Giacomo, defied his 50-1 odds to win the 2005 Kentucky Derby.

Giacomo, defied his 50-1 odds to win the 2005 Kentucky Derby.

Skip Dickstein

Odds-On Favorites Are Good Bet in Derby

Giacomo's shocking win at 50-1 odds in the 2005 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) served as a reminder that any horse can win on Derby day. Combined with the fact that only two favored horses (Fusaichi Pegasus and Smarty Jones) have won the Derby in the past 25 years, bettors may think betting on favorites in the race is futile. However, a quick look at history shows that some favorites are almost a sure bet.

In the 131 previous runnings of the Derby, there have been 32 odds-on (less than even money) favorites. Of those 32 horses, 17 have won and 11 have finished second. Only four horses bet down so heavily failed to hit the board.

Five of those odds-on favorites have run in the Derby in the past 30 years. Between them, they have a solid record. Seattle Slew and Spectacular Bid won, while Honest Pleasure and Easy Goer finished respectable seconds.

Ironically, of those five horses, it is the only odds-on favorite in the past 15 years that finished off the board. The 1991 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner and 2-year-old champion colt Arazi finished a disappointing eighth in the 1992 Kentucky Derby. He became the first odds-on favorite to finish off the board since Olympia checked in sixth in 1949. Abe Farak (1902) and Alard Scheck (1901) round out the list of the failing four, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.

Honest Pleasure and Easy Goer were multiple grade I stakes winners as 3-year-olds despite finishing second in the Derby. Honest Pleasure was the 1975 2-year-old champion male and won the Florida Derby, Flamingo Stakes, Blue Grass Stakes, and Travers Stakes (all gr. I) as a 3-year-old.

Easy Goer was the 2-year-old champion male of 1988, and went on to win the 1989 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), denying Sunday Silence's Triple Crown bid. He would also win the Whitney Handicap, Travers Stakes, Woodward Handicap, Jockey Club Gold Cup, all grade I races, before finishing second behind his nemesis Sunday Silence in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) that year. He also won the Suburban Handicap (gr. I) as a 4-year-old.

Of the 11 Triple Crown winners, three went of as odds-on favorites in the Derby -- Count Fleet, Citation, and Seattle Slew.

So, if there is an odds-on favorite in the 2006 edition of the Run for the Roses, he is a solid bet to win or hit the board.

Odds-On Derby Winners:
Year Won and Odds:
1881 - Hindoo, 1-3
1891 - Kingman, 1-2
1893 - Lookout, 7-10
1894 - Chant, 1-2
1895 - Halma, 1-3
1896 - Ben Brush, 1-2
1899 - Manuel, 11-20
1900 - Lieut. Gibson, 7-10
1905 - Agile, 1-3
1912 - Worth, .80-1
1914 - Old Rosebud, .85-1
1931 - Twenty Grand, .88-1
1939 - Johnstown, .6-1
1943 - Count Fleet, .4-1
1948 - Citation, .4-1
1977 - Seattle Slew, 1-2
1979 - Spectacular Bid, .6-1

Odds-On Starters That Placed
Year Placed and Odds:
1878 - Himyar, 1-4
1880 - Kimball, 3-5
1882 - Runnymede, 4-5
1889 - Proctor Knott, 1-2
1898 - Lieber Karl, 1-3
1903 - Early, 3-5
1936 - Brevity, .8-1
1940 - Bimelech, .4-1
1953 - Native Dancer, .7-1
1976 - Honest Pleasure, .4-1
1989 - Easy Goer, .8-1

Unplaced Odds-On Favorites
Year Did Not Place, Odds, and Finish Position:
1901 - Alard Scheck, 7-10, 5th
1902 - Abe Farak, 3-5, 4th
1949 - Olympia, .8-1, 6th
1992 - Arazi, .9-1, 8th