Question: How important a factor is post position in the Kentucky Derby?

Answer: Many readers ask this question over the years. Since records were first maintained in 1900, post position 1 has proven most successful in the Kentucky Derby with 12 winners breaking from the inside. Post position 4 is second on the success list with 10 winners, while nine winners have broken from post 2. Of the 89 Kentucky Derby winners covered in this survey, 38, or 42.7%, broke from the number 1 through 4 post positions. Thus the inside is obviously a significant advantage. However, in the nine runnings beginning with 1980, six winners broke post 10 or higher.

Q: Are the Kentucky Derby winners of the modern era better racehorses than their predecessors?

A: It is a difficult question to answer with facts. There is no question that track maintenance today is far superior, and this partially accounts for faster times. The feeding of horses, if not their care, is far superior today, and we are inclined to think their overall training is better suited to the individual and his era than the heavy-handed tactics that were the norm in yesteryear, with a few obvious exceptions. Of the 16 fastest runnings of the Kentucky Derby, 11 were accomplished since 1960. Whether this indicates that today’s horses are superior is a matter for much discussion.


Q: Which are the five best horses to have run in the Kentucky Derby?

A: You’ve asked a question to which there are many answers, all based on opinion, but we asked it of two veterans of the Derby scene and found their answers quite interesting.

Leslie Combs of Spendthrift Farm saw his first Kentucky Derby in 1914. His list of the five best horses to have run in the Derby includes Citation, Coaltown, Old Rosebud, Gallant Fox and Count Fleet.

Warner L. Jones Jr., chairman of the board of Churchill Downs, saw his first Kentucky Derby in 1930. His list includes Secretariat, Citation, Seattle Slew, Alysheba and Spend a Buck.

Others who might appear on some lists include Native Dancer, Hindoo, Spectacular Bid, Affirmed, Bubbling Over, Whirlaway, War Admiral, Swaps, Tim Tam, Northern Dancer, Majestic Prince and Swale.

Q: Can you tell me the record of odds-on favorites in past Derbys?

A: There have been 28 Kentucky Derbys with odds-on favorites, and 17 of these choices have won while eight finished second. The last odds-on favorite in the Derby was Spectacular Bid, who won in 1979 at odds on 3-5.