The 139th Kentucky Derby is just five days away and the final field is almost set. A full 20-horse field is expected to make it to the gate this Saturday, and the post positions for each are the initial subject of debate.
Owners, trainers, jockeys and fans have their own take on which would be the best position for their horse. It's apparently a key to victory to have the best post position possible.
This might be the main reason why the post positions draw has become an event within the Derby festivities. It's now a nationally televised event that draws the attention of the thoroughbred racing world.
The post positions draw will be held this Wednesday starting at 5 p.m. ET and televised by the NBC Sports Network.
If we take the statistics since 1900, two post positions have produced more winners than any other single post position in the Kentucky Derby. Post positions No. 1 and No. 5 have each produced 12 Derby winners.
After adding and subtracting, the wins from those two spots are still greater than the 23 combined wins from all the gates from No. 11 through No. 20. Closely behind are spots No. 4 (11 wins) and Nos. 8 and 10 (10 wins) for the other positions in double-digit wins.
The inner 10 positions have produced 90 of the last 113 Derby winners, with the wins coming from gates No. 1 through No. 5 totaling up to 52. In fact, eight of the 11 Triple Crown winners have started from these five post positions.
The other 15 spots only total up to 61, giving us—statistically speaking—a fairly good indication that post position seems to be very important.
But when looking back in history, positions No. 1 to No. 3 have not been successful in recent years. The last winners from those positions were Ferdinand (No. 1 - 1986), Affirmed (No. 2 - 1978) and Real Quiet (No. 3 - 1998.)
One could argue that the outside posts, especially the ones from the auxiliary gate (No. 15 to No. 20) haven't had that much success due to the Derby not running consistently as many horses to populate it before recent years.
Take for example, since 1995 the auxiliary gate has produced eight winners in 18 races. That accounts for 44 percent of the wins.
The auxiliary gate has only six positions and is separated from the main gate, which gives its starters—specially the one from No. 15—a clean break chance over the inside ones. Although is an outside positioning, the long stretch gives those starters a chance to get position before the first turn.
If we analyze the historical winners by their post positions, does that gives us a better idea on whether a horse posting from the winningest posts holds a statistical edge over horses running out of the lesser winning posts, or is it merely a coincidence?
The key to having success in the Kentucky Derby—and any race—doesn't lie strictly on drawing the magic post position. There are many factors that influence the outcome of a race, such as the horse's fitness and affinity for the track's condition or surface.
Also if a horse runs well on the outside, then it makes sense for him to makes his best race when he starts on the outside. The horse makes the post position; the post position does not make the horse.
Also the jockey can influence this. Take for example Calvin Borel and his rail-skimming skills aboard the horses. His three Derby wins have been almost carbon copies.
But most commonly, it will come down to having a good horse, a clean break and a good trip.
No matter what happens every year, we will all be discussing the chances of every horse according to the positions the draw on the Wednesday before the big race. That is part of why the Kentucky Derby is known as the most exciting two minutes in sports.
Kentucky Derby Historical Winners by Post Position (Since 1900)
|1||12 ||Ferdinand - 1986|
|2||9 ||Affirmed - 1978|
|3||8 ||Real Quiet - 1998|
|4||11 ||Super Saver - 2010|
|5||12 ||Funny Cide - 2003|
|6||6||Sea Hero - 1993|
|7||8||Street Sense - 2007|
|8||10||Mine That Bird - 2009|
|9||4||Riva Ridge - 1972|
|10||10||Giacomo - 2005|
|11||3||Winning Colors - 1988|
|12||3||Canonero II - 1971|
|13||4||Smarty Jones - 2004|
|14||2||Carry Back - 1961|
|15||3||Fusaichi Pegasus - 2000|
|16||4||Animal Kingdom - 2011|
|18||1||Gato Del Sol - 1982|
|19||1||I'll Have Another - 2012|
|20||2||Big Brown - 2008|