Top 10 Fastest Kentucky Derby Winners Of All Time

The Kentucky Derby is the ultimate test of a Thoroughbred’s speed. So who is the swiftest of the swift?

Read more about the fastest winners of the Kentucky Derby below.

Photo by Oscar Scannell on Unsplash

Photo by Oscar Scannell on Unsplash

Honorable Mention: Spokane (2:34.5 in 1889)

Although the Run for the Roses is currently held at 1 ¼ miles, that was not always the case; until 1895 the race took place over 1 ½ miles. The record at that distance belongs to Spokane. The chesnut colt was the only horse foaled in Montana (which was not yet a state at the time) to win the Kentucky Derby. He won by a nose over the previous year’s two-year-old champion and came to be regarded as one of the best of his crop.

10. Fusaichi Pegasus (2:01.12 in 2000)

The Japanese-owned Fusaichi Pegasus may have baffled track announcers, but there was no doubt that he had heaps of talent and that the betting public had faith in him. The first post-time favorite to win the Kentucky Derby since 1979, Fusaichi Pegasus was later syndicated for a world-record $70 million.

9. Mandaloun (2:01.1 in 2021)

The 2021 Kentucky Derby was one of the most controversial of all time, as official winner Mandaloun did not actually cross the wire first. The Bob-Baffert-trained Medina Spirit completed the race in 2:01.02 but was disqualified after post-race testing revealed that he had more than the allowed amount of betamethasone in his system. The Kentucky Derby proved to be the highlight of Mandaloun’s career, as he never won another race.

8. Grindstone (2:01.06 in 1996)

The 2021 Kentucky Derby may have been Baffert’s last, but his first appearance came in 1996 when his gelding Cavonnier looked a likely winner. However, jockey Jerry Bailey rode a masterful race aboard Grindstone, who just nipped Cavonnier at the wire. Unfortunately, Grindstone was found to have injured his knee in the week following the Kentucky Derby, and he was retired to stud.

7. Authentic (2:00.61 in 2020)

The 2020 edition of the Kentucky Derby was one of only two editions of the historic race not held in May. The race was delayed until September due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which had the unintended benefit of allowing the crop to physically mature. Authentic lived up to his name, later adding the Breeders’ Cup Classic to his resume and being named Horse of the Year.

6. Proud Clarion (2:00.6 in 1967)

The 1967 Kentucky Derby was one of the bigger upsets the race has seen. The race favorite was champion Damascus, who would go on to mature into one of the all-time greats of the sport. However, for reasons that were never clearly defined, Damascus was dull that day and finished third to 30-1 longshot Proud Clarion.

5. Decidedly (2:00.4 in 1962)

A son of 1954 Kentucky Derby winner Determine, Decidedly mirrored his sire’s accomplishment, and as trivia buffs will know, the two were the first gray horses to win. Decidedly was not a particularly successful racehorse after the Derby, but he did set a track record at Keeneland in winning the 1 1/16 mile Ben Ali Handicap.

4. Spend a Buck (2:00.2 in 1985)

A notoriously speedy front-runner, Spend a Buck led his field on a merry chase when the only other early speed, Eternal Prince, stumbled at the gate. His connections bucked tradition by opting out of the Preakness, instead winning a bonus for taking the Jersey Derby. He later went on to earn Horse of the Year honors.

3. Northern Dancer (2:00 in 1964)

Northern Dancer’s record-breaking Kentucky Derby was certainly impressive, but perhaps even more impressive was the fact that this was a mere footnote in his amazing career. The first and only horse to win both the Kentucky Derby and Canada’s premier race, the Queen’s Plate, the Canadian-bred Northern Dancer was only the third Derby winner bred outside of the United States. He later became the world’s most influential sire and played a huge role in globalizing the Thoroughbred industry.

2. Monarchos (1:59.97 in 2001)

The 2001 Kentucky Derby was a recipe for speed: several confirmed speedballs pushed each other in the early stages of the race over a track that was scrapped to be lightning quick. The pacesetters burned each other out, and the deep closer Monarchos picked up the pieces. Monarchos had previously won the Grade I Florida Derby, but he lacked the versatility and luck that the leaders of his crop had and lost his remaining two races, after which injury forced his retirement to stud.

  1. Secretariat (1:59.4 in 1973)

Like with the aforementioned Northern Dancer, Secretariat’s Kentucky Derby record is a mere blip on his astounding career. The gleaming red chestnut was named not only two-year-old champion but Horse of the Year in 1972, and his sophomore campaign was doubly brilliant: not only did Secretariat win the Triple Crown, but he set records in each race. He later defeated older horses on both dirt and turf, earning a slew of year-end championships, including a second Horse of the Year title.