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Kentucky Derby: A Look at the Historically Best Post Positions

Alan RubensteinAnalyst IIIMay 1, 2012

Kentucky Derby: A Look at the Historically Best Post Positions

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    A lot is made over the post position a horse draws in the Kentucky Derby, but how important is it when determining who will win? 

    Securing a position in the first 10 gates greatly increases your chance of victory—it's happened 90 times, in fact.

    Conversely, a horse starting in the next 10 gates has only crossed the finish line 20 times. 

    Whereas the No. 9 post is the worst in the top 10 with only four victories, the four wins from the No. 13 gate are the best for post positions 11 to 20.

Post Position 1

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    Post No. 1 has produced the winner most times since 1900 with 12.

    Only one horse, Ferdinand in 1986, has won the race from the first post position since 1964. 

Post Position 2

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    The No. 2 post has produced nine Kentucky Derby winners since 1900.

    Not since Affirmed won the first leg of the Triple Crown on his way to becoming the last horse to capture it has a horse wearing No. 2 crossed the finish line first. 

Post Position 3

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    The horse leaving from the third spot in the starting gate has crossed the finish line first eight times.

    Real Quiet was the last horse to capture the Run for the Roses from the third spot, winning in 1998. Other notable winners in modern racing include Alysheba in 1987 and Spectacular Bid in 1979. 

Post Position 4

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    The fourth post has produced 11 winners since 1900. That is tied for third most all-time with the 10th position. Nos. 1 and 5 with 12 wins each rank first.

    Super Saver in 2010 became the first horse since Seattle Slew in 1977 to win the Derby from the fourth post. 

Post Position 5

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    The No. 1 and No. 5 post positions have produced the most winners since 1900.

    The five post has also been successful fairly recently, with Silver Charm in 1997 and War Emblem in 2002. 

Post Position 6

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    The No. 6 post position has only produced six Derby winners since 1900. Sea Hero in 1993 was the only victor since 1958. 

Post Position 7

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    The winner has crossed the finish line seven times from the No. 7 post. Not since Pleasant Colony won the 1981 Derby has it truly lived up to its status as being a lucky number.

Post Position 8

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    Some view post positions a key to success, and the No. 8 gate has certainly been an advantageous place to start the Derby over the last two decades.

    Mine That Bird (2009) and Barbaro (2006) won the there, while there were two from the 1990s—Unbridled (1990) and Go For Gin (1994). 

Post Position 9

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    The No. 9 post has been by far the worst of the first 10 positions.

    The winner has come from it only four times since 1900, and Riva Ridge was the last victor  to emerge from the gate in 1972.

    Amazingly, the winner did emerge from No. 9 in 1959 and 1960, when Tomy Lee and Venetian Way, respectively, were the victors. 

Post Position 10

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    Like the fourth post, the No. 10 gate has produced the third-most winners in Derby history—and the most dominant in modern times.

    Some of the more memorable winners have included Secretariat (1973); Genuine Risk, the second filly to win the Derby (1980); Sunny’s Halo (1983); Spend a Buck (1985); Sunday Silence (1989); and longshot Giacomo (2005).

    Giacomo and Closing Argument combined to pay $9,814.80 on a $2 exacta in 1980. 

Post Position 11

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    In 1988, Winning Colors became only the third filly to win the Kentucky Derby.

    She was also only the third horse to cross the finish line after starting in gate No. 11.

    The others were Brokers Tip in 1933 and Bubbling Over in 1926.

Post Position 12

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    No horse has won from post No. 12 since Canonero II in 1971.

    There have been three victors in total from the post, the others being Kauai King (1966) and Hoop Jr. (1945).

Post Position 13

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    Number 13 has produced three winners all-time.

    Forward Pass was the last horse to win from post position 13 in 1968. He is also the only Derby winner not to have crossed the finish line first. He was given the victory after Dancer's Image was disqualified for having an anti-inflammatory drug in his system.

Post Position 14

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    It has been 51 years since a horse crossed the finish line first from post position 14 in the Kentucky Derby.

    The No. 14 post has not fared well in recent years. In fact, it has been over 20 years since a horse starting from here has even finished in the money.

Post Position 15

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    Although only four  horses have crossed the finish line after starting in gate No. 15, all of them have been in modern times.

    They include Swale (1984), Grindstone (1996), Fusaichi Pegasus (2000) and Smarty Jones (2004).

Post Position 16

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    Similar to the No. 15 post position, No. 16's success has come in modern times.

    Thunder Gulch in 1995 was the first horse to win a the Derby from the No. 16 gate. He was followed by Charismatic in 1999, Monarchos two years later and Animal Kingdom in 2011.

Post Positions 17 & 19

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    Nehro was the most recent horse from No. 19 to almost win. He finished second, 2 3/4 lengths behind Animal Kingdom. 

Post Position 18

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    Gato Del Sol’s win in the 1982 Kentucky Derby remains the only winning horse from the No. 18 gate. 

Post Position 20

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    Big Brown mesmerized horse racing in the spring of 2008. He bolted from the No. 20 gate and won the Derby over the filly Eight Belles by 4 3/4 lengths.

    Big Brown was just the second undefeated Derby champion (Smarty Jones, 2004) since Seattle Slew in 1977 and just the sixth of all time. 

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