BOZICH | The Truth about the Kentucky Derby Post Position Draw
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Some horsemen argue that post position belongs with pedigree and past performances among handicapping essentials when picking the Kentucky Derby winner.
Trainer Bob Baffert, a three-time Derby winner, said he got so nervous during the pill pull Wednesday evening at Churchill Downs that he was worried one of his heart stents was going to burst.
“I'm just glad it's over,” Baffert said. “I need a hot dog.”
Baffert knows the warning signs:
Avoid the rail, especially post position one.
Stay away from the far outside in the auxiliary gate.
Find a comfortable spot in the middle of the field and go, baby, go.
So on the day that post positions were drawn for Kentucky Derby 141, I ran the numbers on post position and performance from the last 15 Derbies.
Charted it all, looking for hot spots and dead zones. (See the bottom of this post for complete 1-through-20 details).
Here are Five Funky Post Position Truths:
1. Eight is Great – or At Least Very Good. Horses from the Number 8 post have delivered the best average Derby finish over the last 15 years – 7.7.
The average is lifted by a pair of winners: the dynamic Barbaro in 2006 as well as the shocking Mine That Bird three years later.
That's certainly worth noting. Dortmund, the second Derby choice at 3-1, drew the eight post. Trained by Baffert, Dortmund will try to become the ninth colt to win from that starting spot.
“I like hearing that,” Baffert said.
Give him his hot dog.
2. You need a Hall of Fame jockey to win from the One post. The last two jockeys to win the Derby from the one post were Hall of Famers -- Bill Shoemaker on Ferdinand in 1986 and Braulio Baeza on Chateaugay in 1963.
Say farewell to Ocho Ocho Ocho, who drew the one Wednesday. Not that you were ever going to say, “hello,” to him.
Chew on this number: Horse in the one post are 2 for 58.
3. You can win the Derby from anywhere, but outside is better than inside.
The last 15 Derby winners have started from 10 different spots. Nine started from the main gate, five from the auxiliary gate, spots 15-through-20.
That's good news for American Pharoah, the colt likely to be the 5-to-2 favorite. He will start from post 18.
Of course, full disclosure requires me to confess that horses from the No. 18 post are only 1 for 28 in the Derby.
“I guess we'll have to be the second,” said Ahmed Zayat, the colt's owner.
Now, back to the inside. No horse from the first three spots won the race during the 15 Derbies than I considered.
In fact, the last Derby winner to start from one of the first three spots was Real Quiet, who was trained by Baffert in 1998.
4. 19 is the new 13. You want to talk about a horrible, terrible, awful post position, then the 19th spot is the reasonable place to begin.
Since 2000, the average finish of horses who have started in the 19 hole is 13.7. That's six places worse than the No. 8 post, which is the best overall place, and nearly spots behind nearly every other post.
Not good. I can make the numbers more daunting. Of the last 10 horses to start in the 19th post position, one has finished in the Top 10.
Of course, that colt did better than simply finish in the Top 10. Three years ago, I'll Have Another actually won the race.
Upstart will race from post 19 Saturday. Oddsmaker Mike Battaglia made Upstart 15-to-1.
5. Scratch 9, 1 and 17.
No horse from any of those three spots has finished in the top three in the last 15 Derbies.
It gets worse. A horse has not won the Derby from those three spots since 1986. That's when Ferdinand scored. The last winner from the ninth spot was Riva Ridge in 1972.
And 17? Don't ask. It's a lonely place.
There's never been a winner from 17. In fact, the last horse to finish as good as second from 17th was Forty Niner, who finished second to Winning Colors in 1988.
As I noted earlier, Ocho Ocho Ocho is in the first spot. Bolo will race from nine and Mr. Z starts in post 17.
Here is the breakdown from 1-through-20.
RANKING THE KENTUCKY DERBY POST POSITIONS OVER THE LAST 15 YEARS BY BEST AVERAGE FINISH
1. Post 8: Average finish -- 7.7 with two firsts (Mine that Bird, 2009 and Barbaro, 2006), one second, two thirds.
2. Post 5: Average finish – 7.8, three firsts (California Chrome, 2014; Funny Cide, 2003 and War Emblem, 2002) one second, one third.
3. Post 2: Average finish – 7.9, two seconds and four thirds.
4. Post 16: Average finish – 8.5, two firsts (Animal Kingdom, 2011; Monarchos, 2001), one second, one third.
5. Post 13: Average finish – 9.1, one first (Smarty Jones, 2004), two seconds, one third.
6. Post 20: Average finish – 9.3, one first (Big Brown, 2008).
7. Post 4: Average finish – 9.5, one first (Super Saver, 2010), two thirds.
8. Post 11: Average finish – 9.6, one second.
9. Post 18: Average finish: -- 9.76, two seconds.
10. Post 3: Average finish – 9.8, two seconds, one third.
11. Post 7: Average finish – 9.9, one first (Street Sense, 2007).
12. Post 14: Average finish – 10.3, one third.
13. Post 9: Average finish – 10.47, no top three finishes.
14. Post 15: Average finish – 10.53, two firsts (Orb, 2013; Fusiachi Pegasus 2000), one second.
15. Post 12: Average finish – 10.53, one second, one third.
16. Post 1: Average finish – 11.1, no top three finishes.
17. Post 10: Average finish – 11.1, one first (Giacomo, 2005), one third.
18. Post 17: Average finish – 12, no top three finishes.
19. Post 6: Average finish 12.1, one second.
20. Post 19: Average finish 13.7, one first (I'll Have Another, 2012).
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