Top 10 fastest Kentucky Derby times in history

May 3rd, 2024

The fastest two minutes in sports were especially swift when these 10 Thoroughbreds competed in the Kentucky Derby.

From a legendary Triple Crown winner to a high-priced yearling who stole the heart of a Japanese racing enthusiast, here are the 10 horses with the fastest winning times in Kentucky Derby (G1) history.

10. 2000 Fusaichi Pegasus, 2:01.12

When Japanese businessman Fusao Sekiguchi spotted Fusaichi Pegasus at a yearling sale at Keeneland, he knew he had to own the bay horse, sired by Mr. Prospector. Sekiguchi was so adamant about it that he shelled out $4 million to purchase the Thoroughbred, who went on to become the first favorite to win the Kentucky Derby since Spectacular Bid in 1979.

The Neil Drysdale trainee came up short in the Preakness S. (G1) with a second-place finish to Red Bullet and skipped the last leg of the Triple Crown. The final race of his short career resulted in a sixth-place finish at the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Fusaichi Pegasus earned just $1,994,400 in career earnings but was sold to Irish breeder Coolmore Stud for a record $70 million.

9. 2021 Mandaloun*, 2:01.10

The Brad Cox trainee only recently cracked the top 10, after Medina Spirit was disqualified as the winner of the 2021 Kentucky Derby. While the Bob Baffert-trained dark bay crossed the finish line first in 2:01.02 (which would rank in the top-five fastest winning Derby times), Mandaloun was later declared the official winner once Medina Spirit was stripped of the victory for a positive drug test.

Mandaloun did not run in the other Triple Crown races, but won his final two races, the Pegasus S. (G3) and Haskell S. (G1), of his three-year-old season. His victory in the Haskell was also the result of a disqualification, after the first-place finisher, Hot Rod Charlie, was placed in last for interference.

 8. 1996 Grindstone, 2:01.06

Grindstone’s biggest win of his career ended up being his last, as the son of Derby winner Unbridled was forced to retire five days after his win because of a bone chip in his knee.

Grindstone beat out 7-2 favorite Unbridled’s Song (also sired by Unbridled), which marked the 17th year in a row the favorite failed to win the Run for the Roses.

7. 2020 Authentic, 2:00.61

In an unprecedented September running of the Kentucky Derby, Authentic surprised 3-5 favorite Tiz the Law, beating the Belmont S. (G1) winner by 1 1/4 lengths on a fast track. The victory gave Baffert a record-tying six Kentucky Derby victories and delivered jockey John Velazquez his third Derby win, two short of Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack’s record of five.

6. 1967 Proud Clarion, 2:00.6

Hardly anyone expected 30-1 longshot Proud Clarion to win the 1967 Kentucky Derby, let alone finish the race in nearly two minutes flat.

Jockey Bobby Ussery picked up the mount just three days before the Derby and guided the bay colt to the biggest win of his career. Proud Clarion later finished third in the Preakness and fourth in the Belmont. He won just six of 25 career starts, including a victory in the Roamer Handicap at Aqueduct, where he set a track record of 1:55 flat for 1 3/16 miles.

5. 1962 Decidedly, 2:00.4

The gray horse bred in California had a winning pedigree on his side, as his sire, Determine, won the Kentucky Derby in 1954 in 2:03. A little more than a decade later, the jockey-trainer duo of Bill Hartack and Horatio Luro guided Decidedly to a 2:00.4 finish in the 88th running of the Kentucky Derby.

Two years later, Hartack and Luro triumphed again in record time with another horse on this list, who nearly broke the sub-two minute mark.

4. 1985 Spend A Buck, 2:00.2

Despite clocking the fourth-fastest winning time in Kentucky Derby history, Spend A Buck’s owner, Dennis Diaz, opted to skip the Preakness and Belmont to focus on the Jersey Derby in an effort to claim a $2 million bonus.

The son of Buckaroo came through with a win at Garden State Park and later won Horse of the Year in 1985. He retired with a 15-10-3-2 record and $4,220,689 in career earnings.

3. 1964 Northern Dancer, 2:00.0

The first Canadian-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Northern Dancer went off as the second choice to win, behind Hill Rise, whom the bay colt beat by a neck in then-record time.

In two minutes flat, Northern Dancer triumphed in the first leg of the Triple Crown and went on to win the Preakness in 1:56 4/5. Unfortunately for the Luro trainee, Northern Dancer’s Triple Crown bid was spoiled as he finished third in the Belmont, behind Quadrangle and Roman Brother. Jockey Bill Hartack said the 12-furlong distance was just too much for the small horse.

2. 2001 Monarchos, 1:59.97

The second Derby winner to finish the 10-furlong race in under two minutes, Monarchos stunned the crowd of 154,210 at the 127th Kentucky Derby when he roared home from 13th place at the half-mile mark to finish 4 3/4 lengths ahead of second-place finisher Invisible Ink.

The gray colt is the second-fastest winning Derby horse in history, but not the second-fastest to run the race. That distinction goes to Sham, who completed the one-and-a-quarter mile in 1:59 4/5 but was outbid by the next horse on this list.

1. 1973 Secretariat, 1:59.4

The legendary bright-red chestnut began his historic Triple Crown trek on May 5, 1973, when he romped to a sub-two-minute finish in the 99th running of the Kentucky Derby.

Before a then-record crowd of 134,476, the Lucien Laurin trainee entered as the 3-2 favorite as a coupled entry with Angle Light. From post 10, the son of Bold Ruler broke last and passed just two horses in the first turn, but came up the outside with the final furlong to beat out Claiborne Farm’s Sham by 2 1/2 lengths.

With a final time of 1:59.40, Secretariat set a track record at 1 1/4 miles that still stands at Churchill Downs. He went on to set speed records in the Preakness and Belmont, and achieved the largest margin of victory (31 lengths) in Belmont history.