There’s a saying that a Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner can come from anywhere. But that saying has more to do with where a horse prepped for the Run for the Roses than with its birthplace.
When it comes to birthplaces, Kentucky reigns supreme. A total of 101 of the 134 Derby winners were foaled in the Bluegrass State. The group includes last year’s winner, Big Brown , and many of the all-time greats.
Kentucky-breds have the upper hand going into this year’s Derby. Only one of the 20 contestants, Advice, was foaled outside Kentucky. Advice, who prepped for the Derby this year at Santa Anita, Sunland Park, and Keeneland (winning the Coolmore Lexington Stakes, gr. II), was bred in Florida.
Advice will try to become the seventh Florida-bred winner of the Derby. Needles started the Sunshine State tradition with a triumph in the 1956 running, and was followed by Carry Back (1961), Foolish Pleasure (1975), Affirmed (1978), Unbridled (1990), and Silver Charm(1997).
Virginia is next in line by number of Derby winners, with four. Reigh Count became the first of the Virginia-breds with a victory in the 1928 running. Forty-five years went by before another Virginia-bred, Secretariat (in 1973), won the Kentucky Derby and went on to take the Triple Crown.
The other Virginia-bred Derby winners are Pleasant Colony (in 1981) and Sea Hero (1993).
California’s three Kentucky Derby winners boast an unbeaten runner leading up to the Run for the Roses. Morvich had won all 11 races prior to the 1922 Derby. The other Cal-bred Derby winners are Swaps (in 1955) and Decidedly (1962).
Tennessee, one of the hallowed breeding grounds from yesteryear, is the birthplace of three Kentucky Derby winners. Lord Murphy won the Run for the Roses in 1879, Kingman in 1891, and Typhoon II in 1897.
The two New Jersey-bred winners of the Kentucky Derby include the first filly to win the Run for the Roses. Regret, who won all three races at 2, won the 1915 Kentucky Derby in her 3-year-old debut. New Jersey’s other Kentucky Derby winner is 1934 winner Cavalcade.
Pennsylvania also is the birthplace of two Kentucky Derby winners. The same goes for Texas. The Pennsylvania-bred Derby winners are Lil E. Tee (in 1992) and Smarty Jones , who extended his undefeated streak to seven with his 2004 Derby score.
The Texas-bred Kentucky Derby winners came within several years of each other. Triple Crown winner Assault won the 1946 running, and Middleground captured the race in 1950.
Six other states are represented by a single Kentucky Derby winner each: Illinois (Dust Commander, 1970), Kansas (Lawrin, 1938), Maryland (Kauai King, 1966), Missouri (Elwood, 1904), Montana (Spokane, 1889), New York (Funny Cide, 2003), and Ohio (Wintergreen, 1909).
Four Kentucky Derby winners were foaled outside the United States. Canada is responsible for Northern Dancer (in 1964) and Sunny Halo (1983 ). England provided America with 1917 Derby winner Omar Khayyam and 1959 winner Tomy Lee.