Serendipity plays a big part in winning at Churchill Downs. Without the right mix of racing acumen, talent and luck, even the best horses come up short in the first leg of the Triple Crown.
A big part of the luck factor is the position selection. There’s no denying the importance of a good draw, and several horses found themselves at the wrong end of an unlucky draw that will make winning the Kentucky Derby an uphill battle.
Horse racing is an inexact science, but there’s a great importance placed on running styles and positioning. The post-draw odds reflect that fact, per NBC Sports (via Steve Andress):
Let’s take a look at three horses that were hurt from extremely unfavorable draws and break down their odds of winning the Run for the Roses.
No. 1 Black Onyx
Black Onyx will be at a serious disadvantage with the inside position this year. Despite its historically strong production, the No. 1 position hasn’t yielded a winner since 1986, with most of the victories from the position coming before the Kentucky Derby field was expanded.
To make matters worse, Black Onyx also tends to run off the pace and make a late close—something the colt will struggle to do in the inside lane against some incredibly strong horses at Churchill Downs. Flanked by Oxbow with Revolutionary two lanes away, Black Onyx should be considered a serious long shot to earn a victory next to the rail.
It’s no surprise the three-year-old colt is listed at 50-1 following the draw. While those odds may be tempting for a long shot and a big payout, there’s no reason to count on Black Onyx to turn in a miracle finish May 4.
No. 3 Revolutionary
Like Black Onyx, Revolutionary likes to come off the pace to close out races. And like its counterpart, Revolutionary will have a hard time doing so from the No. 3 position.
The Kelly Breen-trained horse still has 10-1 odds of winning this year, but those odds could have been much more favorable with a better draw. It’s not the rail, but the No. 3 position will be difficult on a horse that has shown a propensity for late-race heroics.
Orb, Verrazano and Goldencents joined Revolutionary as early favorites to win the first leg of the Triple Crown this year. Given Revolutionary’s draw, it’s no surprise all three colts are favored ahead of it.
Even at 10-1, Revolutionary still has favorable enough odds to risk a wager, but don’t overlook the significance of the No. 3 position: Of the first four positions, No. 3 has produced the fewest winners (eight) in the history of the race.
No. 18 Frac Daddy
In a similar case of a draw that doesn’t favor a challenger’s running style, Frac Daddy was awarded the No. 18 position—a spot that will put the sprinter at a disadvantage late in the race.
Expected to potentially pace the field in the Derby, Frac Daddy now faces a serious disadvantage on the outside. A draw at No. 19 or No. 20 would have been much worse, but there’s still reason to worry about the colt’s chances in this race.
While the Kenny McPeek-trained colt wasn’t exactly a favorite prior to the draw, current odds reflect its misfortunes. At 50-1, Frac Daddy shares the honors of worst odds with Black Onyx, Golden Soul, Falling Sky and Giant Finish.