Inside post positions are least favorable when the Kentucky Derby draws a full field. In the last 14 years, horses breaking from posts 1-3 are a combined zero-for-42 in the $2 million race and Wednesday's draw is naturally a nerve-wracking experience for connections.
Much to the delight of their supporters, the top three favorites in this year's Kentucky Derby -- Orb, Verrazano and Goldencents - all managed to avoid the biggest drawback.
Orb, the 7-2 early favorite according to Churchill Downs' oddsmaker Mike Battaglia, will break from post 16 in Saturday's $2 million race. I won't label it as ideal, since Orb faces the possibility of losing ground due to a wide trip, but it's much better than the other end of the starting gate.
Verrazano, the 4-1 second favorite on the morning line, drew a couple slots to Orb's inside (post 14). The unbeaten 3-year-old likes to be forwardly-placed but probably isn't quick enough to outsprint a couple of rivals during the Derby's opening stages, which could have severely compromised his chances from an inside post.
The connections of Goldencents, the 5-1 third choice, had every reason to celebrate after receiving post 8.
Horses every year get caught in the funnel effect that shuffles them back toward the rear of the field. There's no better example than Lookin at Lucky, who was unable to overcome post 1 when favored in 2010.
Here is the chart call from Lookin at Lucky's Derby:
"Lookin At Lucky roughed after the start and again in the initial furlong"
The jockey had to take a strong hold, or risked being crushed, as Lookin At Lucky retreated to 18th rounding the bend. He wound up sixth in the Derby, but Lookin At Lucky came back two weeks later to win the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, and was named champion 3-year-old at season's end.
Horses breaking from the rail (post 1) in the Derby are winless over the last 27 years.
Black Onyx received the dreaded post this year, but little was expected from the 50-1 outsider anyway.
Oxbow comes next in post 2 and the speedy colt must avoid breaking a step slowly or risks getting caught in a maelstrom.
Revolutionary will start from post 3, but he does his best running from off the pace and has three-time Derby winner Calvin Borel in the saddle. The recently-named Hall of Famer likes to keep his horses inside and will look to keep Revolutionary out of trouble by dropping back early.