Kentucky Derby Odds History: How Often Do Favorites Win?

Written By Brett Gibbons on May 5, 2023
Kentucky Derby favorites

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.

Get a $20 No Sweat Belmont Bet at FanDuel Racing
Belmont BET
Bet on the Belmont Stakes
Up to $20 Back if Your Bet Doesn't Win
Get Boosted Odds & the Best Promotions
Easy Deposits, Fast Withdrawals
To Claim: Click Play Now

Kentucky Derby Favorites Since 2000

YearML FavoriteMorning Line OddsFinishPost-Time FavoriteFinal OddsFinish
2021Essential Quality2/13rdEssential Quality3/13rd
2020Tiz the Law3/52ndTiz the Law3/52nd
2019Omaha Beach^4/1SCRImprobable4/14th
2017Classic Empire*9/21stAlways Dreaming9/21st
2015American Pharoah5/21stAmerican Pharoah3/11st
2014California Chrome5/21stCalifornia Chrome5/21st
2011Dailed In4/18thDailed In5.2/18th
2010Lookin At Lucky3/16thLookin At Lucky6.3/1
2009I Want Revenge^3/1SCRFriesan Fire3.8/118th
2008Big Brown3/11stBig Brown5/21st
2007Curlin*7/23rdStreet Sense5/11st
2006Brother Derek*3/1t-4thSweetnorthernsaint11/27th
2005Bellamy Road5/27thBellamy Road5/27th
2004The Cliff's Edge*4/15thSmarty Jones4/11st
2003Empire Maker6/52ndEmpire Maker5/22nd
2002Harlan's Holiday9/27thHarlan's Holiday6/17th
2001Point Given9/55thPoint Given4/55th
2000Fusaichi Pegasus9/51stFusaichi Pegasus5/21st

*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.

Shortest Kentucky Derby Favorites Ever

Dating back to 1908.

YearHorseFinal OddsFinish
1943Count Fleet2/51st
1976Honest Pleasure2/52nd
1977Seattle Slew1/21st
1979Spectacular Bird3/51st
1953Native Dancer9/132nd
2020Tiz The Law9/132nd
1989Easy Goer4/52nd

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.

TheLines’ Free Kentucky Derby Challenge: Hit A Trifecta To Win $100 Amazon Gift Card

2023 Kentucky Derby Odds

Post Position NumberHorse NameKentucky Derby OddsMorning Line OddsClosing Line OddsTrainerJockey
1.Hit Show25-130-124-1Brad CoxManny Franco
2. Verifying15-115-114-1Brad CoxTyler Gaffalione
3. Two Phil's8-112-19-1Larry RivelliJareth Loveberry
4. Confidence Game17-120-121-1Keith DesormeauxJames Graham
5.Tapit Trice9-25-19-2Todd PletcherLuis Saez
6.Kingsbarns10-112-111-1Todd PletcherJose Ortiz
7.Reincarnate13-150-114-1Tim YakteenJohn Velazquez
8. Mage17-115-115-1Gustavo DelgadoJavier Castellano
9.SkinnerSCRSCRSCRJohn ShirreffsJuan Hernandez
10.Practical MoveSCRSCRSCRTim YakteenRamon Vazquez
11.Disarm24-130-127-1Steve AsmussenJoel Rosario
12.Jace's Road31-150-133-1Brad CoxFlorent Geroux
13.Sun Thunder30-150-133-1Kenny McPeekBrian Hernandez Jr.
14.Angel of Empire4-18-14-1Brad CoxFlavien Prat
15.ForteSCR3-1SCRTodd PletcherIrad Ortiz Jr.
16.Raise Cain31-150-133-1Ben ColebrookGerardo Corrales
17.Derma Sotogake8-110-17-1Hidetaka OtonashiChristophe Lemaire
18.Rocket Can27-130-128-1Bill MottJunior Alvarado
19.Lord MilesSCRSCRSCRSaffie Joseph Jr.Paco Lopez
20.ContinuarSCRSCRSCRYoshito YahagiRyusei Sakai
21.Cyclone Mischief29-130-129-1Dale RomansTBA
22.Mandarin Hero20-120-117-1Terunobu FujitaKazushi Kimura
23. King Russell31-150-132-1Ron MoquettRafael Bejarano
Brett Gibbons Avatar
Written by
Brett Gibbons

Brett is an avid sports traveler and former Division-I football recruiter for Bowling Green and Texas State. He’s a graduate of BGSU and works as an auditor for Google content curation products. He’s also contributed to Sports Illustrated and Fansided during his young writing career.

View all posts by Brett Gibbons