Fastest Kentucky Derby Times

Written by: Brian Zipse
Updated April 30, 2024
6 min read

From Secretariat, the greatest of all Kentucky Derby winners, to Medina Spirit, who failed a post-race drug test and was subsequently stripped of victory, these are the eight fastest winners in the spectacular history of the Kentucky Derby. 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.

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1) Secretariat (1973) 1:59.40

A Horse of the Year as a 2-year-old, there were still some doubts about “Big Red” as he entered the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. Coming into the big race off an upset loss, Secretariat would quickly end those doubts.

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.

2) Monachos (2001) 1:59.97

With a blazing fast pace in front of him, Monarchos ran right by the race favorite, Point Given, and everyone else on the way to Kentucky Derby glory. His stunning stretch drive carried him to a going away 4 3/4-length romp over the long-shot runner-up Invisible 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.

3) Northern Dancer (1964) 2:00.00

Bred in Canada,  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.

4) Spend A Buck (1985) 2:00.20

When his early pace rival Eternal Prince broke poorly it left Spend A Buck cruising all alone on the lead. Much the best 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 bypassing 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.

5) Decidedly (1962) 2:00.40

Taking after his sire, 1954 Kentucky Derby winner Determine, this California-bred did even 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.

6) Proud Clarion (1967) 2:00.60

With new rider Bobby Ussery in the saddle, having only picked up the mount just days before the race, Proud Clarion surprised the racing world as a 30/1 long-shot winner of 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. 

7) Authentic (2020) 2:00.61

Made a big favorite in the Kentucky Derby after impressive wins in the Belmont and Travers, this edition of the Run for the Roses was supposed to be all about Tiz the Law. Instead, it was Authentic who stole the show, turning away the favorite in the stretch on 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.

8) Medina Spirit (2021) 2:01.02

Medina Spirit briefly gave his trainer Bob Baffert a record seventh victory in the Kentucky Derby when he crossed the wire first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby with an excellent time of 2:01.02. The result would not stand, however, as the ill-fated colt tested positive in a post-race drug test.

After being disqualified and seeing Mandaloun declared the official winner, Medina Spirit ran third in the Preakness Stakes and was then banned from racing in the Belmont Stakes. Baffert remains suspended from training in the Kentucky Derby to this day. Sadly, Medina Spirit passed away later that season following a workout at Santa Anita Park.

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Brian Zipse

Horse Racing Betting Analyst

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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.
Nationality: American
Education: Bachelor of Communications
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