The post position draw for Saturday's 2012 Preakness is in the books and it's time for the handicapping to begin. Unlike the Kentucky Derby, the draw for the Preakness tends to have less of an impact on the ultimate outcome of the race. While there is always the possibility of trouble leaving the starting gate, a bad break is compounded in the Derby with twenty horses all fighting for position. In the Preakness, that problem is not as severe.
While the Preakness draw might not be as critical as the Derby, there is still a tactical advantage for some horses depending on which post position they end up with. The connections of Derby winner I'll Have Another (post 9) have to be extremely pleased with his draw, not in regards to a specific number, but because he drew outside of Bodemeister. By breaking outside of Bodemeister (post 7), I'll Have Another will be able to track his rival from the very second the gate open which increases his opportunity to secure a perfect stalking trip around the track. I have no doubt that all trainer Doug O'Neill wanted from the draw was to be to the outside of the Bob Baffert horse.
On paper, Bodemeister looks like the clear lone speed horse in the Preakness field. As a result, his post position is pretty much irrelevant. Jockey Mike Smith's primary concern on Saturday will be breaking from the gate cleanly and allowing Bodemeister to settle into a good rhythm as quickly as possible.Given the tactics that Smith is likely to use with his mount, the post position is almost completely irrelevant.
Four of the new shooters running in the Preakness drew into post positions one through four (1-Tiger Walk, 2-Teeth of the Dog, 3-Pretension and 4-Zetterholm). While the connections of all four of those colts probably preferred a wider draw, none of those posts are a complete bar to victory.
One thing that the Preakness and the Derby draws have in common is the low impact of wide post positions on a horse's ability to win. Unlike races at a mile where the starting gate is much closer to the first turn, the Preakness and Derby starting gates are positioned near the top of the stretch which give horses breaking from the outside posts plenty of time to tuck in prior to heading into the first turn. With an 11-horse field and a starting gate almost a quarter mile from the first turn, a horse has plenty of opportunities to avoid a wide trip.
For horse racing fans, every year hope springs that this will finally be the year that the Triple Crown drought comes to an end. That dream either stays alive or is crushed on the rocks on the third Saturday in May at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. I'll Have Another should have every opportunity to run a big race in the Preakness and take the second step towards a place in history.