State by state: Where Kentucky Derby winners were bred

State by state: Where Kentucky Derby winners were bred
Photo: Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire

The state of Kentucky long has been and still is the center of the Thoroughbred breeding universe, so it’s no surprise that horses bred there have accounted for 113 of the 147 Kentucky Derby winners.

The remaining 34 winners, who include a filly and three Triple Crown champions, came from 14 other states and two other countries.

Second on the list with six winners is Florida, but it has been a quarter century since Silver Charm added his name to the impressive list of Derby winners out of the Sunshine State.

Florida: Silver Charm (1997), Unbridled (1990), Triple Crown winner Affirmed (1978), Foolish Pleasure (1975), Carry Back (1961) and Needles (1956)

Next in line with four winners each are California and Virginia.

When California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby eight years ago, he broke a more than half-century winless streak for California-bred horses. Before his win in 2014, the last horse bred in the Golden State to win on the first Saturday in May was Decidedly in 1962.

California: California Chrome (2014), Decidedly (1962), Swaps (1955) and Morvich (1922).

Virginia can proudly claim Triple Crown winner Secretariat, the greatest Derby winner of them all.

Virginia: Sea Hero (1993), Pleasant Colony (1981), Secretariat (1973) and Reigh Count (1928).

Tennessee boasts a trio of Derby winners, but they all came before the turn of the 20th century.

Tennessee: Typhoon II (1897), Kingman (1891) and Lord Murphy (1879).

Three other states and two countries all have contributed a pair of Kentucky Derby winners each.

It has been almost 90 years since the last Derby winner came from New Jersey, but the first and most famous was Regret. She was the first filly and the first unbeaten horse to win the Kentucky Derby.

New Jersey: 
Cavalcade (1934) and Regret (1915).

We all remember Smarty Jones-mania. The popular horse brought his unbeaten streak to Louisville to win the Derby and then went on to capture the Preakness before being denied the Triple Crown with a heartbreaking loss in the Belmont Stakes. The legendary jockey Pat Day, who won 34 riding titles at Churchill and rode 8,803 career winners, scored his only Kentucky Derby victory aboard Lil E. Tee, the other Pennsylvania-bred to wear the roses.

Pennsylvania: Smarty Jones (2004) and Lil E. Tee (1992).

Twice in a span of five years, Texas contributed Derby winners, and both were owned and bred by King Ranch. One was Assault, the seventh Triple Crown winner.

Texas: Middleground (1950) and Assault (1946).

North of the border and across the Atlantic Ocean, we find four non-Kentucky-bred winners of the Derby.

The great Northern Dancer was the first Canadian-bred horse to win America’s race. In winning the 1964 Derby, he set a record for the fastest winning time, which lasted until 1973. He failed to win the U.S. Triple Crown when finishing third in the Belmont, but he subsequently won the Queen’s Plate, the first race in the Canadian Triple Crown, before suffering an injury. After his racing career was over, he went on to become one of the most successful sires in Thoroughbred history. Nearly 20 years later, another Canadian-bred, Sunny’s Halo, achieved glory in Louisville.

Canada: Sunny’s Halo (1983) and Northern Dancer (1964).

Great Britain is represented by Omar Khayyam and Tomy Lee. The former became the first horse bred outside the U.S. to win the Kentucky Derby.

Other internationals: Tomy Lee (1959) and Omar Khayyam (1917).

The following states have bred one Derby winner each:

New York: Funny Cide (2003).

Illinois: Dust Commander (1970).

Maryland: Kauai King (1966).

Kansas: Lawrin (1938).

Ohio: Wintergreen (1909).

Missouri: Elwood (1904).

Montana: Spokane (1889).

When early nominations for this year’s Triple Crown closed Jan. 29, 250 Kentucky-bred horses were made eligible to compete while 39 nominees came from other American states. The sizable difference indicates there’s a high probability Kentucky could add another one of its own to its lengthy winning Derby roster.

A total of 56 horses who were nominated and who are still under consideration have earned at least one point on the 2022 Kentucky Derby trail. Eight were bred outside the Bluegrass State. With 54 points each, two of the top four horses with points – Florida-bred Simplification, winner of the Fountain of Youth (G2), and New York-bred Un Ojo, winner of the Rebel (G2) – appear to be a certainty to be in the starting gate on Derby Day, barring any major setback.

Other nominated horses on the Derby trail not bred in Kentucky are:

Pappacap (Florida) 14 points

Shipsational (New York) 14

Golden Code (New York) 10

Slow Down Andy (California) 10

Life Is Great (Florida) 5

Smarten Up (Florida) 4

Horses not Triple Crown nominated can become eligible with a $6,000 payment due March 28 if their connections want to continue chasing the Derby dream.

Despite the towering disparity of Kentucky-bred horses in relation to those bred outside the state, is it possible one of the non-Kentucky runners could wear the roses and bask in the glory of Kentucky Derby 148? We’ll find out on May 7.

Meet Nick Costa

Nick became instantly hooked on horse racing when his father first took him to the racetrack when he was 5-years old. As a racing fan, he's attended several Kentucky Derbys, Belmont Stakes and Breeders' Cups, and has visited several racetracks throughout the United States and Canada.

Back in the year 2000, Nick became a licensed owner and is currently still involved with the sport in that honored capacity. In 2010, Nick added another dimension when trying his hand at writing about horse racing for Horse Racing Nation, and thanks its readers for their support.

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