Horsemen and analysts agree – post No. 1 is the least favorable starting position in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field, it’s the spot everyone dreads. And that undistinguished honor went to Louisiana Derby winner Vicar’s in Trouble.
The rail was the first pill called at Wednesday’s post position ceremonies, with the horse’s name being pulled after the number, and the suspense was quickly over. Jockey Rosie Napravnik likely will try to hustle her mount from the gate or risk getting squeezed from the outside. The rail post is winless since 1986 and Vicar’s in Trouble is listed as a 20-1 outsider.
The biggest storyline entering Wednesday’s ceremonies surrounded California Chrome, a solid 5-2 morning line favorite among 20 rivals. He drew a suitable gate, post 5, and owns the speed to establishing good positioning in the early stages. Funny Cide (2003) was the last horse to win the same position. The auxiliary gate consists of six horses (posts 15-20) and has produced four of the previous six Derby winners, including the last three straight. Orb broke from post 16 last year and a solid group of contenders will be starting from the auxiliary gate Saturday.
Wicked Strong, the 8-1 third choice, is widest of all in post 20. Big Brown won from the same spot in 2008, but he possessed much more speed and the 2-1 favorite wasn’t worried about going wide into the first turn, laying over the field from a talent standpoint. Wicked Strong is a confirmed closer who will probably be traveling diagonally at some early point to avoid losing too much ground into the turn.
Intense Holiday, another late runner, drew better in post 16. Candy Boy (18) and Ride on Curlin (19) may not appreciate being so far outside with their stalking style, but horses have proven more than capable of overcoming similar spots in the auxiliary gate, with I’ll Have Another breaking from post 19 two years ago.
Middle posts are preferred and Hoppertunity, the 6-1 second favorite on the morning line, excelled in that regard when receiving 11. The only slight drawback is that the field is dual-loaded, with 1 and 11 entering first, and it can be a long wait from Hoppertunity’s position.
The connections of Danza (4) and Samraat (6), a pair of serious contenders, had little to complain about. Speedster Wildcat Red drew favorably in post 10.
Posts 2 and 3 are no advantage, coupling with the rail to go winless over the last 15 years, and a pair of expected longshots – Harry’s Holiday and Uncle Sigh – drew poorly on the inside.
To sum it up, California Chrome did not get hurt by the post draw. Wicked Strong probably did not get the position his connections were looking for on the far outside and Vicar’s in Trouble got the worst of it on the opposite end, but none of the remaining logical win prospects appear to be adversely compromised.