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Kentucky Derby 134: The Draw

"It's a horse race, and I have the best horse in the race. It's that simple. We're going to Kentucky to win, anything less than that is not going to be OK with us. I love the spot I'm in. I can't see anyone going into this race nearly as well as we are. There's such good karma going around the stable now that I don't see how he can get beat."

Richard Dutrow, 4/24/08

I wonder if Richard Dutrow is still going to be spouting off as to how easy it will be to win the Kentucky Derby? Memo to RD: you just found out why the Kentucky Derby is one of the hardest races to win in the world.

Likely post time favorite, Big Brown, will find himself stuck with the brutal #20 post. Yes, Big Brown had a brutal post position in the Florida Derby and was able to still dominate. But this ain't the Florida Derby. And while I never would completely eliminate a horse due to post position, Big Brown's chances to win this Derby are worse than they were yesterday due entirely to his post position.

As today's post position draw unfolded it quickly became clear that Big Brown was going to run into a problem. Fifteen positions had been selected when it became Big Brown's turn, with only the 1-2, 18-19-20 posts remaining on the board. Dutrow as left with two options: go wide and risk the possibility that his colt will get hung outside into the first turn (unless he were to gun for the lead), or go inside where he'll have all the speed coming down on him from the outside posts. Maybe the Kentucky Derby isn't that easy of a race to win after all, is it Richard?

Dutrow chose to go wide and selected post position #20, the widest of all possible posts. And while there is a good quarter mile until the horses reach the first turn to get into position Big Brown now must break well and get into position quickly or else his race might be over before it starts. Big Brown's tactical choices became even more limited when both Gayego and Recapturetheglory drew the 18 and 19 posts. That's a whole lot of speed in the last three spots.

Many people have described Big Brown as a freak, as quite simply the most talented colt in the entire field. With his post draw today he'll need to call on all that talent in order to win the Derby.

Colonel John's connections must be loving life right now as they drew a plumb spot right smack dab in the middle of the field. Pyro also finds himself in a good post, although post position is a little less critical for him (and Colonel John) since he doesn't have a running style that necessitates being forwardly placed early on.

Today's post position draw illustrates why it's so important to have a versatile horse in the Derby as opposed to a one-dimensional runner. Big Brown has displayed awesome talent in his first three races but because he's done all of his winning on the front end he'll need to either gun for the lead from the twenty hold, or take back and try to get position. The Kentucky Derby is not the best race to try and break out new tactics.

The defection of War Pass last week appeard to take a little pace out of this year's Derby, but given the brutal post positions for many of the speed horses we just might see some serious fractions in the first quarter mile.

Listen to the bell, Dutrow. It tolls for thee!

The field for Kentucky Derby 134:

1. Cool Coal Man, J.Leparoux, 20-1
2. Tale of Ekati, E.Coa, 15-1
3. Anak Nakal, R.Bejarano, 30-1
4. Court Vision, G.Gomez, 20-1
5. Eight Belles, G.Saez, 20-1
6. Z Fortune, R.Albarado, 15-1
7. Big Truck, J.Castellano, 50-1
8. Visionaire, J.Lezcano, 20-1
9. Pyro, S.Bridgmohan, 6-1
10. Colonel John, C. Nakatani, 4-1
11. Z Humor, R.Douglas, 30-1
12. Smooth Air, M.Cruz, 20-1
13. Bob Black Jack, R.Migliore, 20-1
14. Monba, R.Dominguez, 15-1
15. Adriano, E.Prado, 30-1
16. Denis of Cork, C.Borel, 20-1
17. Cowboy Cal, J.Velazquez, 20-1
18. Recapturetheglory, E.T.Baird, 20-1
19. Gayego, M.Smith, 15-1
20. Big Brown, K.Desormeaux, 3-1