Post position plays a vital role in thoroughbred racing. With an unfavorable draw and bad starting position, winning any race becomes an uphill battle.
Running style and sprinting speed are big factors in which positions a horse can excel. Late closers often prefer an outside post to avoid bunching for a push down the stretch. Similarly, front runners prefer a position close to the rail to make setting the pace a much easier task.
But while starting position has its merits, not every horse is deterred by a bad draw. Good horses and experienced jockeys find a way to win, regardless of positioning.
In this year’s Preakness Stakes field, starting position will be both detrimental and advantageous. The race features just nine horses, meaning conventional wisdom won’t apply to every thoroughbred. Even the No. 1 post (traditionally the kiss of death for Triple Crown hopefuls) may not be as bad this year.
Still, some horses were awarded better draws than others, and their post position will make winning the 138th running of the Preakness a much more likely task. Let’s take a look at three horses with terrific positions and break down their chances of winning at Pimlico on May 28.
|2||Goldencents||Doug O'Neill||Kevin Krigger||8-1|
|3||Titletown Five||D. Wayne Lukas||Julien Leparoux||30-1|
|4||Departing||Albert M. Stall, Jr.||Brian Hernandez, Jr.||6-1|
|5||Mylute||Tom Amoss||Rosie Napravnik||5-1|
|6||Oxbow||D. Wayne Lukas||Gary Stevens||15-1|
|7||Will Take Charge||D. Wayne Lukas||Mike Smith||14-1|
|8||Govenor Charlie||Bob Baffert||Martin Garcia||12-1|
|9||Itsmyluckyday||Eddie Plesa Jr.||John Velazquez||10-1|
*Odds courtesy of KY Derby Contenders Twitter account.
No. 9 Itsmyluckyday
With only nine horses in the field, Itsmyluckyday drew on of the best possible starting positions in the race. There won’t be any pressure from his outside, meaning the colt will have room to make a late move down the stretch.
The Eddie Plesa Jr.-trained thoroughbred has a rare blend of sprinting speed and endurance that allows him to run from nearly any post position on the track. Jockey John Velazquez can choose to keep his horse off the pace or as close to the front of the pack as possible, depending on the pace of the field and the condition of the track.
At the Kentucky Derby, Itsmyluckyday fell victim to Churchill Downs’ sloppy track conditions en route to a 15th-place finish. Don’t expect the same at Pimlico.
In a crowded field, the outside post position isn’t always the best starting spot, but the Preakness field is extremely limited this year. Breaking from the back of the pack for a late-sprint down the stretch shouldn’t be a challenge for the Holy Bull Stakes winner.
No. 7 Will Take Charge
Will Take Charge trainer D. Wayne Lukas doesn’t seem concerned at all with his No. 7 post draw for the Preakness (via PaulickReport.com):
It’s of no consequence out there. That’s good. I don’t think I can make an excuse for any post positions at all. I think I did fine. I’ll have to come with a different alibi tomorrow. I don’t know that the rail’s all that bad or the outside either.
All that said, Lukas may have been trying to contain some of his excitement—or he doesn’t realize the history of the No. 7 post in recent Preakness races.
Three of the last nine Preakness winners have started at the No. 7 gate, including 2010 winner Lookin at Lucky. Big Brown did it in 2008, and in 2004, Smarty Jones emerged from the pack to win at Pimlico from the seventh post.
Even with recent history aside, Will Take Charge has a running style conducive to running just off the pace to close out races down the stretch. He’ll be able to do just that from the No. 7 post.
No. 2 Goldencents
The inside rail is a nightmare draw for most horses at the Preakness (which may prove to be the case this year as well), but the No. 2 starting position shouldn’t be as unfavorable.
Goldencents is the fastest pure sprinter in the field, making his post position the ideal spot from which he can get out to an early lead and avoid bunching next to the rail. If Orb fails to break ahead out of the gate, Goldencents will be in prime position to assume the pace role and cruise to a Preakness victory.
In his first six races, Goldencents either assumed the lead or ran from second from gate to finish. The Kentucky Derby was a bit of an anomaly (17th place), but it’s no secret the colt loves to push the pace and set the tone for his races.
At 8-1, the Doug O’Neill-trained thoroughbred is a big-money option for lucrative wagers. Expect his odds to take a hit as May 18 approaches.