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Top Five All-Time Kentucky Derby Finishes

Top Five All-Time Kentucky Derby Finishes -- by Matthew Martz

The Kentucky Derby has one of the most rich traditions in all of sports. The first leg of the “Triple Crown” was first held all the way back in 1875 and is still known in the United States as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports.”

Alternately known as, “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports, the "Run for the Roses" is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbred horses, and is traditionally held annually in Louisville, Kentucky at legendary Churchill Downs.

It takes place on the first Saturday in May, and it is the final event in the two-week long Kentucky Derby Festival.

All of that being said, there has been many great moments in Derby history, and it's time to discuss some of the best finishes ever as we near this year's Derby Day.

Secretariat 1973

It's should be no surprise to see Secretariat on our list. Easily one of, if not the most famous equine to ever run in this prestigious event. This particular horse set a record back in 1973, that astonishingly still holds up to this very day. The Chestnut Stallion ran the one and a quarter mile track in the record time of 1:59:40. If that was not impressive enough, "Big Red" is also the only winner in history to get faster during each quarter- mile checkpoint, winning the race over second-place Sham by two and a half lengths. Then, as everyone knows, Secretariat went on to complete the Triple Crown to complete his legacy, cementing his place among the world's greatest athletes of all-time.

Alysheba 1987

This horse’s Derby finish has to go down as one of the most remarkable comebacks ever. At the top of the home stretch, Alysheba charged from a good ways behind the lead pack to vault into contention. But here is where the incredible part kicks in. Bet Twice, a fellow thoroughbred competing, actually bumped into the three-time Eclipse Award winner. Where most horses would proceed to fall down, and force a catastrophic pileup, Alysheba held his balance, recovered his footing, and continued his charge. Then, he was bumped a second time by Bet Twice, but again recovered, and was able to cross the wire first. Just ahead of Bet Twice.

Brokers Tip 1933

This is easily the most disputed Derby finish of all-time. Long before they had finish line technology, so the actual result is still not actually known to this day.

Brokers Tip and Head Play were in the lead pack, and eventually broke ahead of the others. During the last quarter mile, a couple of interesting things took place. First, Head Play’s jockey tried to squeeze out a charging Brokers Tip by edging closer to the rail. This move would fail, and resulted in the two horses being essentially locked together. Then second is widely known as the “Fighting Finish," as  the two jockeys were basically holding onto each other’s saddle, and proceeded to berate each other with whip blows.

After it was said and done, they appeared to cross the line simultaneously. In that era, it went to a judge’s ruling. Three of the four said that Head Play crossed first, but the chief racing steward’s opinion won out. Brokers Tip was awarded the win.

Citation         1948

The Big Cy, as he was often referred is also always a part of the best thoroughbred of all-time debates as well. He is also a member of the Triple Crown club, and his Derby win makes him a very well deserved member of this list. At the half-mile, Citation trailed by six lengths to rival, Coaltown. Not an insurmountable margin, but not a deficit to scoff at either. But like all great champions, the eventual Triple Crown winner roared back over the last three-quarters and ended up passing Coaltown, winning e race by an easy two and a half lengths.

Mine That Bird 2009

This list would not be complete without one of the biggest long-shots, and comebacks in the history of the Kentucky Derby. Purchased for a mere for $9,500, Mine That Bird accomplished both of the prior in miraculous fashion.

In what was a sloppy track due to excessive rain, Mine That Bird got off to a dreadful start. He was so far behind (eight lengths), that the announcer calling the race missed him at first glance. Famous jockey, Calvin Borel was the man on Mine That Bird on this fateful day, and used the same rail-skimming technique that he used to claim the 2007 Derby to try and catch the field.

Catch them he did, and in short order. He came by so quickly, that the announcer did not even realize this until he was three lengths ahead of the field. He ballooned that up to a lead of six lengths that he held through the wire.

This was the second biggest upset in Derby history(a two dollar wager returned $103.20). Mine That Bird also had the third longest odds in this individual race. Behind only Atomic Rain (55-1) and Join in the Dance(51-1).


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