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Fastest Kentucky Derby Times

Written by: Brian Zipse
Updated May 5, 2023
8 min read

Often referred to as the most exciting two minutes in sports, very few horses have been able to complete the 1 1/4-miles of the Kentucky Derby in two minutes or less. 

From the greatest Triple Crown winner of them all to a horse who never raced again after his triumph on the first Saturday in May, these are the eight fastest winners in the spectacular history of the Kentucky Derby.

Be sure to check out the latest odds for the 2023 Kentucky Derby, as well as the best Kentucky Derby betting sites and promos.

Fastest Kentucky Derby Times

Secretariat (1973) 1:59.4 

 A sensational champion at 2-year-old, there were still some doubts about Secretariat as he entered the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. Coming in off an upset loss, the big chestnut would quickly dispel those questions.

With a final time of 1:59.40, the soon-to-be Triple Crown winner set a track record for 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs which still stands, as he pulled away from Sham to win by 2 1/2-lengths. 

Amazingly, the Penny Chenery-owned star went on to set track records in both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes on his way to immortality. All three are records that still stand 50 years later.

Monachos (2001) 1:59.97 

Taking advantage of a very fast pace that sapped the strength of the race favorite, Point Given, Monarchos unleashed a stunning stretch drive which carried him to a going away 4 3/4-length romp over longshotInvisible Ink.

Trained by John T. Ward, Jr. the gray son of Maria’s Mon was the second-fastest winner of the Kentucky Derby, but actually just behind the runner-up to Secretariat, Sham, who is credited as the second-fastest to run the race, 28 years earlier.

Northern Dancer (1964) 2:00.00 

A smallish Canadian-bred, Northern Dancer began his journey to greatness by becoming the first horse ever to complete the Kentucky Derby in two minutes, holding off the favored Hill Rise.

Ridden by Bill Hartack and trained by Horatio Luru went on to win the Preakness, but could not complete the Triple Crown sweep when third in the Belmont Stakes. As good as the champion was on the racetrack, the son of Nearctic proved to be even better as a stallion. He is widely recognized as one of the world’s greatest all-time sires.

Spend A Buck (1985) 2:00.20 

Expected to have to deal with the speedy Eternal Prince early, when that rival broke poorly it was all Spend A Buck cruising on the lead. All alone down the stretch, the son of Buckaroo rolled home an easy 5 3/4-length winner over a strong field. His connections would soon after send shockwaves through the industry by skipping the Preakness. 

Despite the impressive victory at Churchill Downs, Spend A Buck’s owner, Dennis Diaz, decided to skip the final two legs of the Triple Crown and instead run in the Jersey Derby going after their $2 million bonus. He was a determined winner of that race at Garden State Park on his way to an excellent career mark of 15: 10-3-2.

Decidedly (1962) 2:00.40 

A son of the 1954 Kentucky Derby winner Determine, this California-bred did his sire one better eight years later. Ridden by Bill Hartack, the gray not only won the run for the roses, but he set a new track record at Churchill Downs in winning the 1962 edition. 

Soon after, he was unable to live up to his Derby success, finishing out of the money in both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Two years later, Hartack and trainer Huratio Luro won with Northern Dancer, who broke the short-lived record of Decidedly.

Proud Clarion (1967) 2:00.60 

Ridden by Bobby Ussery, who had never ridden him before and only picked up the mount just days before the race, Proud Clarion won as a big 30/1 longshot in the 1967 edition of the Kentucky Derby. 

At the time, his clocking was the third-fastest winning time recorded in the big race. The son of Hail to Reason soon after finished third in the Preakness and fourth in the Belmont Stakes for the Darby Dan Stable. 

Authentic (2020) 2:00.61

Sent off as an overwhelming 3/5 favorite after impressive wins in the Belmont and Travers, this edition of the Derby was supposed to be all about Tiz the Law. Instead, it was Authentic who stole the show, turning away the favorite in the stretch en route to a 1 1/4-length victory. Two months later, he validated the win with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. 

A couple of interesting notes to Authentic’s victory include an unprecedented September running due to the CoVid-19 epidemic, as well as giving trainer Bob Baffert a record-tying six Kentucky Derby victories, joining the legendary Ben A. Jones.

Grindstone (1996) 2:01.06

Last, but not least, on the list of fastest Kentucky Derby winners is Grindstone. A son of the 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled and trained by the legendary D. Wayne Lukas, the Louisiana Derby winner flew down the middle of the track to defeat Cavonnier by a nose on the wire.

With his thrilling late run, Grindstone defeated a strong field which also included future Hall of Famer Skip Away, as well as race favorite Unbridled’s Song and future classic winners, Louis Quatorze and Editor’s Note. Unfortunately, the winner was forced to retire just days after his win because of a bone chip found in his knee.

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AUTHOR

Brian Zipse

279 Articles

Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.

Email: [email protected]

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