The post position draw for the Kentucky Derby is, in some ways, overrated. Many horses will run just fine from most of the spots in the starting gate. However, much of the impact of the draw is directly related to the running style of the specific horse. Speed horses don't want to be boxed in early. Closers tend to want to cover-up and save ground in the early stages. Mid-pack runners want to both be close enough to the leaders without running too hard, too early.
The 2012 Kentucky Derby possess several horses that have already experienced difficulties with specific post positions, which placed extra emphasis on this year's post position draw.
Below is a look at the winners and losers from the 2012 Kentucky Derby post position draw, along with a brief look at some of the odds that stand out from the morning line.
Hansen: The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner is a horse with a tremendous amount of natural speed. When he’s able to harness that speed in the early stages, he’s run big races, as he did in this spring’s G3-Gotham Stakes. When’s he’s drawn inside of other horses, like he did in the G2-Fountain of Youth and the G1-Blue Grass Stakes, he’s tended to become too headstrong, wasting valuable energy in the early stages. As a result, the #15 post position is everything the connections could have asked for, and more. Jockey Ramon Dominguez should be able to guide Hansen into a perfect stalking position in the first quarter mile, which should give his horse the best chance at a victory.
Gemologist: Like Hansen, Gemologist’s jockey will be able to pick and choose exactly how hard he wants to use his mount in the first hundred yards after leaving the gate. With the exception of the stalker, I’ll Have Another, Gemologist has essentially no speed to his outside.
Calvin Borel: I don’t know if the connections of Take Charge Indy really wanted to be drawn in the #3 spot, but you know that Borel prefers the rail at Churchill Downs. He’s not called Calvin Bo-rail for nothing.
The three-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey rode Take Charge Indy to his Florida Derby win and will be looking to move into second place on the list of all-time jockey wins in the Kentucky Derby.
Dullahan: The Blue Grass Stakes winner is a stone-cold closer with little to no gate speed. Jockey Kent Desormeaux should be able to let all of the early speed engage in the early race scrum while he saves ground along the rail for the first three-quarters of a mile. The #5 post position is a perfect spot for a closer like Dullahan.
Bodemeister and Union Rags: The #6 and #4 post positions that the two favorites drew aren’t a death knell, horse can and do win from those posts in the Derby. But drawing inside the sprinting speed of Trinniberg, the stalking speed of Creative Cause, and with a more than likely eager Take Charge Indy to the inside, Bodemeister and Union Rags can’t afford any delays coming out of the gate is they don’t want to get pinched back in the early stages.
Winning the Derby from these posts isn’t Mission: Impossible for either Bodemeister or Union Rags, but it’s a lot harder than if they drew a bit further to the outside.
Daddy Long Legs: The Irish-based colt doesn’t possess very much early speed, so his rail position isn’t as bad for him as it would be for a horse like Hansen. But at the same time, Daddy Long Legs is primarily a turf horse, and turf horses that run on the dirt tend not to like all the kick-back into their face as they race. Drawing post position #1 guarantees that Daddy Long Legs is going to get a ton of dirt thrown his direction the entire way around the track. If the surface were to come up wet, it’s only going to be worse.
Alpha: I hesitate to call the #11 post position for Alpha a bad spot, because on its face that post seems to be a great position. The problem with Alpha is that he’s had some issues leaving the starting gate in the past. He’s also had issues just standing in the starting gate. Prior to the start of last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Alpha was what we call in the horse racing world “fractious in the gate”. In other words, he threw a conniption fit.
What does Alpha gate problems have to do with the #11 post? Well, in the Derby, with a 20-horse field, they double load the starting gate, meaning they load horses two at a time, starting with the #1 and #11 spots. As a result, Alpha, a horse with questionable gate manners, will have to stand in the gate the longest of any Derby horse other than Daddy Long Legs.
The good news for Alpha backers is this colt repeatedly gets himself into trouble at the start of the race and still is able to run very well. If he can avoid some of his early race troubles, he could turn this “loss” into a “win”.
Some Brief Thoughts On The Morning Line Odds
I’ll Have Another at 12/1 is pretty enticing for the Santa Anita Derby winner. This colt has really improved as a three-year-old and could be great value at double-digits.
Daddy Long Legs, when you consider all the things that are working against him in this race, seems way too low at 30/1. 50/1 sounds more reasonable and you could make the case that 60/1 or higher would be more accurate.
Trinniberg at 50/1? A pure speed sprinter that has never run further than seven furlongs in his career? Every horse has a shot to win, but I wouldn’t be this horse if he was 100/1.
Sabercat really hasn’t run well this spring other than an okay 3rd in the Arkansas Derby, but he’s a closer in a field littered with speed. 30/1 isn’t that bad of a price for a horse that should be running hard in the final furlongs.