Favorites in the Kentucky Derby seem to do well. Since 1908 and the advent of pari-mutuel wagering, favorites have won 39 times for roughly a 35 percent strike rate. In the years before pari-mutuel wagering between 1875 and 1907, sentimental favorites won 16 times for a near 50 percent win rate.
The shortest-priced favorite in Derby history was Bimelech, who finished second a 2-5 in 1940. Count Fleet (1943) and Citation (1948), who was coupled with stablemate Coaltown, were also 2-5 when they won the first jewel under the Twin Spires. Seattle Slew was 1-2 in 1977, as was Johnstown in 1939 and Spectacular Bid in 1978.
The longest-priced favorite title in Kentucky Derby history belongs to Lookin at Lucky, who was sixth at odds of 6.30-1 in 2010. Harlan’s Holiday was 6-1 in 2002 and Sweetsouthernsaint was 5.50-1 in 2006. In 2013 Orb was the longest-priced favorite to win when he left the gate at odds of 5.40-1. Other longer favorites to win are Street Sense, who was 4.90-1 in 2007; and Always Dreaming, who was 4.70-1 in 2017.
Last year, Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Tiz The Law left the gate at .70-1 (3-5) and was second to Authentic.
Colors of Derby Winners
So far, bay horses have been the most successful in the Derby, taking home the trophy for their happy connections 55 times. Chestnuts checked in as runner-up with 48 winners, brown runners have been victorious 17 times to complete the color trifecta, while dark bay/brown runners have crossed the wire in front 11 times. Grays/roans have won eight times, four times for black and three for dark bays.
The last bay to win the Derby – Authentic, 2020
The last chestnut to win the Derby — Country House, 2019
The last dark bay/brown to win the Derby — Always Dreaming, 2017
The last gray/roan to win the Derby – Giacomo, 2005
The last black to win the Derb — Flying Ebony 1925
In 1962, the Jockey Club merged the dark bay & brown color classifications to dark bay/brown. In 1993, gray and roan were merged to gray/roan.
There’s an old saying in racing about betting gray horses on rainy days but this year, without any rain likely in Louisville on Saturday, the old adage will likely be on the shelf. However, since 1930, 107 gray horses have started, producing the aforementioned eight winners for a 7.5 percent strike rate. Both 1968 and 1981 had the most gray starters with five a piece. This year, two of the probable starters are gray, including champion and favorite Essential Quality and Florida Derby (G1) runner-up Soup and Sandwich.
Related:Kentucky Derby Winners Bought and Bred, Handicapping, Best Bet
What’s In A Derby Name: Alphabet Edition
In the 146 previous runnings of the Kentucky Derby a total of 1,938 3-year-olds have loaded into the Churchill Downs starting gate on the first Saturday in May, with names representing each letter of the alphabet, except X. Horses beginning with “S” lead the way with 19 winners, while there haven’t been any winners at all whose names begin with the letters “Q” or “Y’. This year, 13 letters are represented in the field of probables, four are “H”, three are “K”, three are “M” and three are “S”.
Following are the letters representing Derby winners, number of starters for each letter and the most recent horse to win with that letter.
Letter Wins Str Last Winner, Year
A 12 99 Authentic, 2020
B 13 192 Big Brown, 2008
C 13 149 Country House, 2019
D 7 109 Dust Commander, 1970
E 2 51 Exterminator, 1918
F 7 92 Funny Cide, 2003
G 8 87 Giacomo, 2005
H 5 85 Hill Gail, 1952
I 2 41 I’ll Have Another, 2012
J 5 47 Justify, 2018
K 2 34 Kauai King, 1966
L 7 81 Lil E. Tee, 1992
M 9 121 Mine That Bird, 2009
N 3 42 Nyquist, 2016
O 4 45 Orb, 2013
P 7 114 Pleasant Colony, 1981
Q 0 7
R 5 94 Real Quiet, 1998
S 19 206 Super Saver. 2010
T 5 110 Thunder Gulch, 1995
U 1 16 Unbridled, 1990
V 2 36 Venetian Way ,1960
W 7 70 War Emblem, 2002
X 0 0
Y 0 3
Z 1 7 Zev, 1923
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.