Kentucky Derby fastest times - The 137th running of the Kentucky Derby is locked in for Saturday, May 5, 2012 with a post time of 6:24 PM EDT.  There will be a full field of twenty three-year-old thoroughbred horses vying for the bouquet of beautiful red roses that are traditionally draped over the victorious horse in the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky.  

A natural question that fans ask as Kentucky Derby day approaches is: What are the fastest times ever posted in the Kentucky Derby?  This is an excellent question, and each answer tells a fascinating story rich in the history of the great horses that have graced the track on the first Saturday in May all these years.  

First of all, there is a very large sample size.  The Kentucky Derby was actually run at 1 ½ miles, or a full 12 furlongs like the Belmont Stakes is today, from it’s inauguration in 1875 until 1895, a span of twenty-one races.  That means that there have been 116 races, going back to 1896, that have been run at the current 1 ¼ miles or 10 furlongs.  That’s quite a lot of races.  One thing that is clear when reviewing the winning times over those 116 years is that winning the Kentucky Derby in less than two minutes is extremely rare.  It’s only happened twice in all those 116 years.  But within the story of the two fastest WINNING times in the history of the race there lies a fascinating story of a snake bitten horse.  More on that in a bit, but first let’s go over the five Kentucky Derby fastest times ever in reverse order.

#5  Spend a Buck in 1985, with a blazing time of 2:00 ⅕.  At that time, there had only been three horses that had ever run a faster Kentucky Derby.

#4  Northern Dancer in 1964 at 2:00 flat.  This was the standard.  If you peruse the list of winning times from 1896 until 1963, you’ll find that only six horses up to that point in time had ever even broken 2:02, and among those, just one horse, Decidedly in 1962, ever broke 2:01, posting a then-record time of 2:00 ⅖.  Northern Dancer’s two minutes flat was thought to be a mark that would stand for generations.

#3 Monarchos in 2001 at 1:59.97, just under two minutes flat.  This horse stunned the racing world by joining Secretariat as the only other horse to ever win the Kentucky Derby in under two minutes.

#1  Secretariat in 1973 at 1:59 ⅖.  Time has shown this time to be the absolute gold standard of Kentucky Derby performances.  He came from dead last after a quarter of a mile, he was three-wide around the first turn, and he was four-wide swooping around the final turn into the stretch.  This means that he achieved his time after LOSING considerable ground.  When you take that into consideration, that means that this record is unlikely to be broken anytime soon, if ever.

#2  Sham in 1973 at 1:59 ⅘.  No, skipping from #3 to #1 wasn’t a typo.  Sham ran a beautiful race, letting the speedster get in front, and then stalking him in third along the backstretch, moving to second on the turn, then emerging from the turn in first place.  He had run a flawless race, but Secretariat drew even with him at the 3/16th’s pole, then pulled away to win with ease by 2.5 lengths.  Sham lost, but in doing so he achieved the unique distinction:  he ran the second-fastest Kentucky Derby in the entire history of the race, right up until the present day, but he had LOST.  Amazingly that means that in the the long and storied history of the Kentucky Derby, the two fastest were run ON THE SAME DAY!!!  Hard to believe, but it’s true.

Author's Bio: 

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