Post positions were drawn late this afternoon for the 141st Kentucky Derby to be run Saturday, May 2 with a post time of 6:34 p.m.,EDT.
Let’s get right to the bottom line of who got which post.
1.Ocho Ocho Ocho
I don’t think in recent memory, I’ve found sitting through a post position draw to be such a tense experience. This one was, especially since it appeared that the first 10 posts determined, for the most part, went to horses with the least chance to win. The only serious contender, in my opinion, to be drawn in the first 10 horses assigned a position was Frosted (15). Keep in mind, these are random pairings of horse and post. Still, at the end of the first half of the draw, the dreaded 1-2-3 posts were still open, and Carpe Diem, American Pharoah, Dortmund, and Mubtaahij were still awaiting a post draw. You can see from above how that ended up.
Generally, drawing Posts 1, 2, or 3 is not necessarily a bad thing, and often can be advantageous. But not in a 20-horse field (the ONLY 20-horse field for any American horse race all year to my knowledge; more on that in a bit). In a 20-horse field, posts 1-2-3 are about the kiss of death for any chance in winning the race. Why? As the gates open, it’s a run and rush to attempt to get as near the rail and not hung out wide before the first turn. So while it would seem those first three spots would be advantageous, in reality it requires a horse coming out of those spots not only to press (and use energy better used/needed in the final quarter mile of the race) to secure position and not get pinched off, battle off (literally physically some days) other colts jostling for the same spot(s), AND the horse breaking from the rail, is nearly looking at running into the rail pretty quickly out of the gate, if the rider isn’t careful. It’s just bad luck to end up in 1, 2 or 3 in the Kentucky Derby.
So what do the post positions mean for the five horses I think are the best in the race?
Carpe Diem I think loses all chance to win from Post 2. I hate it, as he’s been training beautifully and is an extremely talent colt. I simply think it’ll be too much for him to overcome. Further, Carpe Diem can be a handful in the stabling area, warm up, and being loaded in the gate. This post does not play well to those issues. If the massive crowd has revved him up (look to see if he’s prancing, otherwise looking nervous/acting out, and/or sweating profusely) his race could be over before it begins.
American Pharoah’s draw into Post 18 isn’t ideal, but I’d FAR prefer him there to further in. Here, Victor Espinoza can keep him out of early trouble in terms of traffic and bumping for position. He showed in the Arkansas Derby he can rate; this post shouldn’t compromise him much if at all. Meanwhile, American Pharoah has continued to DAZZLE during his works at Churchill Downs. His final major work April 26 was basically perfection. Not only was it the bullet move of the day, but it has received nothing but rave reviews from all. He worked exactly as you’d want any horse to perform. And he will likely be the post-time favorite.
Undefeated Dortmund drew well into Post 8. Being the massive (17 hands) animal he is, it is likely he can handle himself in any traffic crush. He’s already had some racing luck as Post 1 was still open when his name was pulled. Dortmund has continued to train forwardly; however, there has been some talk that he didn’t school well in the paddock at Churchill Downs. I’m not going to lose a lot of sleep over that point as he’s already raced and won at Churchill. Additionally, trainer Bob Baffert apparently thinks he handles the Churchill track better than Santa Anita where the bulk of his victories have come.
My “Mystery Horse,” UAE Derby winner Mubtaahij drew Post 6. His trainer Mike de Kock had wanted posts 7 or 8 so he should be relatively pleased. Still hard to say what we’re going to get from Mubtaahij. He’s been highly successful and won with great ease in his races overseas. But to participate in the Derby, not only has he had to travel a great distance, he did lose weight (not unusual) when he arrived stateside, had to change feed, did not train at Churchill (he was stabled and training at Arlington Park in Illinois), and had a new groom. A LOT of changes for an animal that is a member of a species that thrives on routine. By all accounts he’s put the weight back on and is training well. He’s either going to live up to his reputation (and then some by overcoming all of the above) or he’s going tho flounder badly. Impossible to say, but based on his accomplishments, he can’t/shouldn’t be disregarded.
And then there is Frosted in Post 15. His turnaround in the Wood Memorial was truly impressive and showed a horse on the improve AND finally meeting expectations. Simply put, he could be coming around at exactly the right time.
Those are the horses I feel have the best shot to win the race. Other horses you might want to consider are Danzig Moon (improving), Keen Ice (a closer), and El Kabeir (a steady performer). Materiality I like, but drawing Post 3 and this being just his fourth start, I think he’s now too compromised by both of those factors. Upstart (who was ailing just a bit in my last post is fine and that was a one-day hiccup), but Post 19 does him NO favors.
My pick remains American Pharoah. He appears to be a once in a lifetime kind of horse. And I’ll go on record now and say because I am so smitten by him I will be crushed if he doesn’t win. For what that’s worth.
But it IS the Kentucky Derby, and anything can, and often does happen–think Mind That Bird and Giacomo. So I always encourage anyone to back the horse they like or even just have a feeling about. Whether it’s the color of the silks or the horse or the name or even the post number, go for it! That’s the real fun of any horse race, especially America’s most famous!
One final thought. Again, in my opinion, there is one thing that could make the Kentucky Derby better and I’ve said it for years–limit the field to 14 horses, just as the Breeders’ Cup and most other major stakes races do. It’s fairer to the horses and riders and safer for all involved. I’ll close with a quote that addresses this point by two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Carl Nafzger (Unbridled-1990 and Street Sense 2007) from the April 25, 2015 edition of The Blood Horse: “The trouble with the Triple Crown is that too many people run [a horse] in the Kentucky Derby that don’t belong in it. If they want to help the Kentucky Derby, forget the point system and make it a 14-horse field. Basically, there’s about eight [horses] every year that belong in the Kentucky Derby.” Amen! This year is no exception.
Safe run for all horses and riders!! Enjoy!!!