In the days leading up to the 137th Kentucky Derby, much was made about each horse’s victories, running styles, connections, and even the weather in Kentucky. However, one factor that sometimes can get overlooked is the post positions.
For Archarcharch and Soldat, the random post position draw proved especially costly.
For Archarcharch, his run for the roses hit a roadblock the second the post positions were drawn. He landed the 1 post, which meant he was closest to the rail and had no room for error. Looking into his past races, it was clear that the 1 post was not his ideal spot.
In contrast to other horses, Archarcharch does not thrive riding next to the rail. His two major wins in Arkansas Derby and Southwest Stakes came after wide finishes on the final turn as he came around horses and stormed down the middle of the track for the win.
His major prep loss came in the Rebel Stakes when he drew the rail in a field of nine. He never appeared comfortable and was not able to make that final move towards the end to take the lead.
Saturday’s struggles on the rail proved no different.
Archarcharch got beat to the front by Twice the Appeal, and from there had nowhere to go. Not only that, but he had to endure dirt in his face essentially the whole trip. It is no wonder then that his best position during was race 15th place.
While it is obviously impossible to tell whether Archarcharch could have won this race (and he did end up injuring himself on the final stretch), his starting position sure did nothing to help him.
Soldat’s story is a little different. Soldat is a horse that likes to take the lead and thrives from being inside and ahead of horses from the start. In his major loss in the Florida Derby, he got stuck behind To Honor and Serve and never looked threatening.
Thus, when Soldat drew the 17 post, there were mixed reactions from fans. Some were worried if he would be able to take the lead from such an outside post. Others were pleased because from the 17 post, it was unlikely that Soldat would get boxed in by the others horses.
It was clear by the first turn that this running of the Kentucky Derby would not be Soldat’s day.
Shackleford and Comma To the Top both got out to strong leads, and Soldat was forced to enter the turn outside of these horses. While Shackleford was able to sustain the lead at least through the final turn, Soldat was exhausted and was never a serious threat after the first turn.
While Soldat should have been able to stay atop the lead with the slower fractions set by Shackleford, it was clear that he wasn’t running very strong from the outside.
These two efforts showed that post positions, especially in a field as big at the Kentucky Derby, really do affect a horse’s performance. While nothing in horse racing is guaranteed, post position really should be considered as much as other factors in a race, such as distance or surface.