The Brock Talk

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Post Position Fun Facts

I'm not one to put too much importance into a post position draw unless there is some evidence of a bias in the track surface. And since there is usually no strong bias at Churchill, I don't see many advantages or even disadvantages. It has been popular in recent years to speak of the dreaded 1 post because of all the horses trying to get into racing position causing traffic problems before the large field reachs the clubhouse turn.

I contend that 20 horses going anywhere from a straight line will cause traffic problems. Granted the inside horses may have a greater probablity of traffic, but you're going to see plenty of bumping by many of the horses before they reach the turn. One advantage we have at Churchill Downs, however, is the long stretch. The jockeys have a full quarter of a mile to attempt some assemblance of order before they turn left - all at once - going 40 mph. Nonetheless, Bob Baffert chose post 16 for Santa Anitia Derby (gr. 1) winner Pioneerof the Nile and multiple training champion Todd Pletcher selected post 15 for Florida Derby (gr. 1) runner-up Dunkirk with the next draft pick. Both have been assigned morning line odds of 6-1 making them the second choice selections. (More on morning line odds later)

Churchill Downs and television have created a unique draft-style post position draw for the Kentucky Derby. Instead of the posts being drawn strictly by the "pill system" or lottery, they draw pills to determine the draft order of the trainers and owners of each horse. The overwhelming obstacle to making that event entertaining is of course, is the event itself.

To further my point, just look at a few post position facts. Only two postitions have produced 12 Kentucky Derby winners since such records began in 1900 - posts one and five. Breaking from the dreaded inside post is West Side Bernie, runner-up to I Want Revenge in his last race and given morning line odds of 30-1. Hold Me Back will break from post five with odds of 15-1. Posts four and 10 are the only other gates to produce double digit Derby winners with 10 each. Pletcher selected post 4 for gr. 2 Lexington Stakes winner Advice and trainer Saeed bin Suroor took post 10 for UAE Derby (gr. 2) winner Regal Ransom.

Obviously the Derby fields have been much smaller for much of its history so these figures are skewed a bit to favor the inside. (The average number of starters in the Kentucky Derby is 12.76.) So looking at the outside 10 posts, we see that only one has produced as many as four Derby winners. That distinction goes to post 13 which I Want Revenge has been assigned and installed as the favorite at 3-1.

Post positions 17 and 19 are the only two that have never produced a winner and post 18 has produced only one. The far outside post this year, post 20 has produced two winners.

Let me also take this opportunity to explain the morning line odds. Many people have questions about them because these are the odds that appear in the program. And yet, they mean nothing after the wagering has begun and the amount of money bet on each horse determines his final odds and the amount of money you may have won.

The morning line odds are really a prediction by a track racing official who is trying to predict how the public will bet the race, thus setting the eventual odds. So the morning line does reflect his prediction of the outcome of the race - but rather the outcome of the wagering. When formulating wagers before the betting windows open, many horseplayers use the morning line odds to help them manage their money and make wagering decisions.

For the complete post position information and morning line odds, you can see the complete list of entries by clicking on Kentucky Derby Post Positions under "Other Horse Racing Links" below.

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