Horsepower Vs. Horses: How Much HP Drives the Kentucky Derby?

Ah yes, the pruning of fresh roses, the mixing of mint juleps, the last-minute splurges on impossibly floppy headwear — you guessed it, Saturday marks the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby. The 2018 edition features 20 horses getting after that good magic — but if you're here, animals probably aren't where your head's at. You're thinking cars (for towing animals). And you're not thinking horses, you're thinking horsepower.

Well, here's a little knowledge to free drop on you, Billy: Ponies to power ain't a 1-to-1 conversion.

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In fact, what horsepower is — aside from an arbitrary measure of energy popularized by a guy who needed to sell steam engines — depends on where you live. In places where kilometers and quintals mean something, one barn-bred horse is the equivalent of 15.1 metric horsepower. But here in the U.S., where we trust the results of the 1923 Iowa State Fair, your pony out back is worth 14.9 imperial horsepower. (I guess the hay is a little different in Hofburg.)

What with the Derby going down this weekend and all, we got to wondering how much horsepower this year's field is worth, as well as how many lineups it would take to power some of the vehicles we have in our own field of cars here at Cars HQ — not to mention a few we'd love to see. And because we care about the animals, we did some rounding to deliver figures free of limbless Lone Sailors. Here's what we found.

The Starting Stall

Assuming everybody makes it to the 6:34 p.m. Eastern post time on Saturday, you'll be looking at 20 horses, or the equivalent of 298 hp. If you're in the market for a vehicle worth exactly as much power as the 2018 Kentucky Derby field, your options are about as limited as a bottle of Woodford Reserve Batch Proof:

The Long Shots

If you're the type of shopper enticed by everything but horsepower, there are plenty of options low on power but high on other amenities, like fuel economy and space saving, that don't necessarily sacrifice the fun of riding around in your very own car.

Average Odds

They may not be anyone's favorites, but there's an instilled regard for these best-sellers that made them America's favorite nameplates in 2017. Only one among the lot, however, can claim a base engine worth what you can watch on Saturday.

The Pony Cars

If you're like me, you may be surprised to discover just how little power a stable of cars that stakes its entire existence in measuring its engines against horses is worth ... but you know we had to do it to 'em anyway. Giddyup:

Place All Your Money Down

Here's the Firenze fire you came to read. Granted, you'll have to pony up some serious dosh to get in the saddle of one of these things, but what you get in return are the reins to multiple Derby days and enough power to have even Bob Baffert yelling, "Bravazo!"

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