Fastest Kentucky Derby Times Ever – What Is All-Time Record?


8 minutes

Last Updated: September 16, 2023

Scott Kostov

“The most exciting two minutes in sports,” or the famed Kentucky Derby, has offered quite a few awesome shows over the course of many years. After all, it’s been around for almost 150 years. 

The inaugural Kentucky Derby race was held on the 17th of May, 1875. Back then, wagering on horse racing odds was done a bit differently. The city of Louisville, in the state of Kentucky, is hosting “The Run for the Horses” every year at Churchill Downs.

Some of the fastest Kentucky Derby times we’ve seen occurred back in the early 60s and 70s. Nevertheless, the biggest Kentucky Derby payouts, have been happening recently.

Consequently, the Kentucky Derby time record of 1:59.4 was set back in 1973 by the iconic Secretariat. The former record for the fastest time at the Kentucky Derby was set in 1964 by Northern Dancer.

10. Fusaichi Pegasus – Time 2:01.12 Set in 2000


Tenth on the list of the Kentucky Derby record times, we have Fusaichi Pegasus. The thoroughbred was purchased by Fusai Sekiguchi for around $4 million. Needless to say, Fusaichi Pegasus became the businessman’s favorite since Spectacular Bid. The thoroughbred won the Kentucky Derby 2000 with a spectacular time of 2:01.12.

The bay cold finished ahead of Aptitude. Fusaichi Pegasus was on his best behavior on this 82-degree day. The stud has occasionally misbehaved due to what trainer Neil Drysdale referred to as “playfulness”. But he showed out in front of the second-largest Derby crowd of over 150,000 spectators. 

With this win, Pegasus collected just under $2 million in earnings. Coolmore Stud previously purchased the thoroughbred for a staggering prize of $70 million.

9. Mandaloun – Time 2:01.10 Set in 2021


Are you wondering what the fastest Kentucky Derby time set was recently? Well, that would be a time of 2:01.10. It was set by Mandaloun at the 147th edition of the Kentucky Derby 2021. 

Mandaloun finished ahead of Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality. Mandaloun was trained by Brad Cox for many years, who also trained Essential Quality, Knicks Go, Monomoy Girl, and Covfefe.

There’s an interesting catch about the Kentucky Derby 2021. Mandaloun won after Medina Spirit’s victory was revoked due to a positive drug test. A true underdog story of fair play.

Mandaloun also won two final races of the Triple Crown.
One of these wins came after Hot Rod Charlie finished last due to interference. 

Mandaloun will remain in the history books with an amazing time of 2:01.10. Which is one of the fastest Kentucky Derby times ever recorded.

8. Grindstone – Time 2:01.06 Set in 1996


Next on the list of the best finishes, is Grindstone’s time of 2:01.06. It was set back in 1996 at the 122nd edition of the Kentucky Derby. 

There were over 142,000 spectators on that faithful day. And Grindstone finished ahead of many opponents like Cavonnier, Prince of Thieves, and Halo Sunshine. Unbridle’s Song, Editor’s Note, Blow Out, Alyrob, and Diligence also bit his dust.

There is a sense of great sadness about Grindstone’s 1996 race. The biggest victory of his career, unfortunately, turned out to be his final. He was forced to retire just five days later due to a serious knee injury. 

Grindstone’s win at the 1996 Kentucky Derby set another milestone. It was yet another edition of the biggest horse race at which the favorite failed to seal the deal. At the 122nd edition of the Kentucky Derby, the favorite Unbridled’s Song finished fifth. Which makes it a horrible value bet.

 7. Authentic – Time 2:00.61 Set in 2020


The 146th edition of the Kentucky Derby saw Authentic coached by Bob Baffert, finish with a great time of 2:00.61. Authentic finished ahead of Tiz the Law, Mr. Big News, Honor A.P, Max Player, and Storm the Court. Authentic surprised everyone especially considering the fact that Tiz the Law was the main favorite based on the past performance.

This was John Velazquez’s third win at the Kentucky Derby. Speaking of Kentucky Derby wins, the record of five titles is still held by Bill Hartack. At the time of writing this, Authentic earned over $7 million. 

On top of being one of the fastest Kentucky Derby horses, Authentic won the San Felipe Stakes, Sharm Stakes, and Haskell Invitations. Authentic also finished second in the Santa Anita Derby and Preakness Stakes. Now that’s a stud worth placing a wager on.

6. Proud Clarion – Time 2:00.6 Set in 1967


Proud Clarion set one of the fastest Kentucky Derby times back in 1967. The stud ran a 2:00.6 at the 93rd edition of the greatest horse racing competition. He was trained by Loyd Genty Junior, and finished ahead of many favorites. Those include Barbs Delight, Damascus, Reason to Hell, Ask the Fare, Successor, Gentleman James, and Ruken. 

Proud Clarion winning the race was quite expected for everyone. Especially happy were those who bet on him running under two minutes. Which meant there was a lot of welching to be had.

Proud Clarion also won the Roamer Handicap held in 1967. Despite being best known for winning the Kentucky Derby in 1967.

There’s another fact that makes this Kentucky Derby win a lot more impressive. Tthe horse was introduced to jockey Booby Ussery just three days before the race. 

Judging by the win, the two bonded nicely in those three days. Proud Clarion won only six out of the 25 races he competed at. But his Kentucky Derby time record remains ingrained in the history books.

5. Decidedly – Time 2:00.4 Set in 1962


For the next Kentucky Derby time record of 2:00.4 set by Decidedly, we also have to travel back to the 1960s. Decidedly winning the Kentucky Derby did not come as a surprise to most, considering the fact that his sire won the greatest horse racing competition with a time of 2:03 back in 1954, so he had a winning pedigree. 

One decade later, the gray horse was guided by Horatio Luro and Bill Hartack to the greatest victory of his life.

Decidedly came out at the top finishing the race with a 2:00.4 time ahead of Roman Line, Ridan, Sir Ribot, Sunrise County, Crimson Satan, Green Hornet, and Good Fight. 

What is interesting to note is that Luro and Hartack coached another thoroughbred on the list, Northern Dancer, who finished first at the 90th edition of the Kentucky Derby held in 1964. Now that’s a pair of horse racing wiseguys.

 4. Spend a Buck – Time 2:00.2 Set in 1985

Next on the list of the Kentucky Derby record times, we have “Spend a Buck,” who finished first at the Kentucky Derby in 1985 with a time of 2:00.2. 

Unlike the previously mentioned Decidedly, Spend a Buck did not have a winning pedigree, but this did not stop him from winning the greatest horse race track

The son of Buckaroo finished the race ahead of Stephan’s Odyssey, Chief’s Crown, Fast Account, Proud Truth, Skywalker, and Tank’s Prospect.

Thanks to his amazing performance at the 111th edition of the Kentucky Derby, Spend a Buck was named the Horse of the Year in 1985. Before winning the Kentucky Derby, Spend a Buck went on to win two races held at the Garden State Park Racetrack in New Jersey, including the Garden State Stakes and the Cherry Hill Mile Stakes.

Spend a Buck collected over $4 million in earnings. A couple of racetracks were named after Spend a Buck, including the Spend a Buck Handicap located at Calder Race Course and the Spend a Buck Stakes located at Monmouth Park.

 3. Northern Dancer – Time 2:00.0 Set in 1964

If you are wondering what is the fastest Derby time set in the 1960s, that would be Northern Dancer’s time of 2:00.0. 

Trained under Horatio Luro and Bill Hartack, Northern Dancer won the Kentucky Derby in 1946, finishing ahead of Mandaloun, Authentic, Country House, Justify, Always Dreaming, and Nyquist. What is interesting to note is that Northern Dancer is the very first Canadian thoroughbred to win the greatest horse race tournament.

Northern Dancer won the first leg of the Triple Crown in two minutes and went on to win the Preakness with a great 1:56 time. 

Northern Dancer’s Triple Crown bid was thwarted when he finished third in the Belmont. In one of the later interviews, Bill Hartack commented on the third place in the Belmont, saying that the distance did not suit such a small horse like Northern Dancer. 

Northern Dancer retired with a 14–2–2 and over $580,000 in career earnings. On top of winning the Kentucky Derby, the stallion won the Remsen Stakes in 1963, Flamingo Stakes in 1964, Florida Derby in 1964, and Queen’s Place in 1964.

 2. Monarchos – Time 1:59.97 Set in 2001


The record time for Kentucky Derby in the 2000s was set in 2001 by Monarchos. Monarchos finished the race just under two minutes and ahead of Invisible Ink, Congaree, Thunder Blitz, Point Given, Jamaican Runm, A P Valentine, Express Tour, and Fifty Stars. 

The 127th edition of the Kentucky Derby was attended by over 154,000 people, and the crowd was stunned to see Monarchos finish time of under two minutes.

Monarchos remains the second-fastest Kentucky Derby winner. On top of winning the Derby, Monarchos also won the Florida Derby held in 2001. 

As a two-year-old, Monarchos competed at Churchill Downs, where he finished third, and at Keeneland Racetrack, where he finished eighth. The legendary grey stallion retired with a 4-1-3 and over $1,7 million in career earnings. 

1. Secretariat – Time 1:59.4 Set in 1973


If you are wondering what is the fastest Kentucky Derby time in the history of the sport, that would be Secretariat’s time of 1:59.4 set at the 99th edition of the Kentucky Derby. 

The iconic chestnut-colored stallion finished the race in just under two minutes, guided by Lucien Laurin. Big Red finished the race ahead of Sham, Our Native, Forego, Restless Jet, Shecky Greene, Navajo, Royal and Regal, My Gallant, and Angle Light.

Lucien Laurin’s favorite also won the Preakness Stakes 1973, Belmont Stakes 1973, Sanford Stakes 1972, Hopeful Stakes 1972, and Futurity Stakes 1972, alongside many other big tournaments. 

Big Red retired with a 16–3–1 and over $1,3 million in career earnings. Additionally, Secretariat was inducted into the US Racing Hall of Fame in 1974. He also made it to the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007, and the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2013. In addition to setting the record time for the Kentucky Derby, Secretariat is also second placed on the list of the top 100 racehorses of the 20th century.

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