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How Post Positions Can Affect The 2012 Kentucky Derby Outcome

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By Author: Lee Lane-Edgar
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Post positions for the 2012 Kentucky Derby are to be decided on May 2. That leaves three days for the jockeys and trainers of each Kentucky Derby contender to decide on what the best strategy is for reaching the Kentucky Derby winner's circle.

Post position can go a long way in determining the chances of a Kentucky Derby contender. The Kentucky Derby starting gate is unique in that it must hold upwards of 20 horses. Usually you will see no more than 14 horses competing in a single race in North America, but the Kentucky Derby is a one-of-kind event on many levels.

To accommodate the large field, Churchill Downs employs an “auxiliary” starting gate that's attached to the regular 14-stall starting gate. In between the two gates is a sizable gap that leaves a buffer to the inside of the horse breaking from stall No. 15. That is considered a big advantage among horsemen and handicappers.

In fact, the Kentucky Derby previously used a unique format to draw post positions that reflected the perceived advantage of stall No. 15. In that format, representatives for each horse in the Kentucky Derby would draw ...
... a number out of a “hat” the morning entries were taken, much like in a traditional post position draw. However, this number didn't represent the horse's post position. What the numbers did reflect was the order in which representatives for each horse would choose their respective post position later that day.

On virtually every occasion when this style was in use, the connections with the first pick chose stall No. 15.

Post position No. 1 has produced the most winners in the 137-year history of the Kentucky Derby, but that statistic is a bit misleading with regards to the modern Kentucky Derby. The last Kentucky Derby winner to break from post position No. 1 was Ferdinand in 1986. A major reason for that is the increase in the number of horses that annually compete in the Kentucky Derby. Prior to Ferdinand, the Kentucky Derby rarely reached its maximum field of 20 horses. Now it is virtually guaranteed the Kentucky Derby will feature a 20-horse cavalcade.

To accommodate for the increase in field size, Churchill Downs moved the gate closer to the rail and that leaves the No. 1 horse in a precarious position. In fact, the No. 1 horse has to angle out slightly in order to not run into the rail when leaving the starting chute and connecting to the main track. Any misstep early in the race and the horse is likely to get shuffled back once the horses to the outside begin moving towards the rail so they aren't parked too wide around the clubhouse turn.

Generally speaking, horses with inside post positions for the
Kentucky Derby> will need to have some semblance of early speed in order to get a good racing position.

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