How Do Undefeated (and Nearly Undefeated) Horses Perform in the Kentucky Derby?

With Forte, Tapit Trice and Kingsbarns approaching the Kentucky Derby either undefeated or with just one loss, it’s a good time to see how stars with nearly unblemished records have fared in the recent past. You can see from the following list that win percentage as a stand-alone stat, isn’t very predictive of Kentucky Derby success.

In years past, The Lazy Bettor’s Guide to the Kentucky Derby would’ve steered you away from the following horses, all of whom entered the Derby undefeated or with just one loss–and all of whom lost:

  • 2022: White Abarrio, Taiba, Zozos, Crown Pride
  • 2021: Essential Quality, Rock Your World, Soup and Sandwich
  • 2020: Money Moves
  • 2019: Roadster, Vekoma
  • 2018: Audible, Noble Indy
  • 2017: Classic Empire, Girvin, McCraken, Irish War Cry
  • 2016: Gun Runner, Mohaymen, Outwork, Shagaf
  • 2015: Carpe Diem, Materiality
  • 2014: Chitu, Samraat
  • 2013: Verrazano, Vyjack
  • 2012: Gemologist, Hansen, Union Rags
  • 2011: Dialed In

Zero for 30! You get the idea. A horse’s winning record prior to the Derby is a poor barometer of Derby readiness compared to the quality of competition they faced while earning that record. And by “quality,” we mean the speed at which those races were contested.

All the listed horses failed to meet our Gold Standard. That means they lacked exceptional early speed and durable (late) speed, which our research shows are the key ingredients for Kentucky Derby success. Our 2023 Kentucky Derby Preview will detail which horses possess those key ingredients and guide you to eliminating those that don’t.