The Kentucky Derby post position draw is a war of attrition.
It is more about avoiding a loss or devastating blow than actually gaining much momentum with a favorable post. Sure, there are spots in the middle that are statistically better than outside positions, but trainers and jockeys are really just concerned with avoiding the rails than anything else.
That dreaded No. 1 post went to Ocho Ocho Ocho, who was already one of the long shots before Lady Luck dealt a bad hand. The last horse to win from the No. 1 post was Ferdinand, and that happened all the way back in 1986. Given recent history, backing Ocho Ocho Ocho probably isn’t the big-money play for bettors.
Here is a look at the post positions and odds for every horse in the race following the draw:
|2015 Kentucky Derby Post Positions|
|1||Ocho Ocho Ocho||Elvis Trujillo||Jim Cassidy||50-1|
|2||Carpe Diem||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||8-1|
|3||Materiality||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||12-1|
|4||Tencendur||Manny Franco||George Weaver||30-1|
|5||Danzig Moon||Julien Leparoux||Mark Casse||30-1|
|6||Mubtaahij||Christophe Soumillon||Mike de Kock||20-1|
|7||El Kabeir||Calvin Borel||John Terranova II||30-1|
|8||Dortmund||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||3-1|
|9||Bolo||Rafael Bejarano||Carla Gaines||30-1|
|10||Firing Line||Gary Stevens||Simon Callaghan||12-1|
|11||Stanford||Florent Geroux||Todd Pletcher||30-1|
|12||International Star||Miguel Mena||Mike Maker||20-1|
|13||Itsaknockout||Luis Saez||Todd Pletcher||30-1|
|14||Keen Ice||Kent Desormeaux||Dale Romans||50-1|
|15||Frosted||Joel Rosario||Kiaran McLaughlin||15-1|
|16||War Story||Joe Talamo||Tom Amoss||50-1|
|17||Mr. Z||Ramon Vazquez||D. Wayne Lukas||50-1|
|18||American Pharoah||Victor Espinoza||Bob Baffert||5-2|
|19||Upstart||Jose Ortiz||Rick Violette Jr.||15-1|
|20||Far Right||Mike Smith||Ron Moquett||30-1|
One person who was likely thrilled his horses avoided the dreaded No. 1 post was trainer Bob Baffert.
He brings American Pharoah and Dortmund to Churchill Downs, which are the two horses with the best odds heading into the Derby. Baffert has three Kentucky Derby victories on his illustrious resume, and it is not difficult to envision a fourth this year with these dominant horses.
Baffert understands how important it was to avoid that No. 1 post because of recent experience. He had the pre-race favorite in 2010 in the form of Lookin At Lucky, but the horse drew the inside rail and finished in sixth place. Naturally, Lookin At Lucky went on to win the Preakness two weeks later with a more favorable starting spot.
Baffert avoided that fate Wednesday and isn’t going to complain about Dortmund’s No. 8 post.
The muscular horse will start from an ideal position near the middle, which will allow him to navigate his way to either the outside or inside, depending on how the race unfolds. The undefeated Dortmund doesn’t have to fear falling behind on the outside or getting pinned against the rails from the start with the No. 8 position.
As for the favored American Pharoah, he drew the No. 18 post. That may not seem like the best draw at first glance, but plenty in the horse’s camp were thrilled, per Toni Konz of WDRB News and Scott Utterback of The Courier-Journal:
American Pharoah has won his last four races by more than 22 lengths and is known for quick bursts out of the gate to establish tempo. By the time of the stretch run, most of his races are already well in hand. From the outside at No. 18, there will be less traffic to navigate in the early going on the way to building that lead.
Baffert discussed his mindset leading up to Saturday with such dominant horses, per Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports: "Right now, we just have to contain ourselves, the excitement [of] coming in here with two good horses. It's going to be a long week. Hopefully, it will go quickly."
Outside of the two most notable horses, Mr. Z drew the cursed No. 17 post. While he is a long shot regardless, it is worth pointing out that no horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby from that starting position.
Eight horses have won from the feared No. 1 spot.
Historically, the best positions are the No. 5 and No. 10 posts. Both starting spots have produced nine winners each, which is the most in the history of the Derby. Danzig drew the No. 5 post, and Firing Line drew the No. 10 post.
Interestingly, neither was mentioned among the top-notch favorites leading up to Wednesday’s post position draw, but the results immediately bolstered their chances. The No. 5 post is far enough from the rails to avoid any serious issues early but close enough to the inside to cut off some challengers, while the No. 10 spot avoids the troubles that come with the outside and inside simply by being in the middle of the pack.
While the starting positions are certainly notable, the fact that American Pharoah and Dortmund avoided the less-than-ideal posts is what really mattered Wednesday. Their dominance will be on full display during the Derby, especially since the outside factor of starting position is no longer as much of a concern.
Prediction: American Pharoah wins with Dortmund holding off the rest of the field for second place. Carpe Diem will make a late push despite starting on the inside from the No. 2 post to claim third place.
Information regarding the records of various post positions is courtesy of KentuckyDerby.com.