The road to the 2014 Kentucky Derby is nearing its finale following Wednesday's draw for the post positions.
Before the draw, the top contenders to come out on top at the Run for the Roses were largely known. After the draw, though, fans have a much better idea as to a horse's true chances. A post position can mean everything.
Take, for instance, this year's winner for most tragicomic name: Vicar's In Trouble. He is literally in trouble after the draw. Vicar's In Trouble was on the periphery before getting drawn into post position No. 1, and now his hopes of winning have all but evaporated.
Getting stuck in the first position is essentially a death sentence. While the horse may be able to move up a spot or two as the race goes on, it will take a Herculean effort to get into the lead, no matter the skill of jockey Rosie Napravnik.
Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde wasn't afraid to call it already:
Vicar's In Trouble draws the No. 1 post. Curtains.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) April 30, 2014
The NBC Sports Network broadcast caught Napravnik's face immediately dropping as soon as Vicar's In Trouble was announced first, per Matt Hegarty of Daily Racing Form:
R. Napravnik on crest-fallen reaction to one-hole, caught on camera: "I was just kind of shocked, being the first one called."— Matt Hegarty (@DRFHegarty) April 30, 2014
Although only 20 horses will race in the Derby, 21 horses have officially been entered. Pablo Del Monte will step into the field should any other horse pull out between now and Friday morning:
21 entrants for the #KYDerby, Pablo Del Monte will be the AE and draws in if there is a scratch before 9AM ET Friday.— TVG (@TVG) April 30, 2014
Here's a look at the positions for the Derby, per the NBCSN broadcast.
|1||Vicar's in Trouble||30-1|
|7||We Miss Artie||50-1|
|8||General A Rod||15-1|
|12||Dance With Fate||20-1|
|19||Ride on Curlin||15-1|
Horses to Watch
Ideally, California Chrome would've drawn a spot or two farther away from the rail, but getting the fifth post position isn't terrible. Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden summed it up well:
California chrome draws the 5. Not great, not disastrous. Gonna have to go a little.— Tim Layden (@SITimLayden) April 30, 2014
As the morning odds attest, California Chrome remains the favorite to take home the 2014 Derby. He's the strongest horse in the field and enters Churchill Downs with a ton of momentum. Going back to December 2013, he's won his last four races, including the 2014 Santa Anita Derby.
Victor Espinoza is also a seasoned jockey and has tasted success at the Kentucky Derby before, winning with War Emblem in 2002. He also coincidentally came from the fifth position to earn the victory.
Maybe that's an omen for Saturday.
Getting stuck in the 20th position often spells trouble for even the best horses. That's so far away from the rail that simply getting on the inside takes a ton of effort.
Wicked Strong came into the draw as one of the favorites, but his odds have dropped slightly since he drew the far outside position. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens didn't sugarcoat how disappointed he was Wednesday:
Wicked Strong trainer Jimmy Jerkens on drawing the 20 post: "I'm trying to convince myself that it's not a bad post position."— Tim Layden (@SITimLayden) April 30, 2014
Starting out 20th didn't stop Big Brown from winning, though:
Wicked Strong draws the 20. No problem. He closes and Big Brown won from out there.— Tim Layden (@SITimLayden) April 30, 2014
If a horse is strong enough, he can win from just about any position.
Now, it's up to jockey Rajiv Maragh. He has to ensure that Wicked Strong has enough left in the tank to make a strong final kick, and that he's in a position wherein that final kick can get him in the lead.
If there was a winner of the post positions draw, Hoppertunity was it. He was one of the top contenders heading into Wednesday evening, and his chances arguably improved after drawing the 11th position.
That's one of the real sweet spots. A horse isn't stuck too far on the outside, nor is he too far inside that he can't make a move later in the race.
In five races in 2014, Hoppertunity has two wins and a second-place finish. While that's not a stellar record, he has shown an ability to run great races.
The key for Hoppertunity at the Kentucky Derby will be getting out to an early lead. He's much better when running out in front than having to make a late comeback. Starting out in 11th should allow him to start the race well.