In 2023, horse racing fans and bettors have seen one of the most heavily-favored Kentucky Derby horses in recent memory. Consensus odds line Forte as a 5-2 favorite come May 6, a heavy favorite in this year’s field. He won six of his seven starts and posted a 100+ Beyer Speed Figure (BSF) in three of those. But where does he fit into the all-time Kentucky Derby favorites? How often do favorites even win?
Odds below courtesy of Kentucky Derby Media.
Kentucky Derby Favorites Since 2000
|Year||ML Favorite||Morning Line Odds||Finish||Post-Time Favorite||Final Odds||Finish|
|2021||Essential Quality||2/1||3rd||Essential Quality||3/1||3rd|
|2020||Tiz the Law||3/5||2nd||Tiz the Law||3/5||2nd|
|2017||Classic Empire*||9/2||1st||Always Dreaming||9/2||1st|
|2015||American Pharoah||5/2||1st||American Pharoah||3/1||1st|
|2014||California Chrome||5/2||1st||California Chrome||5/2||1st|
|2011||Dailed In||4/1||8th||Dailed In||5.2/1||8th|
|2010||Lookin At Lucky||3/1||6th||Lookin At Lucky||6.3/1|
|2009||I Want Revenge^||3/1||SCR||Friesan Fire||3.8/1||18th|
|2008||Big Brown||3/1||1st||Big Brown||5/2||1st|
|2005||Bellamy Road||5/2||7th||Bellamy Road||5/2||7th|
|2004||The Cliff's Edge*||4/1||5th||Smarty Jones||4/1||1st|
|2003||Empire Maker||6/5||2nd||Empire Maker||5/2||2nd|
|2002||Harlan's Holiday||9/2||7th||Harlan's Holiday||6/1||7th|
|2001||Point Given||9/5||5th||Point Given||4/5||5th|
|2000||Fusaichi Pegasus||9/5||1st||Fusaichi Pegasus||5/2||1st|
*Horse did not close as favorite at post time in final odds
^Scratched from the Kentucky Derby after being named morning line favorite. In 2019, Game Winner (9-2) was the revised Morning Line favorite.
How Often Do Kentucky Derby Favorites Win?
Turns out, maybe not as often as you’d think. Since 2000, just 30.4% of Morning Line odds favorites (7 of 22) won the Kentucky Derby. Those who did not open as the Morning Line odds favorite but closed as the favorite had better success, winning in three of five instances since 2000 (60%). In total, closing favorites won 45.5% of races since 2000 (10 of 22).
A major chance to the Kentucky Derby may have changed the frequency. In 2012, the Derby implemented a new points system to make the Kentucky Derby, limiting the number of outlier horses and increasing the overall strength of each field. Since 2012, five Morning Line odds favorites (50%) and six closing favorites (60%) won the Derby. However, no favorites have won any of the last four races.
While the numbers look bleak, betting favorites in the Kentucky Derby is still a +EV play, in general. Given that only one horse closed less than 2-1 since 2000 (33.3% implied win rate), favorites are generally out-performing their odds year over year.
- What time does the Kentucky Derby start? Click this link to stay up to date on the Run for the Roses schedule.
Shortest Kentucky Derby Favorites Ever
Dating back to 1908.
|2020||Tiz The Law||9/13||2nd|
Four horses have the rightful title of shortest favorites ever, all of which clock in at 2-5. The most modern of those horses is Honest Pleasure in 1976, who would be succeeded by another large favorite, Seattle Slew (1977). Honest Pleasure was upset in the 1976 derby by Bold Forbes, who would also go on to win the Belmont Stakes. Bimelech (1940) also would come in second, losing out to Gallahadion.
Other short favorites to lose their race include Tiz the Law (2020), Native Dancer (1953), Brevity (1936), Olympia (1949), and Easy Goer (1989). Over half of the 13 shortest favorites in Kentucky Derby history went on to lose their respective race.
Count Fleet (1943), Citation (1948), and Seattle Slew (1977) would go on to capture the Triple Crown.
Where Does Forte Fit In All-Time Favorites?
While his impressive 1-5 odds at the Florida Derby would rank by far the shortest odds in Kentucky Derby history, 5-2 falls well shy of any records. In the past 10 years, Forte’s 5-2 mark would be tied for the third-shortest odds. However, neither Essential Quality (2021) nor Tiz the Law – both of whose Morning Line odds opened shorter than Forte’s – won their Derby.
Barring being bet down after Morning Line odds release May 3, Forte will be an impressive favorite, but not a historic one.
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2023 Kentucky Derby Odds
|Post Position Number||Horse Name||Kentucky Derby Odds||Morning Line Odds||Closing Line Odds||Trainer||Jockey|
|1.||Hit Show||25-1||30-1||24-1||Brad Cox||Manny Franco|
|2.||Verifying||15-1||15-1||14-1||Brad Cox||Tyler Gaffalione|
|3.||Two Phil's||8-1||12-1||9-1||Larry Rivelli||Jareth Loveberry|
|4.||Confidence Game||17-1||20-1||21-1||Keith Desormeaux||James Graham|
|5.||Tapit Trice||9-2||5-1||9-2||Todd Pletcher||Luis Saez|
|6.||Kingsbarns||10-1||12-1||11-1||Todd Pletcher||Jose Ortiz|
|7.||Reincarnate||13-1||50-1||14-1||Tim Yakteen||John Velazquez|
|8.||Mage||17-1||15-1||15-1||Gustavo Delgado||Javier Castellano|
|9.||Skinner||SCR||SCR||SCR||John Shirreffs||Juan Hernandez|
|10.||Practical Move||SCR||SCR||SCR||Tim Yakteen||Ramon Vazquez|
|11.||Disarm||24-1||30-1||27-1||Steve Asmussen||Joel Rosario|
|12.||Jace's Road||31-1||50-1||33-1||Brad Cox||Florent Geroux|
|13.||Sun Thunder||30-1||50-1||33-1||Kenny McPeek||Brian Hernandez Jr.|
|14.||Angel of Empire||4-1||8-1||4-1||Brad Cox||Flavien Prat|
|15.||Forte||SCR||3-1||SCR||Todd Pletcher||Irad Ortiz Jr.|
|16.||Raise Cain||31-1||50-1||33-1||Ben Colebrook||Gerardo Corrales|
|17.||Derma Sotogake||8-1||10-1||7-1||Hidetaka Otonashi||Christophe Lemaire|
|18.||Rocket Can||27-1||30-1||28-1||Bill Mott||Junior Alvarado|
|19.||Lord Miles||SCR||SCR||SCR||Saffie Joseph Jr.||Paco Lopez|
|20.||Continuar||SCR||SCR||SCR||Yoshito Yahagi||Ryusei Sakai|
|21.||Cyclone Mischief||29-1||30-1||29-1||Dale Romans||TBA|
|22.||Mandarin Hero||20-1||20-1||17-1||Terunobu Fujita||Kazushi Kimura|
|23.||King Russell||31-1||50-1||32-1||Ron Moquett||Rafael Bejarano|