Which Prep Races Have Produced the Most Kentucky Derby Winners?

Written by:
Don Shapiro
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The months leading up to the Kentucky Derby there are a series of prep races that often determine which three-year-olds will compete in the first leg of the Triple Crown.  A number of automatic bids happen as a result.  Some of these races have produced a larger number of Kentucky Derby winners perhaps due to some simularities in distance or track conditions.  Maybe it is a particular trainer that has honed his or her skills at a particular location and has expanded that success to Churchill Downs.  In any event, winners of certain races such as the Florida Derby tend to enjoy shorter odds.


Florida Derby

Over the past 14 years, the Florida Derby has produced the most Kentucky Derby winners at four. Fifteen Florida Derby winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby with Always Dreaming the most recent to do so in 2017.

Arkansas Derby

It's not all about the winners.  Trifectas pay out nicely as well. With that in mind, the Arkansas Derby winner finished among the top three in the Kentucky Derby six times over the period 2007 through 2017 with two wins, two seconds and two thirds.

Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire finish 4th in the 2017 Kentucky Derby, though he did so with a noticable eye infection.

The last few Arkansas Derby winners to make appearances in the Kentucky Derby have failed miserably, we should note.

Wood Memorial

Once a race to seriously consider prior to placing your Kentucky Derby bet, this race produced a total of eleven Kentucky Derby winners between 1930 and 2000.  These included Gallant Fox, Twenty Grand, Johnstown, Count Fleet, Hoop Jr., Assault, Foolish Pleasure, Bold Forbes, Seattle Slew, Pleasant Colony and Fusaichi Pegasus). More importantly perhaps for long term betting purposes, four of them also won the Triple Crown.

Here is the kicker though: The winner of the Wood Memorial has not won the Kentucky Derby since 2000, in part because several became injured in the weeks between the two races.

Risen Star Stakes

While no Risen Star Stakes winner had ever won the Kentucky Derby until last year, Country House finished second in the 2019 Kentucky Derby, only to be promoted after first-place finisher Maximum Security was disqualified by Kentucky stewards for interference.  Country House had finished 2nd in that year's Risen Star Stakes.  Following a Covid-ravaged race schedule in 2020, the Risen Star Stakes winner, Mandaloun, finally went on to win the Kentucky Derby.

- Don Shapiro, Gambling911.com

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