Let's just get this out of the way at the start: No horse has ever broke from the 17th post position and went on to win the Kentucky Derby. If you're going by history and numbers alone, then you're probably not going to like Mor Spirit's chances to win the 142nd Run for the Roses on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
And then you look at Mor Spirit's connections and start to feel a little bit better. The 3-year-old colt was trained by Bob Baffert, whose track record is quite strong. Not to mention he is the most recent Triple Crown winning trainer after working with American Pharoah in 2015. Then you look at the jockey, none other than Hall of Famer Gary Stevens. Sure, it doesn't take an all-star cast to win the Kentucky Derby, and having one is no guarantee of success either. But if you're going to talk the history of numbers, you'd better be prepared to talk the history of people, too.
"The last time i had the 17 post was Point Given with Gary Stevens," Baffert said after the draw. "And here we are again. I remember last year I had the 18 with American Pharoah. There was a scratch, we're in 17. I was hoping for another scratch and we ended up in 16. I actually wanted the 16. It's funny, all the speed is on the outside, so there will probably be two different races going on."
Mor Spirit, out of Eskendereya and the great grandson of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, has started in five graded stakes races, two at the Grade I level. He won his final race as a 2-year-old and first as a 3-year-old, but has finished as the runner-up in each of his past two races. He lost to Danzing Candy in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes in March, then finished ahead of Danzing Candy but suffered defeat to Exaggerator at the Grade I Santa Anita Derby in April.
At 12-1, he doesn't enter with the best of odds. Nyquist earned the favorite status with a perfect 7-for-7 record in his career and was given 3-1 on the morning line by oddsmaker Matt Battaglia. Four other contenders -- Exaggerator (8-1), Creator (10-1), Mohaymen (10-1) and Gun Runner (10-1) -- are also ahead of Mor Spirit in that regard.
The good news for Mor Spirit is that the Kentucky Derby is a mile and a quarter in length. That'll be the longest race yet. Mor Spirit is not a sprinter by any means, but his connections say they can't tire him out. If endurance becomes a factor, Mor Spirit should be able to hang tough until the end.
For that reason, along with Stevens and Baffert, he's been a popular underdog pick among the experts. Seventeenth gate be damned.
You can watch the Kentucky Derby coverage on NBC beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday -- horses break from the gate at approximately 6:34 p.m. -- or streamed via NBC Sports Live Extra.