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2021 Kentucky Derby Post Position Trends and Analysis
Highly Motivated (Credit: Coady Photography)

2021 Kentucky Derby Post Position Trends and Analysis

Post position is important in every race, but in the Kentucky Derby (G1), it’s magnified. With a full field of horses loading into the 2021 Kentucky Derby gate, 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.

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The table below reflects the performances 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:

POST1234567891011121314151617181920
STARTS9091919191909090878379757466594942342818
WINS875510278492352540212
SECONDS55668865565365232410
THIRDS55668866665355231410
WIN %8.97.75.55.511.02.27.88.94.610.82.54.06.83.08.58.20.05.93.611.1
ITM %20.018.718.718.728.620.021.121.117.225.315.212.021.618.215.320.47.129.410.711.1

Even though the 1 post position shows an 8.9% win rate, any horse that draws the 1 post in the modern age is usually a complete toss-out. No horse has won the Derby from the 1 slot since Ferdinand in 1986. However, with the new Kentucky Derby starting gate, some believe drawing the rail isn’t as bad as it once was.

New Kentucky Derby starting gate first debuted in late 2020 (Coady Photography)

While we tend to fear the rail draw, post 1 actually has a much higher strike rate than post 17, which is the only post to never have a Kentucky Derby winner (0 for 42). So who drew the 17 this year? Sorry, Highly Motivated (10/1).

A horse hasn’t won from the 2 post since the 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed. Sorry, Like the King (50/1). The 3 post position hasn’t had a winner since Real Quiet in 1998, so sorry to you too, Brooklyn Strong (50/1).

The most favorable post positions are generally believed to be in the middle chunk. Posts 13 through 16 have performed the best in recent years: Authentic (post 18) won in 2020, Nyquist (13) in 2016, American Pharoah (15) in 2015, and Orb (post 15) in 2013.

The three best post positions to have? The 20 post wins at an 11.1% rate, the 5 post wins at 11%, and the 10 post wins at 10.8%. This year we have some major prices in these positions: Bourbonic (30-1), Sainthood (50-1), and Midnight Bourbon (20-1).

Justify won from the 7 post in 2018, and though he was later disqualified, Maximum Security crossed the wire first in last year’s edition while also wearing the orange 7 saddlecloth. Mandaloun (15/1) will try to do it this year.

And as for morning line favorite Essential Quality (2-1), he draws post 14, a terrible position based off of percentage as it’s only won at a 3% clip.

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For a more in-depth look at the race, including pace projections, check out our Inside Track to the Kentucky Derby wagering guide! Features in-depth analysis of all seven stakes on the card including the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1). But that’s not all! Get bonus race-by-race analysis and betting suggestions for the entire Kentucky Derby card, PLUS bonus analysis for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks (G1)!

POSTHORSEJOCKEYTRAINERM/L ODDS
1Known AgendaIrad Ortiz Jr.Todd Pletcher6/1
2Like the KingDrayden Van DykeWesley Ward50/1
3Brooklyn StrongUmberto RispoliDaniel Velazquez50/1
4KeepmeinmindDavid CohenRobertino Diodoro50/1
5SainthoodCorey LanerieTodd Pletcher50/1
6O BesosMarcelino PedrozaGreg Foley20/1
7MandalounFlorent GerouxBrad Cox15/1
8Medina SpiritJohn VelazquezBob Baffert15/1
9Hot Rod CharlieFlavien PratDoug O'Neill8/1
10Midnight BourbonMike SmithSteve Asmussen20/1
11Dynamic OneJose OrtizTodd Pletcher20/1
12HeliumJulien LeparouxMark Casse50/1
13Hidden StashRafael BejaranoVicki Oliver50/1
14Essential QualityLuis SaezBrad Cox2/1
15Rock Your WorldJoel RosarioJohn Sadler5/1
16King FuryBrian Hernandez Jr.Kenny McPeek20/1
17Highly MotivatedJavier CastellanoChad Brown10/1
18Super StockRicardo Santana Jr.Steve Asmussen30/1
19Soup and SandwichTyler GaffalioneMark Casse30/1
20BourbonicKendrick CarmoucheTodd Pletcher30/1

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