The Kentucky Derby is one of the most prestigious horse races in the world, and certainly in the United States. All the leading owners, trainers, and jockeys are determined to etch their name in the history of American horse racing. They either contribute significant resources or hours of their time to ensure that they and their respective charges are in the best position to win the race when the spotlight is on.
More often than not, the leading contenders in the Kentucky Derby prevail, as it is rather unusual to see a winner of the event with odds in double digits or higher than +2000. Mandaloun was a winner in 2021 with odds of +1200, while Authentic, Justify, Always Dreaming, Nyquist, American Pharoah, California Chrome and Orb were either the favorite for the race or second favorite in the minds of the sportsbooks. In other top races around the world, the favorite has had a history of struggle, notably the Grand National in the United Kingdom.
However, few people will be backing a horse in the Kentucky Derby such as Bye Bye Bobby at +6600 or Ethereal Road at +5000 even with betting bonuses that are available at horse racing betting operators such as TVG or Twinspires, due to the rarity of a long-shot winner. The dominance of the leading horses in the field has made for excitement and grandeur for the owners for American Pharoah and Justify among others.
There have been rare shocks along the way, ironically in 2009 the year in which a +10000 shout won the Grand National in Mon Mome, the Kentucky Derby also experienced arguably its biggest surprise. No one in the Churchill Downs expected anything out of the +5000 horse Mine That Bird and jockey Calvin Borel in the contest amid the talent of Friesan Fire, who had won the Risen Star Stakes and the Louisiana Derby ahead of the meet.
However, Mine That Bird produced an exhilarating performance to deliver a dominant victory at the event, finishing six lengths ahead of his nearest rival Pioneerof The Nile. Friesan Fire finished all the way down in 19th out of 20 competitors, a truly remarkable contrast in fortunes between the outsider and the favorite.
The shock seemed to issue a response from the top trainers and owners regarding their approach to the Kentucky Derby. Animal Kingdom put forward a strong performance as a 20/1 shout in 2011 to win the event, although the favorite in the race Dialed In proved to be a flash in the pan after an early season burst.
Country House became the second-highest price winner in the history of the Kentucky Derby, albeit in fortuitous circumstances in 2019 when he benefitted from Maximum Security’s disqualification from the race as he was deemed to have interfered with War of Will. The ruling remains one of the most controversial in the history of the race, and the fact that Country House put forward a fine performance is still overshadowed to this day.
The 2022 crop of contenders features a number of talents among the leading horses such as Epicenter, Messier and Forbidden Kingdom. But it could be time for another shock in the mold of Mine That Bird to shake up the Kentucky Derby and American racing once more.