Mike Smith Happy With Post Position for KY Derby Morning-Line Favorite Omaha Beach

By Ryan Dickey:

The 145th Kentucky Derby held its post position draw in the Aristides Lounge inside Churchill Downs on Tuesday morning.

The twenty Derby gates were drawn live before a very large crowd including owners, trainers, jockeys, and many members of the media.

Churchill Downs track announcer Travis Stone was the host, replacing the large void left following the death of long time spokesman and executive John Asher, who passed away suddenly last August.

When only two starting gate slots were left unfilled, race favorite Omaha Beach and jockey Mike Smith had a 50-50 chance of drawing very much near the rail at spot #3 or in the middle of the gate at #12. Smith, who has ridden two Derby winners, Giacomo in 2005, and eventual Triple Crown winner Justify last year, definitely had a preference of gates he wanted to see trainer Richard Mandella’s War Front colt to break from.

“There were two spots left, #12 or #3. I was preferring the #12 and it worked out that way,” Smith told America’s Best Racing’s Penelope Miller.

He reasoned that the further inside post would have necessitated a slight change in tactics, but was relieved that he seemingly has more options near the middle of the gate.

“If I was at #3 I’d probably have to be pretty aggressive. The #12, not as–but I’m still gonna be,” he said, smiling.

When asked if he would have preferred having the same starting gate as last year when he won aboard Justify, Smith was adamant that it was not important to him.

“I’m not really superstitious. Actually three is my favorite number but #12 strategy-wise was the place to be.”

Smith had a big decision to make after the Arkansas Derby–whether to ride Omaha Beach in the Derby, or Roadster, whom he rode to victory in the Santa Anita Derby for Bob Baffert.


The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
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    Ryan Dickey

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