The Land of Legends: Kentucky Derby Winners in Horse Country

The Land of Legends: Kentucky Derby Winners in Horse Country

While the Kentucky Derby might be held in Louisville, Lexington is the home of Kentucky Derby winners. From their foaling and early development to stallion careers, the journey of many Kentucky Derby champions runs through Horse Country.

The Kentucky Derby was first run in May of 1875 and is the longest continually held sporting event in America. Over the years, the distance, field size and date of the race may have changed, but the prestige has remained the same. The Kentucky Derby is run each year on the First Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

Today, the Kentucky Derby is run at a distance of 1 1/14 miles, with a maximum field size of 20 horses. This year’s edition, to be run on May 4th, will be the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby. Before we dive in to this year’s field, let’s look back at the victories of the Kentucky Derby winners who now call Horse Country home. 

2023 – Mage 

Though Mage came into the Kentucky Derby off of a second place finish in the G1 Florida Derby, he was considered an underdog in the race, going off at odds of 15-1. His running style as a closer paid off well after a hot pace was set by the early leaders, and Mage closed from 16th place to win by a length over Two Phil’s. His victory was the first Kentucky Derby win for his jockey Javier Castellano, trainer Gustavo Delgado and owners CMNWLTH, Ogma Investments, LLC, Sterling Racing LLC and Ramiro Restrepo.

Mage was born and raised at Runnymede Farm in Paris, Kentucky, who consigned the colt as a yearling at the Keeneland September Sale. He now stands as a stallion at Airdrie Stud in Midway, Kentucky. You can visit both Runnymede Farm and Airdrie Stud through tours offered by Horse Country!

2020 – Authentic 

The Kentucky Derby has only been postponed twice in its history – in 1945 due to World War II and 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 Kentucky Derby was held on the first Saturday in September, rather than the first Saturday in May, in front of a very limited crowd of horsemen and women.

Authentic was the third betting choice in the race, having won the G1 Haskell Stakes along with a handful of other graded stakes races prior to the Derby. He broke strong and led throughout every step of the race, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Authentic went on to win the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland before retiring to Spendthrift Farm, where he stands alongside his sire Into Mischief. Spendthrift Farm is the only farm in the world where you could see a Kentucky Derby winner and his sire!

2019 – Country House 

Country House’s journey to wear the iconic blanket of roses was a bit different than most Derby winners. In 2019, a unique situation took place in which the horse that crossed the finish line first was disqualified due to crossing paths with other contenders in the race. Country House closed from mid-pack to a strong second place finish, and was elevated to the victory after an extensive inquiry process. His victory in the race provided jockey Flavien Prat, trainer Bill Mott, and his ownership group with their first win in the Kentucky Derby.

Country House now stands as a stallion at historic Darby Dan Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, which offers private tours through Horse Country.

2018 – Justify 

Just a few years off of the Triple Crown triumph of American Pharoah, the undefeated Justify followed in the hoofprints of his future stablemate in becoming the 13th Triple Crown winner. The first step in his journey to that historic accomplishment came in the 2018 Kentucky Derby, where he sat at the front of the pack throughout the race before driving away in the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Justify was purchased as a yearling at the Keeneland September Sale by Horse Country member WinStar Farm in partnership with China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners LLC and Starlight Racing.

Justify now stands stud at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, Kentucky.

2017 – Always Dreaming

Always Dreaming came into the Kentucky Derby on a three race win streak, including a win in the G1 Florida Derby. Favored by the wagering public, Always Dreaming was kept in second place throughout the first half mile before Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez asked him to go and the pair cleared away to win by nearly three lengths.

Always Dreaming now stands stud at WinStar Farm in Versailles, Kentucky.

2016 – Nyquist

Nyquist was a precocious racehorse, with three grade one victories as a two year old including the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland. His dominance continued through the Derby prep races, and onto the first Saturday in May, so much so that he was the heavy favorite in the race. His favoritism was well deserved as he was among the early leaders in the race, eventually drawing away to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Check out our Champion Connections feature on Nyquist for more information about his career.

Nyquist is one of only two horses to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby, both of whom stand at Darley’s Jonabell Farm!

2015 – American Pharoah

American Pharoah entered the Kentucky Derby off of a four race win streak and proved his supporters were right with a one length victory on the first Saturday in May. ‘Pharoah’ went on to win the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes over the course of five weeks, becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

American Pharoah now stands stud at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, Kentucky, alongside fellow Triple Crown winner Justify.

2007 – Street Sense

Street Sense entered the Kentucky Derby off of a second place finish in the G1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. The colt was the post time favorite, and spent a majority of the race at the back of the pack under jockey Calvin Borel. Street Sense began to pass horses on the far turn, and took over the lead from pace-setting Hard Spun in the stretch to win by 2 ¼ lengths. The Derby win was the second time his trainer Carl Nafzger trained a winner of the run for the roses, and the first and only Derby winner for his owner and breeder Jim Tafel.

Street Sense is one of only two horses to have won both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Kentucky Derby, both he and Nyquist stand at Darley’s Jonabell Farm!