Members get unlimited access to all our most
valuable content long before the masses. Exclusive access to newly released gear and tech and entrepreneur secrets delivered to your inbox monthly. All free. No BS.

A Look at the Most Memorable Kentucky Derby Winners

Sailun Tires

The Kentucky Derby, often dubbed “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports,” has created countless unforgettable moments.

But what makes a Kentucky Derby winner truly stand out? It’s a mix of record-breaking performance, overcoming odds, and leaving an indelible impact on the sport. Let’s saddle up and take a closer look at some of the most memorable winners in the storied history of the Kentucky Derby.

1. Secretariat (1973)

Secretariat is a name synonymous with horse racing greatness. In 1973, this stunning chestnut stallion made history at Churchill Downs by winning the Kentucky Derby in a record time of 1:59 2/5, a feat still unmatched to this day.  Such legendary performances keep fans eagerly awaiting events like the upcoming 2024 Kentucky Derby betting.

But Secretariat’s victory wasn’t just about the speed. It was how Secretariat ran the race – coming from behind, he overpowered his competitors with an awe-inspiring display of strength and stamina.


The victory marked the beginning of Secretariat’s Triple Crown triumph, securing his status as a racing icon. Even after decades, Secretariat’s performance is a gold standard in horse racing, remembered for its sheer brilliance and dominance.

2. Seattle Slew (1977)

Seattle Slew is the only horse to win the Triple Crown with an unblemished record until Justify in 2018. This dark bay colt took the racing world by storm in 1977, starting with a decisive victory at the Kentucky Derby. His performance set the stage for successive wins at the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, culminating in a rare Triple Crown triumph.

But Seattle Slew’s legacy extends beyond his racing career. As a sire, he produced over 100 stakes winners, including notable names like A.P. Indy, Swale, and Slew o’ Gold, ensuring his influence on horse racing long after his death on the 25th anniversary of his Derby win.

3. Affirmed (1978)

In 1978, a horse named Affirmed etched his name in the annals of horse racing. He was the last to win the coveted Triple Crown before a 37-year drought ensued. His journey began with a thrilling victory at the Kentucky Derby, a race remembered for its intense neck-to-neck competition.

But what sets Affirmed apart is his famous rivalry with Alydar, a duel that captivated audiences and set the stage for an unforgettable racing season. Their rivalry was so fierce that Alydar is considered the best horse never to have won a Triple Crown. Despite the intense competition, Affirmed emerged victorious, leaving an indelible mark on horse racing.

4. American Pharoah (2015)

American Pharoah, the bay colt with a misspelled name, ended a 37-year Triple Crown drought in 2015, becoming an equine sensation. His journey to immortality began with a thrilling win at the Kentucky Derby, where he showcased his exceptional speed and endurance.

The cultural impact of American Pharoah’s victory extended far beyond the racecourse. His Triple Crown victory, the first since Affirmed’s in 1978, breathed new life into a sport that had long been waiting for a new hero. He became a symbol of hope and resilience, showing that records could be broken and dreams, no matter how elusive, could still be achieved.

5. Barbaro (2006)

In 2006, a horse named Barbaro captivated the nation with his spirit and prowess. His impressive victory at the Kentucky Derby marked him as a promising contender for the Triple Crown.

However, fate had other plans. During the Preakness Stakes, Barbaro suffered a catastrophic injury that ended his racing career and eventually his life. Despite this tragedy, Barbaro’s legacy continues to resonate. His story prompted significant advancements in equine health and safety.

Although Barbaro’s journey was cut short, he remains an enduring symbol of strength and resilience, reminding us that triumph can be found not just in victory but in the spirit of perseverance.

6. Justify (2018)

Justify, the most recent addition to the exclusive Triple Crown winners’ circle, made his mark in 2018. His dominant performance at the Kentucky Derby set the stage for his subsequent victories, highlighting his exceptional speed and endurance.

Justify’s Triple Crown victory was a testament to his remarkable talent. Shortly after his historic win, Justify retired, leaving an indelible mark on the sport. His impact extends beyond the racetrack, as he revitalized interest in horse racing and served as a shining example of excellence. Despite his brief career, Justify’s legacy continues to inspire, proving that greatness can be achieved in a short span of time.

7. Medina Spirit (2021)

Medina Spirit, a horse that defied the odds to win the 2021 Kentucky Derby, is a name etched in controversy. The colt’s surprising victory was followed by a shocking revelation: Medina Spirit had failed a post-race drug test. This led to an intense debate and investigation into the integrity of the race and the practices within the sport.

Medina Spirit was officially disqualified despite crossing the finish line first, marking a promising career’s dramatic end. This controversy not only marred the individual horse’s legacy but also sparked discussions about the need for stricter regulations and transparency in horse racing.

Final Thoughts

Each Kentucky Derby winner, from unexpected victories to swift rises to fame and even controversies, paints a complex picture of this equestrian event. They serve as reminders that beyond the glamour and glory, the sport is a grueling test of strength, endurance, and spirit. These compelling narratives, reflecting both highs and lows, keep fans riveted year after year.


Get the latest Swagger Scoop right in your inbox.

By checking this box, you confirm that you have read and are agreeing to our terms of use regarding the storage of the data submitted through this form.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *