By Mint Julep


Kentucky Derby Winners

A comprehensive list and stories of past Kentucky Derby winners, including horse, jockey, and trainer information.

Key Takeaways

  • Discover the captivating stories behind legendary Kentucky Derby champions, from their humble beginnings to their triumphant victories on the racetrack.
  • Explore the intricate details of each winning horse, jockey, and trainer, uncovering the unique strategies and talents that led them to glory in the “Run for the Roses.”
  • Immerse yourself in the rich history of the Kentucky Derby, gaining a deeper appreciation for this prestigious event and its enduring legacy in the world of horse racing.

Introduction: Unveiling the Remarkable Tales of Kentucky Derby Champions

The Kentucky Derby, often referred to as the “Run for the Roses,” is a prestigious horse race that has captured the hearts of millions worldwide. The history of this iconic event is steeped in tradition and brimming with remarkable tales of triumph and glory. From underdogs defying odds to legendary jockeys showcasing their unparalleled skills, each edition of the Kentucky Derby adds another chapter to its storied legacy.

Every year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, spectators gather in anticipation to witness history unfold on the racetrack. The thundering hooves, colorful silks fluttering in the wind, and cheers from the crowd create an electrifying atmosphere unlike any other sporting event. As horses break from the starting gate and navigate their way around the track, a sense of excitement permeates through every inch of the venue.

The journey to becoming a Kentucky Derby champion is no easy feat; it requires impeccable training, unwavering determination, and a deep bond between horse and rider. Behind every triumphant win lies hours of dedication put forth by trainers who fine-tune every aspect of their equine athletes’ performance. Jockeys play a pivotal role in guiding these majestic creatures towards victory with skillful precision and tactical expertise honed over years spent mastering their craft.

Inscribed into racing lore are names that have left an indelible mark on the annals of Kentucky Derby history – Secretariat’s record-breaking run in 1973 that still stands unmatched today; Smarty Jones’ valiant pursuit for Triple Crown glory; American Pharoah’s reign as he broke a 37-year drought to claim racing’s ultimate prize. These champions embody resilience, grace under pressure, and sheer excellence that continue to inspire generations of fans anew with each passing race day at Churchill Downs.

The Inaugural Kentucky Derby: Aristides, Oliver Lewis, and Ansel Williamson

The inaugural Kentucky Derby, held on May 17, 1875, at the historic Churchill Downs in Louisville, was a momentous occasion that marked the beginning of a legendary tradition. Aristides, ridden by African American jockey Oliver Lewis and trained by Ansel Williamson, clinched the victory in front of an enthusiastic crowd of spectators. This triumph not only secured Aristides’ place in racing history as the first-ever winner of the prestigious event but also highlighted the remarkable skills and determination displayed by Lewis and Williamson.

Aristides’ victory was more than just a race; it symbolized courage, talent, and breaking down barriers in a sport where opportunities for African American jockeys were scarce. Oliver Lewis’s exceptional horsemanship guided Aristides to glory against formidable competition. Meanwhile, trainer Ansel Williamson’s expertise played a pivotal role in preparing Aristides for his momentous win at the mile-and-a-half track. The triumphant trio of Aristides, Lewis,and Williamson set a high standard for future generations of racers and exemplified the essence of teamwork and dedication within horse racing lore forever etching their names into Kentucky Derby history books with golden letters.

The Pros & Cons of Derby Glory


  1. Prestigious title and recognition in the horse racing world
  2. Increased breeding value for winning horses
  3. Boost in career opportunities for jockeys and trainers
  4. Exciting and memorable experience for fans and spectators
  5. Tradition and history associated with the Kentucky Derby


  1. Intense competition can lead to pressure and stress for participants
  2. Risk of injuries to horses, jockeys, and trainers during races
  3. High costs associated with training, maintaining, and entering horses in the Derby
  4. Limited opportunities for smaller stables or less experienced participants to compete at top levels
  5. Public scrutiny and criticism in case of underperformance or controversy

War Admiral’s Triple Crown Triumph: A Victory for Eddie Arcaro and George Conway

War Admiral’s Triple Crown triumph stands as a crowning achievement in the annals of horse racing history. The pairing of jockey Eddie Arcaro with trainer George Conway was nothing short of legendary, their synergy propelling War Admiral to unparalleled success on the racetrack.

The Kentucky Derby victory set the stage for War Admiral’s journey towards greatness. With Arcaro at the helm and Conway’s expert training, the duo led this majestic colt to a stunning win that left spectators in awe. The energy and determination displayed by both horse and rider were palpable, setting them apart from their competitors right from the start.

As they moved on to conquer the Preakness Stakes, War Admiral continued his dominance under Arcaro’s skillful guidance. Each stride exuded power and grace, showcasing a true champion in action. It was clear that this team was destined for glory as they galloped towards history with unwavering focus.

The final jewel in the crown came at Belmont Park during the Belmont Stakes – a defining moment where War Admiral cemented his legacy with an emphatic victory. The seamless coordination between Arcaro and Conway reached its peak on that fateful day, etching their names into racing folklore forevermore.

Eddie Arcaro’s masterful control over War Admiral throughout each race reflected his deep understanding of equine behavior and unmatched talent in navigating high-stakes competitions. His partnership with George Conway exemplified what can be achieved when expertise meets dedication on the racetrack – a harmonious blend that propelled them to Triple Crown glory.

In retrospect, War Admiral’s Triple Crown triumph not only solidified his own place among racing greats but also highlighted Eddie Arcaro’s exceptional abilities as a jockey and George Conway’s prowess as a trainer. Their collective efforts culminated in an unforgettable chapter of sporting history that continues to captivate enthusiasts worldwide with its tale of skill, passion, and sheer determination.

Secretariat’s Unforgettable Victory: Ron Turcotte and Lucien Laurin’s Historic Moment

Oh, what a day it was when Secretariat thundered down the Churchill Downs track in 1973! Ron Turcotte’s masterful ride and Lucien Laurin’s expert training culminated in an electrifying victory that still echoes through the annals of horse racing history.

The chestnut colt with three white socks and a star-studded blaze captured the hearts of millions as he blazed his way to win by an astonishing margin of 31 lengths. This remarkable feat secured his place not only as a Kentucky Derby champion but also as a true legend among champions.

Ron Turcotte’s partnership with Secretariat seemed almost predestined, their synergy evident in every stride they took together on the track. The jockey’s skillful guidance and deep connection with his mount propelled them to greatness, setting records that remain unbroken to this day.

Lucien Laurin, the mastermind behind Secretariat’s training regimen, instilled confidence and finesse in both horse and rider. His keen eye for detail and innovative techniques pushed boundaries and reshaped perceptions of what could be achieved on the racetrack.

In victory, there is often poetry – a perfect harmony between speed, strength, and spirit. And so it was on that fateful day at Churchill Downs when Secretariat galloped into immortality alongside Ron Turcotte and Lucien Laurin. Their historic moment remains etched in time as a testament to courage, skill, and unwavering determination amidst fierce competition.

Legendary Kentucky Derby Champions: Horse, Jockey, Trainer

Horse Jockey Trainer Year
Secretariat Ron Turcotte Lucien Laurin 1973
Citation Eddie Arcaro Ben A. Jones 1948
Seattle Slew Jean Cruguet William H. Turner 1977
American Pharoah Victor Espinoza Bob Baffert 2015
Affirmed Steve Cauthen Laz Barrera 1978
War Admiral Charles Kurtsinger George Conway 1937
Justify Mike Smith Bob Baffert 2018
Whirlaway Eddie Arcaro Ben A. Jones 1941
Funny Cide José Santos Barclay Tagg 2003
Assault Warren Mehrtens Max Hirsch 1946

Seattle Slew’s Undefeated Journey: Jean Cruguet and Billy Turner’s Thrilling Ride

Seattle Slew’s undefeated journey stands as a testament to the sheer brilliance and tenacity of both horse and team. Under the masterful guidance of jockey Jean Cruguet and trainer Billy Turner, this legendary chestnut colt captured the hearts of racing enthusiasts worldwide with his remarkable performances on the track. Seattle Slew’s unblemished record of 14 wins in 14 starts is a feat that reverberates through time, solidifying his place among the greatest champions in horse racing history.

From their very first race together to their crowning achievement at the Kentucky Derby, Jean Cruguet and Seattle Slew formed an unbreakable bond built on trust, skill, and unwavering dedication. The dynamic duo mesmerized crowds with their flawless execution, leaving competitors trailing behind in awe of their synchronized prowess. Every victory was not just a triumph for Seattle Slew but a celebration of teamwork between horse and rider—a partnership that transcended mere competition to reach sublime levels of artistry.

Billy Turner’s meticulous training methods honed Seattle Slew into a powerhouse competitor capable of conquering any challenge thrown his way. With Turner’s expert guidance shaping every stride, Seattle Slew transformed from promising talent to unbeatable force on the racetrack. The synergy between Turner’s strategic approach and Cruguet’s finesse in the saddle elevated Seattle Slew to iconic status within the annals of horse racing lore—a shining example of what can be achieved when talent meets determination in perfect harmony.

American Pharoah’s Modern Grand Slam: Victor Espinoza and Bob Baffert’s Legacy

American Pharoah’s Modern Grand Slam stands as a testament to the extraordinary partnership between jockey Victor Espinoza and trainer Bob Baffert. This dynamic duo orchestrated one of the most remarkable achievements in horse racing history by guiding American Pharoah to victory in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Their unwavering dedication, impeccable skill, and profound connection with the majestic colt propelled them towards immortality in the sport. Victor Espinoza’s masterful rides showcased his finesse in understanding American Pharoah’s capabilities while navigating through fierce competition on the track. Meanwhile, Bob Baffert’s astute training methods honed American Pharoah into a champion thoroughbred capable of conquering any challenge that came their way.

The legacy forged by Victor Espinoza and Bob Baffert transcends mere victories; it symbolizes an unbreakable bond between human and horse that captivated audiences worldwide. Their collaborative efforts not only redefined excellence but also revitalized interest in horse racing for a new generation of fans. The synchronized harmony between jockey and trainer was palpable with each stride taken towards glory, culminating in an unprecedented feat that will forever be etched into the annals of equestrian history. As American Pharoah galloped across finish lines with unparalleled grace and determination under Espinoza’s guidance, supported by Baffert’s strategic acumen behind every decision made – they painted a masterpiece on turf that continues to inspire awe and admiration among all who witnessed their triumphant journey together.

Legendary Tales of Kentucky Derby Champions

  1. **Secretariat**
  2. – **Year:** 1973
  3. – **Horse:** Secretariat
  4. – **Jockey:** Ron Turcotte
  5. – **Trainer:** Lucien Laurin
  6. – **Fun Fact:** Secretariat holds the record for the fastest time ever run in the Kentucky Derby, completing the race in 1:
  7. **American Pharoah**
  8. – **Year:** 2015
  9. – **Horse:** American Pharoah
  10. – **Jockey:** Victor Espinoza
  11. – **Trainer:** Bob Baffert
  12. – **Fun Fact:** American Pharoah became the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown after sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.
  13. **Seattle Slew**
  14. – **Year:** 1977
  15. – **Horse:** Seattle Slew
  16. – **Jockey:** Jean Cruguet
  17. – **Trainer:** William H. Turner Jr.
  18. – **Fun Fact:** Seattle Slew was the only undefeated Triple Crown winner until Justify achieved the same feat in
  19. **Affirmed**
  20. – **Year:** 1978
  21. – **Horse:** Affirmed
  22. – **Jockey:** Steve Cauthen
  23. – **Trainer:** Laz Barrera
  24. – **Fun Fact:** Affirmed engaged in a fierce rivalry with Alydar, another talented racehorse, culminating in their epic Triple Crown battles in
  25. **Barbaro**
  26. – **Year:** 2006
  27. – **Horse:** Barbaro
  28. – **Jockey:** Edgar Prado
  29. – **Trainer:** Michael Matz
  30. – **Fun Fact:** Barbaro captured the hearts of fans worldwide with his impressive Kentucky Derby victory, but tragically suffered a career-ending injury in the Preakness Stakes.

The Unstoppable Justify: Mike Smith and Bob Baffert Reign Supreme

Justify’s triumph at the 2018 Kentucky Derby marked a historic moment as he became the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win without racing as a two-year-old. Under the masterful guidance of jockey Mike Smith, Justify showcased sheer dominance on that muddy Churchill Downs track, displaying raw power and unwavering determination. Trained by the legendary Bob Baffert, who secured his fifth Kentucky Derby victory with this remarkable colt, Justify not only conquered the Run for the Roses but also went on to clinch the Triple Crown that year, etching his name in horse racing immortality.

Northern Dancer’s Canadian Triumph: Bill Hartack and Horatio Luro’s International Glory

Northern Dancer’s Canadian Triumph: Bill Hartack and Horatio Luro’s International Glory

In the heart of Canada, Northern Dancer emerged as a beacon of hope and promise in the world of horse racing. With Bill Hartack skillfully guiding him through tracks, this duo captured the hearts of many with their remarkable performances. The partnership between jockey and horse became a symbol of unwavering determination and exceptional talent that knew no bounds.

Horatio Luro, the mastermind behind Northern Dancer’s training regimen, played a crucial role in shaping the champion into an icon revered on both sides of the border. Luro’s expertise blended seamlessly with Hartack’s intuitive understanding to create an unstoppable force destined for greatness. Their collaboration transcended mere victories; it embodied a deep connection built on mutual respect and admiration for each other’s craft.

The allure of international competition beckoned Northern Dancer to distant lands where he would face formidable opponents from around the globe. Despite being outnumbered by seasoned contenders, his spirit remained unyielding as he charged towards victory under Hartack’s expert guidance. Together, they showcased unparalleled courage and resilience that left spectators in awe at every turn.

With each stride towards glory, Northern Dancer carried not just himself but also the hopes and dreams of an entire nation on his sturdy shoulders. The thunderous applause echoing through Churchill Downs was a testament to his indomitable spirit and relentless pursuit of excellence. Underneath it all lay a bond forged in sweat, tears, and triumph—a bond shared only by those who dare to defy limits set by others.

As history continues to recount tales of legendary champions etched in time, Northern Dancer stands tall among them as a beacon illuminating paths yet untrodden by many successors who seek to emulate his extraordinary feats on tracks worldwide. In tandem with Bill Hartack’s strategic brilliance and Horatio Luro’s visionary guidance, this iconic trio carved out a legacy that will forever resonate across generations enamored by stories woven from threads of passion intertwined with destiny

Historical Significance and Continued Legacy of Kentucky Derby Champions

The Kentucky Derby champions hold a sacred place in the annals of horse racing history, their triumphs woven into the fabric of this prestigious event. Each victor represents not only a pinnacle achievement in horseracing but also embodies the culmination of years of dedication, training, and sheer determination. From Sir Barton, who clinched the inaugural Derby in 1919 and went on to secure the Triple Crown title, to American Pharoah’s electrifying run in 2015 that ended a 37-year drought without a Triple Crown winner – these horses etch their names indelibly into our memories.

Beyond mere statistics and race results, these champions become immortalized through their enduring legacies that transcend generations. Their stories inspire countless aspiring jockeys, trainers, and spectators worldwide with tales of courage under pressure and unwavering spirit. Consider Secretariat’s record-breaking victory in 1973 by an astonishing margin of 31 lengths – a feat so legendary it still sends shivers down one’s spine decades later. Such moments embody the essence of sportsmanship at its finest and continue to captivate fans young and old alike.

Moreover, these equine heroes often symbolize more than just athletic prowess; they serve as symbols of resilience amid adversity. Take Barbaro’s heartbreaking injury during the Preakness Stakes following his resounding win at Churchill Downs in 2006 – though his life was tragically cut short due to complications from his injuries months later – his fighting spirit touched millions globally who rallied behind him with unwavering support till his last breath.

In essence, each Kentucky Derby champion weaves together a tapestry rich in tradition while simultaneously propelling us towards future possibilities yet unseen on racetracks around the world. Their historical significance endures through time like fine wine maturing with age; reminding us all why we gather eagerly each May beneath Churchill Down’s iconic twin spires – drawn together by shared admiration for these majestic creatures whose thundering hooves echo through history itself.

Conclusion: Immersing in the Timeless Stories of Kentucky Derby Champions

Immerse yourself in the timeless stories of Kentucky Derby champions, where legends are born and history is made. From the gallant Sir Barton who captured the inaugural Derby in 1918 to the magnificent Secretariat whose record-breaking victory in 1973 still echoes through Churchill Downs, each champion carries with them a tale of triumph, courage, and sheer determination. The hallowed grounds of horse racing’s most prestigious event have witnessed moments that transcend time, where jockeys become heroes and horses etch their names into immortality.

The Kentucky Derby is not merely a race; it is a spectacle steeped in tradition and rich heritage. As you delve into the annals of its history, you encounter names like Affirmed, Seattle Slew, and American Pharoah—equine athletes whose feats continue to captivate generations. Behind every triumphant run down that fabled track lies untold hours of training, unwavering dedication from trainers and grooms alike, all culminating in a few exhilarating minutes that define careers and shape legacies.

Picture Eddie Arcaro deftly guiding Whirlaway through traffic to clinch victory or Bill Shoemaker’s masterful ride on Swaps as they surged ahead of their rivals—their tales are woven into the very fabric of Kentucky Derby folklore. These narratives transport us back to eras gone by when roaring crowds cheered under wide-brimmed hats while mint juleps flowed freely—a celebration not only of speed but also an ode to grace under pressure.

So let us raise our glasses to these majestic creatures who gallop into our hearts with unbridled spirit and indomitable will. Their stories remind us that within every stride towards glory lies an untold journey fraught with challenges overcome through sheer grit. As we bask in the afterglow of each year’s victor crossing that finish line bathed in roses, we bear witness not just to a race won but also witness living history being written before our very eyes—a legacy immortalized for eternity at America’s greatest horse race: The Kentucky Derby.


1. Who was the first Kentucky Derby champion, and what was their story?

Aristides was the first Kentucky Derby champion in 1875, ridden by Oliver Lewis and trained by Ansel Williamson, making history with a thrilling victory at the inaugural Run for the Roses.

2. How do jockeys prepare for the intense competition of the Kentucky Derby?

Jockeys prepare for the intense competition of the Kentucky Derby by studying the track, analyzing their competitors, fine-tuning their riding techniques, and forming a strong bond with their horses to ensure peak performance on race day.

3. What role do trainers play in shaping a potential Kentucky Derby winner?

Trainers play a crucial role in shaping a potential Kentucky Derby winner by meticulously planning the horse’s training regimen, managing its health and fitness, and making strategic decisions on race tactics.

4. Can you share some memorable rivalries between past Kentucky Derby champions?

The rivalry between Affirmed and Alydar in the 1978 Kentucky Derby is one for the ages, with Affirmed narrowly edging out Alydar in all three Triple Crown races that year, creating a legendary battle on the track.

5. What are some of the most unexpected upsets in Kentucky Derby history?

One of the most unexpected upsets in Kentucky Derby history was when 91-1 longshot Donerail won the race in 1913, setting a record for the highest odds ever overcome by a Derby winner.

6. How has the Kentucky Derby evolved over the years in terms of traditions and racing strategies?

The Kentucky Derby has evolved over the years by incorporating new traditions like the garland of roses and adjusting racing strategies to accommodate changes in track conditions and horse breeding practices.