The Kentucky Derby post-position draw is more about avoiding disaster than gaining any advantage. None of the logical contenders, including unbeaten morning-line favorite Justify, who drew post 7 in the 20-horse field, was negatively impacted by the Tuesday morning draw at Churchill Downs.
What the draw did reveal was a pretty clear picture of how Saturday’s 144th Derby (NBC, post time 6:46 p.m.) will be run in the first few hundred yards. Promises Fulfilled, who has been in front at the first call of each of his five races, drew post 3 and, barring a bad break, will almost certainly be sent to the front.
Justify, who has 3-1 odds and California sprint speed, should be sitting anywhere from second to fourth, a few lengths off the leader, as the field heads into the first turn. There are two very good horses just to Justify’s inside: 2-year-old champion Good Magic (post 6) and Florida Derby winner Audible (post 5).
“I’m glad I got here late,” said Bob Baffert, Justify’s trainer. “I was still in the parking lot when it happened so I didn’t get chance to fret.”
What can’t be determined, of course, is what will happen at the moment of the break. Regardless of post position, a bad break or a horse veering one way or another can change all plans and likely scenarios in a second.
Three of Todd Pletcher’s four horses drew into the auxiliary gate, posts 15 through 20: Arkansas Derby winner Magnum Moon (16), Wood Memorial winner Vino Rosso (18) and Louisiana Derby winner Noble Indy (19). Recent history suggests that the aux gate, away from the chaos, is not a bad spot. The 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015 Kentucky Derby winners all started from that gate.
Audible is also in Pletcher’s barn, making him the first trainer to win four of the final six major Derby preps with different horses.
Mendelssohn, who drew post 14, is the first horse with a serious chance to win the Derby who came from winning his last prep in Dubai. In fact, he is the second choice on the morning line at 5-1 after he won the UAE Derby by 18 3/4 lengths. The fact that his trainer is Irishman Aidan O’Brien, one of the world’s very best, is also why he is being taken so seriously.
Bolt d’Oro (post 11) has not crossed the finish line first in a race since Sept. 30, but he has been a bit unlucky and his talent is unquestioned. So, in fact, is the talent of this entire field, perhaps the best of the 21st century.
144th KENTUCKY DERBY
When: Saturday, 6:46 p.m. post time
Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky.
TV: NBC beginning at 2:30 p.m. (NBCSN has undercard starting at 12 p.m.)
Streaming: NBC Sports App
Distance: 1 1/4 miles. Weights: 126 pounds.
Purse: $2,192,800 (if 20 start). First place: $1,432,000. Second place: $400,000. Third place: $200,000. Fourth place: $100,000. Fifth place: $60,000.
|1||Firenze Fire||Paco Lopez||50-1|
|2||Free Drop Billy||Robby Albarado||30-1|
|3||Promises Fulfilled||Corey Lanerie||30-1|
|6||Good Magic||Jose Ortiz||12-1|
|8||Lone Sailor||James Graham||50-1|
|9||Hofburg||Irad Ortiz Jr.||20-1|
|10||My Boy Jack||Kent Desomeaux||30-1|
|11||Bolt d’Oro||Victor Espinoza||8-1|
|15||Instilled Regard||D. Van Dyke||50-1|
|16||Magnum Moon||Luis Saez||6-1|
|18||Vino Rosso||John Velazquez||12-1|
|19||Noble Indy||Florent Geroux||30-1|
|20||Combatant||R. Santana Jr.||50-1|
Trainers (by post position): 1, Jason Servis. 2, Dale Romans. 3, Dale Romans. 4, Mark Casse. 5, Todd Pletcher. 6, Chad Brown. 7, Bob Baffert. 8, Thomas Amoss. 9, William Mott.10, Keith Desormeaux. 11, Mick Ruis. 12, Kiaran McLaughlin. 13, D. Wayne Lukas. 14, Aidan O’Brien. 15, Jerry Hollendorfer. 16, Todd Pletcher. 17, Bob Baffert. 18, Todd Pletcher. 19, Todd Pletcher. 20, Steven Asmussen.