2019 Kentucky Derby: Trainers, Facts and Trends

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 24th, 2019

Some of the best-known trainers in North American horse racing will be represented by major contenders in the 2019 Kentucky Derby, but as usual, the “Run for the Roses” will make room for a few newcomers as well.

Sixteen different trainers will saddle the twenty expected Derby starters. That includes eight starters from the barns of Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen, Bob Baffert and Bill Mott, four of the top five North American trainers of all time by earnings. They’re all Derby veterans—between them, they’ve saddled 108 starters—but the 2019 Derby will also feature four trainers entering the race for the first time.

As of April 23, with less than a week until final entries are drawn, the field for the Derby is shaping up as follows:
Horse Trainer
Tacitus Bill Mott
Omaha Beach Richard Mandella
Vekoma George Weaver
Plus Que Parfait Brendan Walsh
Roadster Bob Baffert
By My Standards Bret Calhoun
Maximum Security Jason Servis
Game Winner Bob Baffert
Code of Honor Shug McGaughey
Haikal Kiaran McLaughlin
Improbable Bob Baffert
War of Will Mark Casse
Long Range Toddy Steve Asmussen
Tax Danny Gargan
Cutting Humor Todd Pletcher
Win Win Win Mike Trombetta
Country House Bill Mott
Gray Magician Peter Miller
Spinoff Todd Pletcher
Master Fencer Koichi Tsunoda

Now let’s dig into a few facts and interesting trends regarding Kentucky Derby trainers…
  • In recent years, the Kentucky Derby has been dominated by a handful of trainers. Since 2010 Pletcher has won twice, with Super Saver (2010) and Always Dreaming (2017), Baffert has scored a double with the Triple Crown winners American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018) and Doug O’Neill has won two with I’ll Have Another (2012) and Nyquist (2016).
  • Three previous Derby-winning trainers will have runners in the 2019 Kentucky Derby: Baffert (Silver Charm, 1997; Real Quiet, 1998; War Emblem, 2002; American Pharoah, 2015; Justify, 2018), Shug McGaughey (Orb, 2013), and Pletcher (Super Saver, 2010; Always Dreaming, 2017).
  • Baffert will seek a record-equaling sixth victory in the Derby. The current record is held by Ben Jones, who won half a dozen Derbys from 1938-1952.
  • Among the trainers seeking to win their first Derby are Asmussen (0-for-19), Mott( 0-for-8), Kiaran McLaughlin (0-for-8) and Richard Mandella (0-for-6).
  • Brendan Walsh, Bret Calhoun, Danny Gargan and Koichi Tsunoda will all be saddling a Derby starter for the first time. The most recent trainers to prevail with their first Derby starters were Art Sherman (California Chrome, 2014), Chip Woolley (Mine That Bird, 2009), Rick Dutrow Jr. (Big Brown, 2008), Michael Matz (Barbaro, 2006), John Shirreffs (Giacomo, 2005), John Servis (Smarty Jones, 2004), Barclay Tagg (Funny Cide, 2003) and Neil Drysdale (Fusaichi Pegasus, 2000).
  • Master Fencer will be Tsunoda’s first starter in North America. The 48-year-old conditioner has won eight group stakes races on the Japan Racing Association circuit, but has never saddled a group 1 winner.
  • Pletcher holds the record for sending out the most Derby starters. Since 2000 he has saddled 52 horses in the Run for the Roses (an average of more than 2.7 per year), and he’ll push his total to 54 this year when he sends out Cutting Humor and Spinoff.