Derby Weather (04/28/14)

John Ewing, Director of Research and Analytics, @johnewing
How has weather impacted the Kentucky Derby? A look at the historical weather conditions leading up to the Greatest Two Minutes in Sports. Play Derby Props Pick'em. Listen to Kentucky Derby Podcast.

The weather for the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby is shaping up to be pretty good. According to our good friend and Vegas-based weather specialist, Charles Schlott (who also compiled the rest of the weather information listed below), the current forecast is calling for less than a tenth of an inch of rain (mostly in the early afternoon) and temperatures in the mid-to-upper 50s. Stronger rain and storms may pass through Louisville between Monday and Thursday, but the weather should be nice on Saturday. Great weather is not the norm for the Derby.

While this year's forecast is sunny, in fact, it is rare to have dry weather throughout Derby week. The longest stretch of consecutive wet Derby Days has been from 2007 to 2013, where there has been precipitation within the 24-hours leading up to the Kentucky Derby.

How does weather impact the Kentucky Derby? For starters, the condition of the racetrack, dry or wet, affects each horse in a different manner. Some horses love a wet track while others struggle with the adverse conditions.

In eight of the last ten years there has been precipitation 24-hours prior to the Kentucky Derby. These less than ideal conditions and sometimes sloppy tracks have resulted in a mixed bag for the Derby's betting favorite. The favorite has only won four of the last ten Derby races.

As many of the best three-year-old thoroughbreds in the nation make the run for the roses Saturday at Churchill Downs, we reflect on some of the weather records and conditions in past races.

To view the Pace Figures and race analysis for the Kentucky Derby, click here.

Historical weather records for the Kentucky Derby
  • Coldest Derby: 36 degrees, May 4, 1940 and May 4, 1957
  • Warmest Derby: 94 degrees, May 2, 1959
  • Wettest Derby: 2.31” of rain, May 11, 1918
  • Frozen precipitation: On May 6, 1989 sleet was observed from 1:01 pm to 1:05 pm
  • Out of the 139 Derby Days, it has rained 63 times (45 percent) at some point during the day

Weather conditions leading up to the Kentucky Derby – last 25 years

Year High Low 24-Hour Precip. 1pm-7pm Precip. Weather Winner Track
2013 64 53 0.87 (inches) 0.44 Rain Orb Sloppy
2012 83 65 1.46 0.00 Partly Sunny I'll Have Another Fast
2011 72 51 Trace Trace Mostly Cloudy Animal Kingdom Fast
2010 75 63 1.32 0.13 Thunderstorms Super Saver Sloppy
2009 62 51 0.07 0.00 Cloudy Mine That Bird Sloppy
2008 75 50 0.69 0.00 Partly Cloudy Big Brown Fast
2007 78 62 Trace Trace Partly Sunny Street Sense Fast
2006 68 52 0.00 0.00 Partly Sunny Barbaro Fast
2005 80 48 0.00 0.00 Mostly Sunny Giacomo Fast
2004 78 55 0.65 0.29 Thunderstorms Smarty Jones Sloppy
2003 65 52 0.00 0.00 Partly Sunny Funny Cide Fast
2002 71 49 0.00 0.00 Mostly Sunny War Emblem Fast
2001 86 58 0.00 0.00 Mostly Sunny Monarchos Fast
2000 86 63 Trace Trace Mostly Sunny Fusaichi Pegasus Fast
1999 75 46 0.00 0.00 Sunny Charismatic Fast
1998 75 49 0.03 0.00 Thunderstorms Real Quiet Fast
1997 60 47 0.22 0.01 Showers Silver Charm Fast
1996 81 62 0.55 0.55 Thunderstorms Grindstone Fast
1995 74 46 0.00 0.00 Partly Cloudy Thunder Gulch Fast
1994 70 50 0.63 0.27 Thunderstorms Go for Gin Sloppy
1993 76 57 0.02 0.02 Cloudy Sea Hero Fast
1992 81 65 0.83 0.35 Thunderstorms Lil E. Tee Fast
1991 80 64 0.06 0.06 Thunderstorms Strike the Gold Fast
1990 73 48 Trace Trace Mostly Cloudy Unbridled Good
1989 51 39 0.09 0.01 Sleet Sunday Silence Muddy

Play Derby Props Pick'em. Listen to Kentucky Derby Podcast.

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