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Post position is important in every race, but in the Kentucky Derby, it’s magnified in a huge way. With 20 horses loaded into two gates, post position analysis is an important part of handicapping the race and dramatically affects which horse(s) you play. We’re here to help! Let’s start with the trends that you need to know.
Below is a table showing performance from each post position (1-20) since the use of a starting gate in 1930, including total starts, total first, second, and third-place finishes, win %, and “In The Money” % (ITM) (first, second, or third) from each post:
Even though the #1 post position shows a 9.1 win %, any horse that draws the 1 post is a complete toss-out. Yes, Lookin at Lee finished second two years ago after leaving from the 1 post, but he also had a perfect rail trip, dropping back in the pack after Thunder Snow bucked like a bronco from the gate. The rail is the worst place to start because the Churchill chute basically lines up directly with the horse running into the rail. With 19 horses all pushing from the outside in, the horse in the 1 position is in danger of getting hit into the rail to start the race. No horse has won the Derby from the 1 slot since Ferdinand in 1986. This year War of Will has been the unlucky horse to draw post 1. Additionally, a horse hasn’t won from the 2 post since Triple Crown winner Affirmed in 1978. Sorry Tax. The 3-post position hasn’t won since 1998 with Real Quiet, so being on the inside is not a good place to be, even though the percentages in the table are skewed due to smaller fields in the past. Sorry to you too By My Standards.
The most favorable post positions are generally believed to be 5 through 16. Post positions 14 and 15 have the advantage of being at the end of the main 14 horse gate and the start of the 6-stall auxiliary gate, giving these two horses a little bit extra room to break. This also helps the horses in the 13 and 16 post positions to break more cleanly. Posts 13 through 16 have performed well, including wins in three of the last six years: Orb (15) in 2013, American Pharoah (15) in 2015, and Nyquist (13) in 2016. The 5 post is winning at an 11.4% rate, including California Chrome in 2014 and Always Dreaming in 2017. Justify won from the 7 post last year. This year’s morning-line favorite, Omaha Beach 4-1, drew post 12. Additionally, no horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby from post 17 (0 for 40). That trend looks to be bucked as co-third choice Roadster 6-1 will start from there.
For a more in-depth look at the race, including pace projections, check out our Inside Track to the Kentucky Derby wagering guide! Award-winning handicapper Mike “Saratoga Slim” Spector dives into the trends and pace analysis even further! Get it HERE.
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