Ranking the Last 10 Kentucky Derbies

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Jason Beem

April 20th, 2017

WARNING! This list is totally bias and strictly my rankings of which Derbies I liked the most in order from the last ten years. Feel free to disagree or agree with me on twitter @Betamerica!

10: Super Saver 2010
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Super Saver

Sloppy track Derbies are just never as fun for me. I was on Ice Box so I was glad to see him put in a big run, but once again Calvin Bo-rail got thru on the inside to win. I didn’t like Super Saver much before or after this Derby. It was a slow time and also featured I believe the highest post time favorite odds ever in Lookin at Lucky which was 6.30 to 1. The gambler in me says that meant it was a great betting race, the fan in me just thinks it was kind of a lackluster crew in general.

9: Nyquist 2016

This was the only Derby I didn’t actually watch live, but rather listened to on radio. Larry’s call was great so I felt like I had a good sense of what was happening. After watching it, it just didn’t really offer up any drama. You had the best horse grabbing the lead early and it was all over but the shouting. I’m sure my views on some of these Derbies change because of what the horses do afterwards, and maybe because the best 3 year old of this crop didn’t start doing his work until the end of the year, it just puts a damper on this Derby for me.

8. Orb 2013

Another sloppy Derby and the cool story for this one was that it was Shug and Phipps/Janney getting a win in the Derby. The fact that it was all closers at the end made for some excitement but overall it just wasn’t one of the more exciting Derbies for me.

7. Animal Kingdom 2011
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Animal Kingdom

Still hard to believe Animal Kingdom was 20/1 that day knowing what we know now and how good he became. Also Nehro was only 8/1? Crazy! This was a really good performance by a horse who went on to win the Dubai World Cup and beat future Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man.

6. Mine That Bird 2009

Now many will wonder why I don’t have Mine That Bird lower on the list. I’ll never forget watching it live, not having any clue who the horse even was and looking at my program and saying “Who in the heck is Bennie Woolley Jr?” Certainly not a Derby where the runners went on to great stardom (Pioneerof the Nile certainly went on to father a great Derby winner) but after the race as Mine That Bird’s story came out, it actually became kind of cool. Nobody will ever confuse him with a superstar, but his solid effort in the Preakness behind Rachel I always felt stamped him as more than just a fluke. He was a cool horse who had his best day on the biggest day. It will always make me smile when the little guys win the Derby.

5. I’ll Have Another 2012

If you think about it, there really haven’t been many great stretch battles during the last ten years. Generally the winner takes command early/mid-stretch and it’s ballgame over. This one there was at least some serious drama in that last furlong. Bodemeister looked like the winner turning for home but those strong early fractions finally caught up to him late as Mario Gutierrez and I’ll Have Another flew by in the final strides. They had another similar battle, maybe even more dramatic, in the Preakness two weeks later. Then of course I’ll Have Another scratched out of the Belmont the day before. Womp womp womp.

4. Big Brown 2008
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American Pharoah and owner Ahmed Zayat

I actually watched this from an emergency room in Cincinnati, Ohio. The doctor even stayed and watched it with me. It was so impressive. Overcoming the 20 post after he overcame the 12 post at Gulfstream. He was so far ahead of most of the other runners at this point. His Preakness was sensational and like Smarty Jones a few years earlier, we were all sure he was the ONE! He wasn’t. But his Derby was awesome. The Eight Belles tragedy will always put a cloud over this Derby, but from wire to wire it was a tour de force.

3. American Pharoah 2015

The triple crown winner isn’t #1?!!! No! This is my list and i’ll do what I want! It was a great Derby though. Three of the top choices in the race, all close to a reasonably soft pace and they line up at the top of the lane to duke it out. American Pharaoh comes widest but wins a hard fought stretch battle by a length. Of course what he would go on to do in the coming weeks will always go down in history. Because Belmont was the culmination of the TC it will probably always be most remembered, but AP’s Derby win was a fantastic race.

2. Street Sense 2007

This was a cool race for so many reasons. First of all Calvin’s rail skimming magic and winning his first Derby. Carl Nafzger in the twilight of his career winning the Derby again. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile curse being broken. Plus the race aged well as Curlin became the monster he did and Hard Spun also went on to be a very good runner. It's the only Derby I watched with my mom which also was kind of special.

1. California Chrome 2014
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"California Chrome shines bright! "

Yes I’m a West Coaster and a total California Chrome honk. But his story of being a modestly bred (being generous even saying modestly) horse whose two owners were new to the game and whose trainer had been around for decades was just so awesome. He was the epitome of what almost every small time owner, breeder, and trainer dream of. Even the cheapest bred horses in Oregon and Montana still have owners who at night think “Maybe this horse will win the Derby someday?” California Chrome was that horse. The fact that he went on to make another ten million after this race is pretty crazy. He was so special and his Derby was awesome.