Derby Draw Helps Most Derby Favorites

LOUISVILLE, KY (May 3, 2017) – It is always an anxious time for the owners – and bettors – of the Kentucky Derby horses on Wednesday morning. Sometimes it is even more nerve-wracking than the months and races leading up to the First Saturday in May. Sometimes it is the moment in time that defines whether or not you truly have a chance to win the Run for the Roses.

It is the Post Position Draw for the Kentucky Derby.

“Nail biting time,” said Ian Wilkes, just a couple of days ago.

Nail biting is over. Now, it is time to nail down the final details and get ready for the 143rd Kentucky Derby. The Post Position Draw was held at 11 a.m. ET. By 12 a.m., the owners and trainers were either breathing easier or barely breathing. (We had live Twitter account active at the time of the draw).

But here is the field from the rail out:

  1. Lookin’ at Lee – 20-1
  2. Thunder Snow – 20-1
  3. Fast and Accurate – 50-1
  4. Untrapped – 30-1
  5. Always Dreaming – 5-1
  6. State of Honor – 30-1
  7. Gervin – 15-1
  8. Hence – 15-1
  9. Irap – 20-1
  10. Gunnevera – 15-1
  11. Battle of Midway – 30-1
  12. Sonneteer – 50-1
  13. J Boys Echo – 20-1
  14. Classic Empire – 4-1
  15. McCracken – 5-1
  16. Tapwrit – 20-1
  17. Irish War Cry – 6-1
  18. Gormley – 15-1
  19. Practical Joke – 20-1
  20. Patch – 30-1

There are several keys to this draw, and they jump off the page, in our opinion:

First, Always Dreaming – who has had an awful time this week of getting too keyed up and running off with his exercise rider (so much so that trainer Todd Pletcher has had to switch to his ace in the hole, exercise rider Nick Bush in the morning gallops)– draws the # 5 slot. As one of the two co-second choices at 5-1, this would normally be a good starting location. And, it very well could play out that way on Saturday, too.

But Always Dreaming is a rapid-fire runner and it appears all of the major contenders – including the other horses that want to go to the lead – will be to his outside. If, for any reason, Always Dreaming doesn’t get away from the gate clean and ready to run, the others could come crashing down and moving over on top of him. This would create a scenario that he is not likely to prefer – being behind a wall of horses.

So, I clean break from there will be essential for Always Dreaming and his rider John Velazquez.

Second, most of the other major contenders on paper, are side by side in the starting gate, starting with J Boys Echo in the 13 hole; favorite Classic Empire in the 14 slot; McCracken in #15; Tapwrit in #16 and Irish War Cry in #17.

Most of these have varying racing styles, but it will be interesting to see how each horse – and jockey – decide to plot their best game plan with all of them side by side.

And, Classic Empire – who has had more than a few issues at the starting gate in the past – could not only upset his own apple cart with another antic, he could impact the others, too.

Last, it appears that one horse – in particular – came out of the Post Position Draw with the cherry blossom. That is Gunnevera, who won the Fountain of Youth for trainer Antonio Sano and jockey Javier Castellano, before drawing the dreaded outside post in the Florida Derby – which crushed any and all hopes that day.

In talking with Sano earlier this week, we discussed his position in the Florida Derby. All he would say is that it was “terrible,” and that he hoped for better luck in Kentucky.

He certainly got that on Wednesday. And, with a horse as good as Gunnevera and a jockey as good as the Hall of Famer Castellano, it might be all they need to give the country of Venezuela its’ first Derby celebration.

That’s very, very special to do it at Tampa Bay,” an emotional O’Connell said after Well Defined’s two-and-three-quarter length victory from a charging Kentucky Wildcat in 1:42.70 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth, .26 seconds off 2018 winner Flameaway’s stakes record. So Alive finished a distant third, with the 19-10 favorite, Knicks Go, getting nipped for fourth at the wire by Counter Offer.

“He’s had little things that have happened and he’s grown up mentally and physically, and today he showed up with his game face on,” O’Connell said of the Florida-bred Well Defined, a son of With Distinction by Fru Fru, out of Medaglia d’Oro. “I like this horse a lot and the decision (on what’s next) will be up to the owners (Gilbert and Marilyn Campbell’s Stonehedge, LLC), but we just want him healthy. Maybe the (Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 9) – who knows.”

“His rear end slipped out from underneath him in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile,” she said, “and he was compromised on early position when he ran in the Mucho Macho Man and got bottled up inside. He’s a young horse who is improving, mind-wise and everything-wise.”

  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

    Full Bio >

More From Gene McLean