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Kentucky Derby 2014 Post Positions: Odds and Predictions for Every Horse

Brendan O'MearaFeatured Columnist IIIDecember 9, 2016

Kentucky Derby 2014 Post Positions: Odds and Predictions for Every Horse

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    Associated Press

    Not all post positions are created equal. 

    After so much uncertainty, all the luck, all the miles, all the talent that got 20 horses to this point, it's a matter of luck, once again, to see where they get slotted. As a result, it will be yet another hurdle for some horses and a stacked deck for others.

    Trainers used to have their choice of post position based on a lottery system, but now it's a double-blind draw. The name and a number are drawn, and that's where the horse breaks. 

    Whoever draws Post 10 will garner the winningest post with 11.7 percent of all victories. Post 8 has a win percentage of 9.6, and Post 1 is at 9.5. Now that all the horses have a designated spot from which to break, it's on us to make sense of it.

    Read on to find out the morning-line odds, as calculated by Mike Battaglia, the post positions, who got lucky and who got Post 17 (the only post with no winner to date). So, so sorry, Commanding Curve.

    All quotes (unless otherwise noted) and statistics for post positions were drawn from Kentucky Derby.com and reflect all races in the starting gate era beginning in 1930. 

Post 1: Vicar's in Trouble

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    Garry Jones/Associated Press

    Morning-Line Odds: 30-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 9.5

    Prediction: 14th

    The irony of this colt's name and the post position he drew should be lost no one. He is, indeed, in trouble from Post 1. 

    Rosie Napravnik, VIT's jockey, will have no choice but to hustle him fast from that spot. If you draw a straight line from Post 1 out to the track, you'd run smack into the fence. 

    Harry's Holiday is to the immediate right of them, and he can show early speed as well. Napravnik will have to decide quickly whether she should hustle out or let Harry's Holiday get the jump so she can shuffle in behind him. 

    It's an uneviable position to be in for a horse who already has a mountain to climb. Trainer Mike Maker said:

    I know we didn't have much choice, but I don't have to walk too far to saddle the horses, and maybe our riders will be friendly and give each other enough space. Hopefully, we get a good break out of Vicar like we usually do, and we get a good position pretty early.

    And, Post 1 and Post 11 load first come post time. That means they'll be sitting the gate longer than anyone else. The horse can get flat-footed and not break as well, which would be unlucky for the Vicar's in Trouble. 

Post 2: Harry's Holiday

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Morning-Line Odds: 50-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 8.3

    Prediction: 19th

    There wasn't a whole lot to like about Harry's Holiday before the post draw, and now there's even less to like. Harry's Holiday finished second in the Spiral Stakes to We Miss Artie (refer to We Miss Artie's slide to find out why this is a terrible, terrible thing.) 

    Harry's Holiday did show some speed while breaking from the outside in the Spiral, and he's going to need some of that early zip so as not to get pinned down deep. He'll have Vicar's in Trouble to his left jockeying for position, so he's going to burn a lot of energy in that opening quarter-mile just to get breathing room and comfort. 

    Trainer Mike Maker can't be too happy with this draw.

Post 3: Uncle Sigh

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Morning-Line Odds: 30-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 6.0

    Prediction: Sixth

    At odds of 30-1, Uncle Sigh presents some value. He drilled five furlongs in 1:00.18 at Belmont Park, so he's very fit for trainer Gary Contessa. 

    Uncle Sigh never had a chance in the Wood Memorial when he was left at the gate at the break. He was forced to hustle up from there and never quite got into contention. He ran on well to finish fifth. Draw a line through that race.

    It'll be interesting to see where he places himself in the early going. Posts 1-6 all have horses that show some zip, so it could be a war heading into that first turn for them.

    "I'm not unhappy with that," Contessa said. "He breaks well. I think he's faster than the horses inside of him. This gives him an opportunity to get position, maybe even get to the rail in the second flight. I love that position."

Post 4: Danza

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Morning-Line Odds: 10-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 6.0

    Prediction: Ninth

    Danza showed his grit and class the way he won the Arkansas Derby. He tracked the pace then shot up a seam on the fence and accelerated away from his rivals. 

    The horses to his left may be eager to get clear of the rail. If that's the case, he'd be happy to let them get ahead and sit behind them and draft. The last horse to win the Derby from Post 4 was Super Saver, a colt trained by Todd Pletcher. Danza's trainer? Pletcher.

    "Good spot for him," said Pletcher. "He won the Arkansas Derby out of the No. 1 hole. He's fine with being on the inside."

    His odds seem about right for a horse that probably won't finish any higher than ninth.

Post 5: California Chrome

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    Garry Jones/Associated Press

    Morning-Line Odds: 5-2

    Post Position Win Percentage: 9.5

    Prediction: First

    Post 5 is great for the heavy favorite. The last horses to win from Post 5 were Funny Cide in 2003 and War Emblem in 2002. He should be able to bounce right out and find a good stalking position a few paths off the fence. 

    His jockey, Victor Espinoza, can read the race and step on the gas when he needs to. Art Sherman, CC's trainer, has been so confident with this horse. He praises CC's ability to be cool and laid back, all things that will be incredibly valuable in the most stressful race on the calendar. 

    Yet another star aligning for these connections is Espinoza. He won the Derby aboard War Emblem breaking from Post 5. The parallels are a tad eerie.

    "I like it fine," Art Sherman, CC's trainer, said. "Victor says he likes it. Says he won the Kentucky Derby from the five (on War Emblem in 2002). I'm happy and I feel no pressure."

    Other horses will be eager for the lead and CC will be happy to let them have it. He's Big Brown to this year's crop, meaning he's simply that much better than his rivals. Assuming he breaks well, he's the one to beat, not to mention the heaviest favorite since Big Brown in 2008.

Post 6: Samraat

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    Morning-Line Odds: 15-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 2.4

    Prediction: Third

    Samraat lost his only race in the Wood Memorial, but was game to finish second. He's one of those horses that you know will run a great race no matter what. You can't say that for many. Samraat is predictably solid. Whether that will be enough on Saturday is the big question.

    He can show some early speed, but he's going to face some pressure from just about every horse to his left. Rick Violette, his trainer, loved the draw.

    I think it is a terrific spot. I think you just have to try to break clean and go straight and size things up past the wire for the first time. The speed is inside of us and we have tactical speed. I don't think there's a downside to it.

    This is prime real estate for his running style, and he could do something special with the favorite to his immediate left. With most of the early action happening within his orbit, he may be primed to make a big run at the end. 

Post 7: We Miss Artie

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    Morning-Line Odds: 50-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 7.2

    Prediction: 20th

    Todd Pletcher said it best when We Miss Artie came back from his uninspired training effort on Sunday.

    "I wasn't that happy with his effort," Pletcher said, per Ed McNamara of Newsday. "I just expected more, and I'm not sure We Miss Artie should be running in the Derby."

    Oof.

    Pletcher is usually closed-mouthed about his horses. There's always a fine line to walk because in criticizing the horse, the owner is indirectly criticized. In this case it's Kenneth Ramsey. We Miss Artie gets a great draw. Too bad it's a waste. It would've been great to see a horse with a shot get Post 7, but we don't choose these things.

     

Post 8: General a Rod

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    Garry Jones/Associated Press

    Morning-Line Odds: 15-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 9.6

    Prediction: Fifth

    Mike Maker loves him some Post 8 for General a Rod. This late-running colt should get the trip of lifetime on Saturday. Six of the seven horses to his left have speed, which will allow him a chance to easily coast over to the rail and save ground. 

    It's such an ideal spot that many of the other closers like Ride On Curlin and Wicked Strong have to be jealous. That's assuming horses can feel jealousy, which, let's face it, they can. If dolphins can cry, then horses can get green-eyed. 

    The pace will be hot and set up perfectly for this son of Roman Ruler.

Post 9: Vinceremos

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    Morning-Line Odds: 30-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 5.0

    Prediction: 17th

    His odds of 30-1 are a bit perplexing. He was in the Tampa Bay Derby then finished dead last in the Blue Grass Stakes. Chalk that last effort to the Polytrack, but last? That's a disconcerting try just three weeks ago.

    Todd Pletcher, trainer to Vinceremos, loves the post position, but, honestly, that's about the only thing to love about this horse heading into the Derby.

    Like many horses, he'll be mid-pack and probably stay there and end up jogging home when he falls out of contention.

    Vinceremos is one of four horses Pletcher will saddle on Saturday. These horses are among the 40 in Pletcher's Derby Fraternity. His horses don't run particularly well, however, and Vinceremos is just like the rest. 

    Pletcher's best shot may just be Post 16, but we'll get there soon enough.

Post 10: Wildcat Red

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    Morning-Line Odds: 15-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 11.7

    Prediction: 13th

    As Jose Garoffalo sees it, he's worried about two horses and they're to his left. His horse, Wildcat Red, breaks from the dead center of the herd and can see it all unfold before him.

    "We're very happy with the draw," Garoffalo said. "I think it's a very good position. The good thing is that we have two of the tough horses inside of us. We have General a Rod inside of us and California Chrome inside of us. That's a good thing."

    Trainers have a knack for who's going to run big, and for Garoffalo to come out and say who those two horses are says something. He's had quite a bit of experience butting heads with General a Rod, besting him in the Fountain of Youth. 

    Wildcat Red's only challenge is finding his comfort zone with so much of the speed to his left, but that shouldn't be too much of an issue for this talented colt, and that win percentage from Post 10 is awful good.

Post 11: Hoppertunity

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Morning-Line Odds: 6-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 2.7

    Prediction: 10th

    Odds of 6-1 are usually good enough to be the morning-line favorite, but not this year. Hoppertunity is the only horse to get within a whiff of California Chrome, so he's a deserving second choice. 

    He draws Post 11, which has the same drawback as Post 1: the long wait. Both load at the same time so they'll be sitting in there the longest. Trainer Bob Baffert said

    I'm happy with the way the horses are training and that's more important. The only disadvantage is that Hoppertunity is going to have to wait in the gate for a long time, but I'd rather wait in the 11-hole than wait in the one-hole. I think he's second choice because he's gotten the closest to California Chrome this year.

    Hoppertunity has run well just about everywhere, and he proved his versatility by training very well in the slop Monday morning. Versatility is a great weapon to have heading into the chaos of a 20-horse field. Jockey Mike Smith should run a big one aboard this colt.

Post 12: Dance With Fate

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Morning-Line Odds: 20-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 4.3 

    Prediction: Seventh

    Dance With Fate is hard to gauge. He won the Blue Grass Stakes, but that was on Polytrack. Then he was scheduled to breeze on the turf at Santa Anita, but rain moved that work to the dirt where he ran a scorching 47-second half-mile. He's your classic overthink horse. One minute you can be on him, the next, totally off.

    "There is a lot of speed to the inside of us rather than outside and that should give us a good chance to pick a spot," said Peter Eurton, Dance With Fate's trainer.

    Just like Eurton said, Dance With Fate will be able to let the speed horses slot themselves and let his colt fall into the third flight of horses where he can save ground and make one run late in the race.

Post 13: Chitu

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    Garry Jones/Associated Press

    Morning-Line Odds: 20-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 6.0

    Prediction: 12th

    Chitu is the swift winner of the Sunland Derby and tough to gauge as well breaking from Post 13. He could be a surprise horse on the lead or he can try to rate alongside the likes of California Chrome and Intense Holiday. Even his trainer, Bob Baffert, doesn't know what to expect:

    You don't know what's going to happen. The speed horses, you don't know who's going to break, who's going to go, what if the pace isn't fast? What if it's a War Emblem pace and they keep going? I think nobody knows We're all assuming a lot of stuff but, this Derby, aside from that California Chrome has proven he's a really good horse, there's a lot of horses in there that are pretty close. There's a lot of parity in this field so that's why we have 20 horses, because everybody might have a chance. He's fast. Martin Garcia thinks he can do it so he's real confident about the horse.

    If Chitu (or Hoppertunity) wins the Derby, it will be Baffert's fourth, tying his rival D. Wayne Lukas for second all time. Baffert's solidified himself as one of the great dirt trainers in the game, and a fourth Derby would only add to his incredible career.

Post 14: Medal Count

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    Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

    Morning-Line Odds: 20-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 3.4

    Prediction: 11th

    Medal Count gets a little breathing room drawing Post 14. That's the last slot in the main starting gate. The auxiliary gate starts at Post 15, and there's a small gap that buys him some extra dirt.

    Medal Count is a one-run horse making a huge bid from the back of the pack. He did it in the Blue Grass Stakes where he was runner-up to Dance With Fate, and he'll try it here. Trainer Dale Romans likes the spot:

    That's a good spot. That's where, last week when we were talking about it, Robby (Albarado) said he'd like to be the last one in the main gate and that's where he is. It doesn't matter because we're going to drop back and make one run. I just want my jock happy and he was happy with it.

    Medal Count is going to one of several horses doing his running late, but there are others that appear to be better and will finish faster.

Post 15: Tapiture

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Morning-Line Odds: 15-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 7.7

    Prediction: 18th

    After winning the Southwest Stakes, Tapiture has been spiraling downward. He finished second in the Rebel Stakes then fourth in the Arkansas Derby. He's raced steadily every four weeks or so, and now he's on three weeks' rest and probably needs a break. But here we are.

    "I think it's ideal for us right now," trainer Steve Asmussen said. "The way that the draw unfolded, so much speed to the inner 10, it's every chance we've ever wanted."

    Tapiture, a son of Tapit, has stamina in his blood, but he's outmatched here.

Post 16: Intense Holiday

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    Garry Jones/Associated Press

    Morning-Line Odds: 12-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 9.5

    Prediction: Eighth

    Intense Holiday garnered much of his attention from the way he worked on Sunday. It drew praise from Pletcher, who is usually tight-lipped in matters of the horse. Pletcher is a mastermind, and when he gave praise to this colt, people took notice.

    He also drilled with We Miss Artie, who would've made Shrek's donkey look like Smarty Jones on that morning.

    Still, there's always that one horse that takes off on Churchill's dirt like they're running over a conveyor belt—and Intense Holiday could be that horse for Pletcher. Breaking from Post 16 gives him a good chance to slide in and stalk the pace. 

    He could be very dangerous and has to be respected. Double-digit odds on this colt sound awfully nice.

Post 17: Commanding Curve

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    Garry Jones/Associated Press

    Morning-Line Odds: 50-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 0

    Prediction: 16th

    No horse has ever won from Post 17...then you throw a horse that squeaked into the Derby because of the late defection of Ring Weekend and, horse players, you have a recipe for a nonfactor. Tastes like chicken.

    Commanding Curve merited only 20 points in the run-up to the Derby by finishing third to Vicar's in Trouble in the Louisiana Derby. It's hard to back him, but Dallas Stewart, his trainer, saddled Golden Soul to second place in the Derby a year ago, so he knows a thing or two about getting them cranked on Derby Day.

    "It's great for us," Stewart said. "All the speed's inside. I didn't think the post position was a major, major factor for us. It's all good. We'll find out. I didn't want the inside. I didn't want the direct outside."

Post 18: Candy Boy

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    Morning-Line Odds: 20-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 3.7

    Prediction: 15th

    Candy Boy can say he ran against California Chrome and lived to talk about it. He's a bit of stalker, too. That could play to his strength even though he's breaking from Post 18, where the last horse to win was Gato Del Sol in 1982. 

    He runs the risk of getting strung out wide heading into the clubhouse turn. He'll likely be forced to the back of the field. He doesn't want to be there and will subsequently take on a ton of dirt. Either way, he's in for some trouble.

Post 19: Ride On Curlin

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    Morning-Line Odds: 15-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 4.3

    Prediction: Fourth

    If you were lukewarm on Ride On Curlin, just listen to Calvin Borel, his jockey, talk about him. He says he's tough, mean and rude. For a horse that's going to war down on the fence, what better personality can you ask for? The problem is that Borel is a long way from the rail. But with Candy Boy to his left and Intense Holiday two doors over, he should be able to fall out and coast over.

    Ride On Curlin's owner, Daniel Dougherty, said:

    The way they angle these gates, I told Billy (trainer Billy Gowan), from the last few races, that the winners have been coming from that last gate. And the way it lined up, all the come-from-behind horses are in the second gate more than the first gate. So we can kind of gauge ourselves where we need to be with that group of horses and not worry so much about the front-runners. I didn't want to get stuck in 2 or 3 or 4 with these front-runners. That's not the pack we want to be in.

    A year ago, Orb won from Post 15 and closed from way off the pace. Post 19 isn't too far from that. One thing is for sure: Borel will take the shortest trip around the oval with this colt. 

    Derby win No. 4 could be in the cards for Borel.

Post 20: Wicked Strong

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    Morning-Line Odds: 8-1

    Post Position Win Percentage: 7.1

    Prediction: Second

    Wicked Strong got hosed by drawing the far outside, but as trainer Jimmy Jerkens said, it might not be the worst-case scenario:

    It might be that speed is quick and they get to rolling in a clump and he can draft in behind them and it'll work out OK. The one positive is that he's not in the gate very long. I'm trying to convince myself that it's not a bad post, but I don't know if I can.

    Jerkens is right on the money. All the speed could clump up. He can let them worry about where they're going to position themselves while his colt slides right in behind them. Had he drawn better, he'd get a much higher grade, but that's the luck of it (or not).

    Wicked Strong may not place well in the Derby, but watch out for him in the Belmont Stakes in five weeks.

    Follow Brendan on Twitter @BrendanOMeara.

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