A win or a loss in horse racing can often be decided by the post position, and that's no different as we head into the 2014 Belmont Stakes on Saturday.
A great horse can be at a disadvantage if given a tough draw at Belmont. Some positions have hosted multiple winners over the race's history, while some positions haven't hosted many winners at all.
While each horse-jockey duo in the field will look past the history of the race's best and worst slots, all the owners and trainers are well aware of the numbers. They'll hope for the best in the draw on June 4.
California Chrome has been the best horse in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Jockey Victor Espinoza has shown that he is one of the best in the business during these past two races. Rest assured that he'll make sure that Chrome is in the running for first place no matter where the duo starts.
We all know the implications. Chrome can be the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. But will his starting position end up hurting his pursuit of history?
Post Position History (Since 1905)
Historically, horses starting in the No. 1 position have been largely successful. Those horses have won 23 times since 1905—by far the most of any position. The worst positions are Nos. 9, 10 and 11. Only eight horses combined have won from those three positions.
Chrome should be just fine from any position on the field, however.
Espinoza runs this horse brilliantly. Both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes were perfect examples of how a jockey should race a horse—especially one as talented as Chrome.
Out of the gate, Espinoza holds Chrome back. This allows him to get right behind the lead group and right in front of the trailing group. As the race progresses, the space between the two groups naturally grows.
With no other horses around Chrome in the middle of the race, Espinoza kicks the colt into another gear. Chrome then passes the horses in front of him and maintains this sprinting speed for the remainder of the race.
This is what allowed him to win at Churchill Downs by a wide margin. It's also what allowed him to hold off the competition in a much closer win at Pimlico.
A starting post position in one of the "weaker" positions shouldn't really impact Chrome's pursuit of the Triple Crown. He and Espinoza have run this strategy effectively for two major races in a row. Repeating it a third time shouldn't prove to be too difficult.
Luckily for Espinoza, Chrome is running very well in pre-race workouts. David Grening and Mike Welsch of Daily Racing Form tweeted about his success in said workouts:
After schooling in paddock, California Chrome galloped a tad more than 2 miles, picking it up the last 1-2-mile or so. Just like always— David Grening (@DRFGrening) May 29, 2014
California Chrome looks super in final Belmont prep cruises 4F in :47.47 with monster gallop out, :59.59, 1:12.76, 1:26.34 up mile 1:40.92— Mike Welsch (@DRFWelsch) May 31, 2014
Chrome is one of the top horses we have seen in several years. While a bad post position might hurt a horse of a lesser caliber, it shouldn't have much of an impact on Chrome.