Kentucky Derby trainer stats: Four previous winners return to the fray

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

August 25th, 2020

The 2020 Kentucky Derby will serve as a reunion of sorts for a handful of high-profile trainers.

Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, John Shirreffs, and Barclay Tagg have combined to win nine Kentucky Derbys since 1997. It’s been 14 years since all four saddled a starter in the 2006 Kentucky Derby, and the skilled horsemen all have top-class colts poised to vie for victory under the Twin Spires this year.

Four of the last five Kentucky Derby winners have been saddled by trainers with previous Derby victories to their credit. Since Baffert, Pletcher, Shirreffs, and Tagg will send out the majority of the favorites in the 2020 Kentucky Derby, this advantage for Derby-winning conditioners seems destined to continue.

Let’s review some of the keys stats these four proven conditioners bring to the table in 2020:

Bob Baffert

Kentucky Derby record: 32-5-3-3

Win rate in 2020: 29%

Win rate in 2020 graded stakes races: 33%

With five Kentucky Derby victories under his belt (courtesy of Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem, American Pharoah, and Justify), Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert ranks as the second-most successful trainer in the history of the Run for the Roses, trailing only the six wins compiled by Ben Jones. A two-time winner of the Triple Crown, Baffert has been ultra-hot in 2020 and will saddle graded stakes winners Authentic and Thousand Words in search of his record-equaling sixth Derby triumph.

Todd Pletcher

Kentucky Derby record: 54-2-2-4

Win rate in 2020: 21%

Win rate in 2020 graded stakes races: 8%

Victorious in the Kentucky Derby with Super Saver (2010) and Always Dreaming (2017), Todd Pletcher ranks as the most prolific conditioner of Derby starters, saddling 54 horses in the Run for the Roses since 2000. And with two wins, two seconds, and four thirds to his credit, Pletcher has sent out more top-three finishers in the Derby than anyone except Bob Baffert (11), and D. Wayne Lukas (10), and Ben Jones (9). Pletcher is having a quiet year in terms of graded stakes wins, but with Belmont Stakes (G1) runner-up Dr Post and allowance winner Money Moves in his barn, Pletcher has two chances to add a third Derby win to his resume.

John Shirreffs

Kentucky Derby record: 4-1-0-0

Win rate in 2020: 20%

Win rate in 2020 graded stakes races: 31%

Known for his patient approach to training, John Shirreffs sprung a 50-1 upset with his first Kentucky Derby starter, saddling Giacomo to win the roses in 2005 under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. Shirreffs and Smith will reunite in the 2020 Kentucky Derby with Honor A. P., a beautifully-bred son of champion Honor Code out of Shirreffs’ Grade 1-winning mare Hollywood Story. Considering how Shirreffs is winning at a 31% rate in graded stakes races this year, Honor A. P. should be primed for a big effort on the first Saturday in September.

Barclay Tagg

Kentucky Derby record: 5-1-0-0

Win rate in 2020: 20%

Win rate in 2020 graded stakes races: 36%

Like Shirreffs, Barclay Tagg nabbed a Kentucky Derby victory with his first starter in the Run for the Roses, saddling the unheralded New York-bred Funny Cide to claim top honors in 2003. Funny Cide was described as the horse of a lifetime for Tagg and owner Sackatoga Stable, but lightning has struck twice in the same place, and the team will reunite for the 2020 Kentucky Derby with Tiz the Law. A New York-bred just like his fabled predecessor, Tiz the Law has thrived under Tagg’s careful handling and enters the Derby off blowout wins in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and Travers (G1). Should Tiz the Law prevail as expected as Churchill Downs, Tagg will become the 20th trainer to win the Derby on multiple occasions.