In the run up to the 2015 Kentucky Derby, the Thorobros took a good hard look at the past 20 years of Derbies and tried to rank the top twelve. We were able to arrive at this highly scientific ranking through a complicated logarithm that generated a foolproof list of the best Kentucky Derbies of the past two decades. This year’s renewal of America’s most famous horse race looks to be particularly strong – perhaps we will have a new addition to these rankings come May 3, 2015.
Number 7: Fusaichi Pegasus
The Build Up
The only ‘international’ star to win the Derby in recent years. FuPeg as his fans know him, was a highly regarded racing prospect who raced for Japanese owners Fusao Sekiguchi. Although he never raced in Japan, he was a star there before he even touched the track by the nature of his owner’s huge receipt for the horse: $4 million as a yearling.
Once he made it to the track, FuPeg lived up to the hype by finishing second first out, then running a streak of 4 wins in a row, capped off by the Wood Memorial, before entering the gate in the Kentucky Derby. FuPeg began his career in California and raced his first four starts there, but proved to be a road warrior by going to New York to take his final Derby prep.
The Neil Drysdale trainee proved to be a deserving Derby favorite. However he would have to break the streak of defeated Derby favorites that was last broken back in 1979 by Spectacular Bid.
Although FuPeg was all the talk derby week, he was not the only horse with a chance in the race. The 1999 BC Juvenile winner Anees was in the line up as well, along with other horses destined for greatness in future Grade One Winners Captain Steve, War Chant, and Commendable. However, interestingly missing was the horse who recently finished second to him in the Wood, Red Bullet.
As the gates opened, FuPeg got off to a great start. The 19 horse field took to usually speedy fractions. Kent Desormeaux guided FuPeg to the rail to save ground, and start to make a slow inside move up the backside. As the field made it’s way into the turn FuPeg was passing horses but still had plenty to do. Sitting in the second flight, Kent D angled FuPeg out and gave a clear run down the stretch. At the eighth pole, FuPeg had taken the lead and took off to open up by 2-3 lengths and continued his win streak in the Derby and totally vindicated his $4 million purchase price.
The 2000 Derby
After FuPeg’s win, he did what every other Derby winner does: try to win the Triple Crown. After close calls in the last three years, it was all but assumed by the public, including my own 11 year old self who was to attend my first Belmont, that FuPeg would win the Preakness.
However, FuPeg’s run ended at the hands of his Wood Memorial foe Red Bullet in Baltimore. FuPeg did not race in the Belmont, although he did win the Jerome later that year as a prep for the Breeders Cup Classic where he finished a disappointing 6th behind late-blooming 3 year old Tiznow.
However, Fusao Sekiguchi made out like a bandit when he sold FuPeg to Coolmore for a reported cool $60-70 million. However, FuPeg has not lived up to that price in breeding shed, having failed to produce a high number of grade 1 runners. But his Derby performance totally vindicated all of his praise and promise as a yearling and is deserving of a spot on our list.
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