While the anticipation for the Kentucky Derby begins to build long before race day itself, the draw for the post positions kicks the excitement up another level.
Those involved in Saturday's Run for the Roses will discover what trap they'll be in on Wednesday. And while the showpiece event at Churchill Downs is notorious for its unpredictability, the deciding of the posts has proved to be crucial in determining the winner.
It means Wednesday's event is almost a spectacle in itself. Here's all the information you need on where to catch the draw, the expected field for this year's Derby and a look ahead to the race.
|2017 Kentucky Derby: Field|
|1||Girvin||Mike E. Smith||Joe Sharp|
|2||Classic Empire||Julien R. Leparoux||Mark E. Casse|
|3||Gormley||N/A||John A. Shirreffs|
|4||Irap||Mario Gutierrez||Doug F. O'Neill|
|5||Irish War Cry||Rajiv Maragh||H. Graham Motion|
|6||Thunder Snow||Christophe Soumillon||Saeed bin Suroor|
|7||Always Dreaming||John R. Velazquez||Todd A. Pletcher|
|8||Gunnevera||Javier Castellano||Antonio Sano|
|9||Practical Joke||Joel Rosario||Chad C. Brown|
|10||J Boys Echo||Robby Albarado||Dale L. Romans|
|11||State of Honor||Jose Lezcano||Mark E. Casse|
|12||Tapwrit||Jose L. Ortiz||Todd A. Pletcher|
|13||Hence||N/A||Steven M. Asmussen|
|14||Fast and Accurate||N/A||Michael J. Maker|
|15||McCracken||Brian Joseph Hernandez Jr.||Ian R. Wilkes|
|16||Battle of Midway||Flavien Prat||Jerry Hollendorfer|
|17||Patch||N/A||Todd A. Pletcher|
|18||Untrapped||N/A||Steven M. Asmussen|
|19||Lookin at Lee||N/A||Steven M. Asmussen|
|20||Sonneteer||J. Keith Desormeaux||Kent J. Desormeaux|
The post positions draw will be broadcast on NBC Sports on Wednesday from 11 a.m. (ET) and is available to stream via the NBC Sports App. Full schedule details are available on the Kentucky Derby website.
The draw is always a nervous time for trainers and jockeys involved in the Derby, with all concerned hoping to avoid one post number in particular—No. 1.
With 19 other horses driving toward the rail, the inside is not an enjoyable place to be for the horse or the jockey. It's no surprise, therefore, that the last winner of the Derby from the inside trap came 31 years ago, with Ferdinand galloping to victory in 1986.
Here's a reminder of how he did it:
Indeed, the No. 2 slot hasn't been favourable to runners either. The last horse to emerge from that spot and clinch the first leg of the Triple Crown was Affirmed, back in 1978.
Needless to say, a spot in the middle is desirable. Post 20 may not be quite as terrifying an experience for riders as being squashed up on the inside, although the only winner from the extreme outside is Big Brown in 2008.
Last year, Nyquist won from the 13th post, becoming the fifth horse to triumph from there since 1990. The most prosperous slots since 1930 have been No. 5, with the legendary California Chrome the last winner from there in 2014, and No. 10, with each yielding nine champions in total.
Hoping for a favourable draw will be Mark E. Casse, who is the trainer of early race favourite Classic Empire. Per horse racing journalist Robert Yates, he's seeking to follow in the footsteps of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah:
Robert Yates @RobertYates1982
Classic Empire trying to become 3rd @OaklawnRacing Ark. Derby winner to capture Ky. Derby off two preps at 3 (Sunny's Halo-'83; Pharoah-'15) https://t.co/weCacfNlSK2017-4-25 19:23:28
Should Classic Empire be allotted one of those inside slots, his odds could quickly rise. Especially with competition like Always Dreaming at the top of the betting market.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, the colt has looked in excellent form this year and ran tremendously at the Grade 1 Florida Derby in April. He came home by five lengths ahead of State of Honor and Gunnevera.
There are some lingering doubts about his consistency, though, and he has not been comfortable during preparations, according to Mike Welsch of Daily Racing Form:
Mike Welsch @DRFWelsch
Always Dreaming one of 1st horses on track at 545 still very unsettled galloping especially through stretch and around club turn.2017-4-30 10:24:55
Hoping the two favourites get an undesirable allocation will be some of the horses that are a little bit further down in the betting. Irish War Cry is one, and he has the natural speed to potentially cope with one of the inside posts better than most; Gunnevera, meanwhile, will need to improve on his showing in Florida to get in the mix.
McCraken is an interesting prospect, too. The horse is local to Kentucky and has a perfect record of three wins from three races at Churchill Downs. If he's overcome the knock that hampered him at the Blue Grass Stakes, there's a great chance he'll make an impression on this grand stage.
Facts and figures courtesy of Horse Racing Nation