The Ohio Derby

Although the Ohio Derby (G3) and the Kentucky Derby date back to the 1870s, only one horse has managed to win both races. Black Gold, subject of a book by award-winning author Marguerite Henry, nabbed the two prizes during his productive 1924 campaign.

Timing has been a big factor in precluding other Ohio Derby/Kentucky Derby doubles.  While the Ohio Derby has been run on many different dates through the years, it typically takes place in mid-June and serves as something of a consolation for horses who came up short in one or more legs of the Triple Crown.

But 2020 could change the equation. The postponement of the Kentucky Derby due to COVID-19 has allowed the Ohio Derby to join the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, awarding qualification points to the top four finishers on a 20-8-4-2. Coupled with an enticing purse of $500,000, the Ohio Derby figures to thrive with its newfound (though presumably temporary) status as a steppingstone to Churchill Downs.

In any case, the Ohio Derby has compiled a rich history in its own right. The roster of winners is led by Skip Away, a future Horse of the Year who won 10 Grade 1 races and $9,616,360 during his Hall of Fame career. Skip Away dominated the 1996 Ohio Derby in the snappy time of 1:47.86, just missing the stakes record of 1:47.40 established by four-time graded stakes winner Smarten in 1979.

Other notable winners of the Ohio Derby include two-time Santa Anita Handicap (G1) champion Milwaukee Brew (2000), multi-millionaire Brass Hat (2004), and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) champion Caleb’s Posse (2011). Perhaps the reconfigured 2020 calendar will allow the Ohio Derby to attract an even higher caliber of competition, setting the stage for a talented horse to sweep the elusive Ohio Derby/Kentucky Derby double for the first time in nearly a century.