Up the Backstretch: Post positions do matter in Derby

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – The post position draw for the Kentucky
Derby has annually become one of the most anticipated and excruciating
occurrences in thoroughbred horse racing.

Every year, we are told that the first two posts are the ones no one wants
their horses to be loaded into due to the configuration of the 1 1/4-mile race
in relation to the positioning of the starting gate.

This year, the draw has already affected the running of the Kentucky Derby
as Blue Grass Stakes winner and 8-1 morning line third pick Carpe Diem drew
post 2 in the 20-horse field. To his immediate outside will be stablemate
Materiality, both trained by Todd Pletcher.

“In a perfect world, I would have liked to have been more toward the middle
with Carpe Diem (and Materiality),” Pletcher noted following the draw. “But
he’s a good gate horse and he’ll have to get away from there quickly. That’s
pretty much true whatever your draw is in this race. Materiality is a good
gate horse, too, so if he gets out he ought to be fine.”

The inside posts force horses to quickly move to the outside to avoid running
into the rail.

“It is what it is. It’s a tough spot, but what are you going to do,” said
trainer Jim Cassidy, whose Ocho Ocho Ocho will break from the rail post.

On the other side of the starting gate, 5-2 favorite American Pharoah drew
post 18, which at one time was considered almost as bad as the extreme inside

“It’s OK. It’s good. Anything but being down there (inside),” Hall of Fame
trainer Bob Baffert expressed about the favorite’s draw.

Getting a much coveted post is Baffert’s other entrant, 3-1 second choice
Dortmund. The Santa Anita Derby champ received post 8.

“He’s a horse that gets going. He’s quick,” Baffert said about Dortmund.
“He’ll be right there in the mix. It will be tougher to watch one in there, so
whichever one breaks the best I’m going to key on him.”

Also receiving an excellent post position is 12-1 co-fourth choice Firing Line
with the 10 hole. Winner of the Sunland Derby, Firing Line will have little
time standing in the gate before the start of the race.

“I’m very happy with the draw. I believe we’re last to load, which is an
advantage. And with the No. 10, you’ve got options,” said Firing Line’s
trainer Simon Callaghan.

With so much speed in the race, the inside and outside post positions require
those horses to use extra energy to get into contending positions. How much
work they need to do to avoid trouble will determine how much they have in
reserve down the stretch.