2019 Kentucky Derby: Contender Birth Dates and Historical Trends

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 22nd, 2019

Based on their birth dates, it appears that the 2019 Kentucky Derby contenders are skewing a bit younger than usual this year.

You can usually count on there being a handful of January-born contenders, along with a few born in May, while the majority will have been born during the February/March/April window. But 2019 is shaping up to be a bit different. Not a single top 25 Derby contender was born in January, while four were born in May and will celebrate their true birthdays after the Derby is run.

Even the February/March/April window is skewed slightly toward younger runners, with nine born in April compared to six apiece in February and March.
Improbable February 11
Master Fencer February 12
Gray Magician February 16
Spinoff February 18
Tacitus February 21
Bourbon War February 23
Game Winner March 6
Win Win Win March 20
Signalman March 21
By My Standards March 22
Haikal March 23
Plus Que Parfait March 23
Cutting Humor April 7
Long Range Toddy April 12
Anothertwistafate April 17
Sueno April 17
War of Will April 17
Tax April 20
Bodexpress April 23
Roadster April 23
Omaha Beach April 24
Country House May 8
Maximum Security May 14
Vekoma May 22
Code of Honor May 23
This is noteworthy when you consider February and March have been by far the most productive months when it comes to producing recent Kentucky Derby winners. Over the last 30 years, 21 Derby winners have been born during February (10) and March (11), along with six born in April, two in May and one in January.
Justify March 28
Always Dreaming February 25
Nyquist March 10
American Pharoah February 2
California Chrome February 18
Orb February 24
I’ll Have Another April 1
Animal Kingdom March 20
Super Saver March 18
Mine That Bird May 10
Big Brown April 10
Street Sense February 23
Barbaro April 29
Giacomo February 16
Smarty Jones February 28
Funny Cide April 20
War Emblem February 20
Monarchos February 9
Fusaichi Pegasus April 12
Charismatic March 13
Real Quiet March 7
Silver Charmer February 22
Grindstone January 23
Thunder Gulch May 23
Go for Gin April 18
Sea Hero March 4
Lil E. Tee March 29
Strike the Gold March 21
Unbridled March 5
Sunday Silence March 25
The reasons for these trends are surely multi-faceted, but it’s not hard to conclude that 3-year-olds born in January are more likely to be past their peak (and perhaps going through a growth spurt) on Derby Day compared to horses born in February or March, while horses born in April (and particularly May) are more likely to be immature and a month or two away from reaching their peak form.

Among the top-ranked Derby contenders, Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) winner Improbable, champion 2-year-old Game Winner, Wood Memorial (G2) winner Tacitus and Louisiana Derby (Gg2) winner By My Standards could be considered to have a slight advantage based on their birth dates.

In contrast, Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Roadster, Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Omaha Beach, Florida Derby (G1) winner Maximum Security and Blue Grass Stakes (G2) winner Vekoma were all born between April 23 and May 22, later than 27 of the last 30 Kentucky Derby winners. The good news is they all won major prep races in spite of their late birth dates, and if you conclude that these younger runners still have room for improvement as they mature, that could make them dangerous on the first Saturday in May.