Kentucky Derby Winners of The 1880s

Kentucky Derby Winners of The 1880s

Into the second decade of the Run for the Roses, one horse comes back from the dead to win, two owners earn four times more betting than winning, and the only horse ever to not race at two takes a victory!

1889 – Eight runners would contest the 15th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 9 with Spokane a nose better than Proctor Knott. The upset winner set a new track record and paid $34.80 to win. The victor’s share of the purse was $4,880 with the second and third-place runners settling for $300 and $150 respectively.

Jockey – Thomas Kiley   Trainer – John Roadgap   Owner – Noah Armstrong

1888 – The third of just nine geldings to win the Kentucky Derby in the race’s illustrious history, Macbeth II scored a length victory at odds of 6/1. The gelding would go on to score a number of major wins in his career before being retired as a saddle horse.

Jockey – George Covington   Trainer – John Campbell   Owner – Chicago Stable

1887 – Best known for winning the Derby, Montrose also reportedly won a large sum of money for his owners – the Labold brothers – who made $20,000 off the horse’s win through purse and gambling winnings.

Jockey – Isaac Lewis   Trainer – John McGinty    Owner – Labold Brothers

1886 – The namesake of a long-standing stakes race still run annually at Keeneland, Ben Ali defeated nine rivals and paid $13.60 to win and $12.00 to place in the 1886 Kentucky Derby.

Jockey – Paul Duffy   Trainer – Jim Murphy   Owner – J.B.A Haggin

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1885 – Named for a bookie, Joe Cotton lived a heroic life. Not only did the colt win the Kentucky Derby, but also survived a potential life-threatening spill while racing at Mystic Park in Boston. The New York Times reported the horse had died, but a new owner reportedly reset the broken shoulder with water workouts. Joe Cotton went on to become a stallion. 

Jockey – Erskine Henderson   Trainer – Abe Perry   Owner – James T. Williams

1884 Buchanan  defeated eight rivals to win the Kentucky Derby and paid $20.60. The event signified the tenth running of the race.

Jockey – Isaac Murphy   Trainer – William Bird   Owner – William Cottrill

1883 – The well-bred Leonatus earned a three-length score over a muddy track in the 1883 Derby. Sent to post at odds of 2/1, the son of Longfellow kicked powerfully clear after running a mile and distanced his foes with ease. Leonatus won ten stakes races within a 50-day window in 1883.

Jockey – Billy Donohue   Trainer – Raleigh Colston   Owner – Chinn & Morgan

1882 – The answer to a longstanding trivia question, Apollo remains the only Kentucky Derby winner who did not race as a two year-old. The gelding won 24 of 54 races in his successful career before being retired as a saddle horse.

Jockey – Babe Hurd   Trainer – Green B. Morris   Owner – Morris & Patton

1881 – One of the best horses and Derby winners of his era, Hindoo won 30 of 35 career starts and never finished worse than third. His front-running Kentucky Derby score saw him cross the wire four lengths to the good at odds of 3/1. Hindoo also won the Travers Stakes and Clark Handicap during his three year-old season and went on to sire Preakness winner Buddhist and Belmont Stakes winner North America Hanover.

Jockey – Jim McLaughlin    Trainer – James G. Rowe Sr.   Owner – Dwyer Brothers Stable

1880 - Contested over a dry and dusty track, Fonso won the 1880 Kentucky Derby, surviving a claim of foul that was disallowed by the stewards. Fonso also won the Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland in 1880.