We look back at the last 10 Kentucky Derby favorites and see how they have fared.
The Kentucky Derby is a race where the favorite often pays a generous price. It’s the first Triple Crown race, so the next superstar often hasn’t been identified yet.
The Kentucky Derby morning-line odds have been set and Essential Quality is the 2021 favorite.
If you like its chances, check out the latest Kentucky Derby betting market.
2020: Tiz The Law
The Barclay Tagg-trained runner was the firm 3-5 favorite following wins in the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes.
Due to the timing of the Kentucky Derby, which was run in September instead of May, it was an odd contest.
We believe if Tiz The Law ran in May, he would have been tough to beat. However, he had to settle for second behind 8-1 chance Authentic.
Second favorite Honor A.P finished in fourth position.
For most of the betting market, Omaha Beach was the favorite. However, the highest-rated runner was a late scratch, which handed over favoritism to Improbable.
The Bob Baffert-trained runner ran at 3-1 and finished fourth behind 64-1 chance Country House. The trifecta was rounded out by Code of Honor (14-1) and Tacitus (5-1), which resulted in big payouts.
— @Ike58Reese (@Ike58Reese) May 4, 2019
All three Baffert-trained runners were firm in the market. Game Winner finished fifth and Roadster was particularly disappointing in 15th.
The 144th Kentucky Derby went to the morning line and starting favorite Justify, which lived up to his name.
Trained by Bob Baffert, the unbeaten superstar ran at 2-1 odds, which was an excellent price given his form leading into the race. Bettors can get good prices for Derby favorites and Justify was a prime example.
Second and third favorites were Magnum Moon and Mendelssohn, which finished second-to-last and last.
2017: Always Dreaming
It was a spirited online racebook battle between Always Dreaming and Irish War Cry, but Always Dreaming started as the race favorite.
The Todd Pletcher-trained runner paid $4.70 when scoring by 2¾ lengths over longshots Lookin At Lee and Battle of Midway.
It broke a run of disappointments for Pletcher, who often has a well-backed Derby runner that runs down the track.
Second favorite Irish War Cry was disappointing in 10th.
Nyquist continued a string of six consecutive Derby favorites to win the Run for the Roses.
He was unbeaten entering the race and that prompted a big betting move on race day. Nyquist opened as the 3-1 favorite before crossing the line as a 2.30-to-1 winner.
Bettors got it spot on and although Nyquist didn’t kick on with it following the Derby, bettors left Churchill Downs happy.
Second favorite Exaggerator finished 1¼ lengths behind Nyquist. Rounding out the trifecta was 10-1 chance Gun Runner, which would go on to compete in some of the world’s biggest races.
2015: American Pharoah
Had we known what horse American Pharoah would become, bookmakers would have had him at 1-10 in betting.
The Triple Crown winner paid $7.80 when winning the 2015 Kentucky Derby by a length over Firing Line and a further three lengths ahead of Dortmund.
Morning line odds had the Pharoah at 5-2 before he was confidently backed in late markets.
He continued a six-year span of favorites winning, which ended when Country House caused a massive upset in 2019.
2014: California Chrome
The Art Sherman-trained colt was one of the most hyped runners in the last 10 years. California Chrome had the sparkling form entering the 140th running and he didn’t disappoint.
He started at 2.5-1 after firming in from a morning line quote of 5-2. Everyone wanted a piece of California Chrome, which kicked clear for a 1¾-length victory.
It was his fifth consecutive win and the combined margin in those victories was 26 lengths. He was an absolute star and it came after many critics gave him no chance.
Bettors knew to keep the faith and they were repaid on race day.
Orb was the first of six consecutive favorites to win the Kentucky Derby. He started as a loose 5.4 favorite in what was one of the most even betting fields in recent history.
There were six runners quoted at single-figure odds and it was Orb, jumping from Post 15, that emerged victorious.
Bookmakers reported late betting drifts for Verrazano and Goldencents, which subsequently finished down the track. It gave bettors confidence in years to come, correctly predicting the next five winners.
The 2012 Derby was one of the best races in the last 10 years. Bodemeister started as the 3-1 favorite but would settle for second behind I’ll Have Another.
Bob Baffert lined up Bodemeister, who lost no admirers with the runner-up finish. It came behind one of the most-loved runners in Derby history.
I’ll Have Another drifted from a morning line quote of 12-1 to pay $32.60. The enigmatic runner defied the odds to hold off Bodemeister and numerous quality types.
What racehorse, past or present, possesses the best looks? 👌 pic.twitter.com/kiXmQplFSJ
— World Horse Racing (@WHR) March 10, 2020
The Doug O’Neill-trained star would win the Preakness Stakes and head to the Belmont Stakes as a favorite. However, the fates wouldn’t align and he would be retired before getting a chance to complete the Triple Crown.
“He was kind of like American Pharoah is (in 2015), the head of his class,” O’Neill told USA TODAY Sports. “I was extremely confident we were going to get it done that day.”
The day would never come, but I’ll Have Another will go down in Kentucky Derby folklore for centuries to come.
2011: Dialed In
Dialed In was a loose favorite and finished eighth behind Animal Kingdom, who would mature into a quality globe-trotting type.
It was one of the more even betting fields in recent history, which was partly due to morning-line favorite Uncle Mo’s scratching.
Most of the race day money came for Pants On Fire, which firmed from 20-1 to 7-1.