 days: 12
Since 1940, a lot of talk has been placed on a Derby hopeful’s final start and where they will prep. The interest in this annual right of passage for the owners of each horses and for fans as well grew to a fever pitch when Churchill Downs switched to a points-driven series, which gave each significant race a certain amount for each race, the most prominent receiving higher numbers. For eight decades, a handful of prep races have stood out among the others as not only producing the most starters overall, but also the most winners.
Most Derby winners produced per prep:
- Blue Grass Stakes: 18 (2007, Street Sense, second)
- Wood Memorial Stakes: 14 (2003, Funny Cide, second)
- Santa Anita Derby: 9 (2018, Justify, won)
- Arkansas Derby: 7 (2019, Country House, third)
- Florida Derby: 6 (2016, Always Dreaming, won)
Other preps to have produced Derby winners include the Derby Trial, Illinois Derby, Lexington Stakes, Garden State Stakes, Chesapeake Stakes, and allowance races at Churchill Downs.
The oldest living Kentucky Derby winner is Go For Gin, who romped home in the slop under the Twin Spires in 1994. Now 29, the son of Cormorant is in great shape and living his life at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Hall of Champions after standing at stud for more than two decades. Also at the Horse Park is 2003 hero Funny Cide, who turned 20 this year and greets fans daily at the Hall of Champions.
But where are the rest of the living Derby winners? Following is a list, with foaling date and current location. Many are stallions, others are retired and living the good life of a retiree.
- 2019 Country House – May 8, 2016 – Retired Feb. 14, 2020, following bout with laminitis; now resides at Blackwood Stables, Versailles, Ky. Will stand first season at stud in 2021.
- 2018 Justify – March 28, 2015 — Stallion ($150,000) at Ashford Stud, Versailles, Ky.
- 2017 Always Dreaming – Feb. 25, 2014 – Stallion ($25,000) at WinStar Farm, Versailles, Ky.
- 2016 Nyquist – March 10, 2013 – Stallion ($40,000) at Darley, Lexington, Ky.
- 2015 American Pharoah – Feb. 2, 2012 – Stallion (Private) at Ashford Stud, Versailles, Ky.
- 2014 California Chrome – Feb. 18, 2011 – Stallion ($36,500) at Arrow Stud, Hokkaido, Japan
- 2013 Orb – Feb. 24, 2010 – Stallion ($10,000) at Claiborne Farm, Paris, Ky.
- 2012 I’ll Have Another – April 1, 2009 – Stallion ($6,000) at Ballena Vista Farm, Ramona, Calif. 2011 Animal Kingdom – March 20, 2008 – Stallion (Private) at Jbba Shizunai Stallion Station, Hokkaido, Japan
- 2010 Super Saver – March 18, 2007 – Stallion (Private) at Turkish Jockey Club Izmit Stallion Complex, Izmit, Turkey
- 2009 Mine That Bird – May 10, 2006 – Retired at Double Eagle Ranch, Roswell, N.M.
- 2008 Big Brown – April 10, 2005 – Stallon ($5,000) at Irish Hill & Dutchess Views Stallions, Stillwater, N.Y.
- 2007 Street Sense – Feb. 23, 2004 – Stallion ($75,000) at Darley, Lexington, Ky.
- 2005 Giacomo – Feb. 16, 2002 – Stallion ($2,500) at Oakhurst Equine Veterinary Services, Newberg, Ore.
- 2004 Smarty Jones – Feb. 28, 2001 – Stallion ($3,500) at Equistar Training and Breeding, Annville, Pa.
- 2003 Funny Cide – April 20, 2000 – Retired, Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, Ky.
- 2000 Fusaichi Pegasus – April 12, 1997 – Stallion ($7,500) at Ashford Stud, Versailles, Ky. 1999 1997 Silver Charm – Feb. 22, 1994 – Retired, Old Friends, Georgetown, Ky.
- 1996 Grindstone – Jan. 23, 1993 – Retired, Oakhurst Equine Veterinary Services, Newberg, Ore. 1994 Go for Gin April 18, 1991 29 Retired, Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, Ky.
The beverage of choice and the signature cocktail for both Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby since the 1930s is the Mint Julep. Old Forester was introduced in 1870 as America’s First Bottled Bourbon and is currently he manufacturer of the official Churchill Downs mint julep, but also is the founding brand of Brown-Forman Corporation, which now manufactures Early Times Bourbon, formerly the main ingredient for “the Official Mint Julep of the Kentucky Derby” from 1987 through 2014.
Each year, approximately 127,000 mint juleps are served over the two-day period of Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs, requiring more than 10,000 bottles of Old Forester Mint Julep mix, 2,250 pounds of freshly harvested mint and 475,000 pounds of ice. The Old Forester Mint Julep is served at Churchill Downs year-round and produced at the Brown-Forman Distillery in nearby Shively, Ky. The highest-priced mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby, which are sold in limited quantity for a whopping $1,000 each, use unique ingredients and bourbon from the Brown-Forman sister brand Woodford Reserve, which is marketed as the “Official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby.”
Here is the recipe to make your own mint julep:
- Simple syrup
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- Boil together for five minutes, set aside to cool, add a dozen mint sprigs and chill in covered container overnight
- Sprigs of fresh mint
- Crushed ice
- Bourbon Whisky
Fill julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint (simple) syrup and two ounces of Bourbon Whisky. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
Miriam Lee has always been a horse racing fan thanks to trips to the tracks in her home state of Maryland with her father as kid. She owns an OTTB and is an advocate for promoting the sport among her peers. Miriam studies communication arts at Hood College and will receive her master’s degree in 2021, which she plans to use for a career in screenwriting. Her all-time favorite racehorse is Man O War.