Kentucky Derby Post Positions – Winners & History

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Updated: April 21, 2021

There are plenty of factors to consider when betting the Run for the Roses, one of which is Kentucky Derby post positions.

Where horses sit in the starting gate and how they respond to that post position has a huge impact on performance.

Here’s a look at the 2021 post positions and some post position betting trends heading into the Kentucky Derby on May 1.

2021 post positions

The draw for the 2021 Kentucky Derby post positions will take place on Tuesday, April 27. The post position is important to Kentucky Derby odds as the betting lines will shift depending on where certain horses start, most notably the No. 1 and furthest outside positions.

Kentucky Derby wins by post position

Where Kentucky Derby horses start can either give them an advantage or disadvantage right out of the gate. Here are the post positions that claim the most Kentucky Derby titles, along with each posts’ win percentage (since the introduction of the starting gate in 1930).

Post Position Wins Starts Win % Last win
1 8 91 8.8% Ferdinand (1986)
2 7 91 7.7% Affirmed (1978)
3 5 91 5.5% Real Quiet (1998)
4 5 91 5.5% Super Saver (2010)
5 10 91 11% Always Dreaming (2017)
6 2 91 2.2% Sea Hero (1993)
7 7 90 7.8% Justify (2018)
8 8 90 8.9% Mine that Bird (2009)
9 4 87 4.6% Riva Ridge (1972)
10 9 84 10.7% Giacomo (2005)
11 2 80 2.5% Winning Colors (1988)
12 3 76 3.9% Canonero II (1971)
13 5 74 6.8% Nyquist (2016)
14 2 66 3% Carry Back (1961)
15 6 59 10.2% Authentic (2020)
16 4 48 8.3% Animal Kingdom (2011)
17 0 42 0%
18 2 33 6.1% Country House (2019)
19 1 28 3.6% I’ll Have Another (2012)
20 1 17 5.9% Big Brown (2008)

Best post position at the Kentucky Derby

In terms of producing Kentucky Derby winners as well as winning wagers, the best post position at the Kentucky Derby is gate No. 10. This middle spot boasts nine Derby champs (10.7%) and 24 horses in the money in 84 total starts (28.7%), edging out No. 5 with 10 race winners and 22 ITM finishes in 91 overall starts.

Avoid Contradictions Worst post position at the Kentucky Derby

Gate No. 17 is the worst post position in the Kentucky Derby. No. 17 has yet to produce a Derby champ and has had only three horses finish in the money, through 42 overall starts. No. 6 hasn’t fared that well either, with just two winners and only 13 horses ITM through 91 starts.

Wins by post position trends

  • Post No. 5 boasts the most Kentucky Derby winners with 10 (11%), most recently Always Dreaming in 2017. Posts No. 10 (nine winners) and No. 15 (six winners) are the next two most successful starting positions for the Kentucky Derby.
  • Post No. 17 has never produced a Kentucky Derby winner since the starting gate was introduced in 1930, however, due to race dropouts No. 17 has had only 42 starts. With that in mind, No. 6 is also a bad starting position with only two wins in 91 starts (2.2%).
  • Drawing the rail in post No. 1 is challenging but not impossible, as it’s produced eight Derby champions – the last being Ferdinand in 1986. However, drawing one of the four inside gates isn’t advantageous, with gates No. 1 through No. 4 ranging in win percentages between 5.5 and 8.8 and the last winner out of those first four gates coming in 2010 (Super Saver).
  • The longest Derby drought between winners is post No. 14 which last boasted a winner in 1961 (Carry Back) and has only claimed two champs in 66 starts (3%).

In-the-money finishes by post position

When it comes to Kentucky Derby betting, it’s all about finishing in the money (ITM): first, second or third. Here’s a look at the historic Kentucky Derby post position returns for bets to win, place, or show.

Post Position ITM Starts ITM % Last ITM
1 18 91 19.8% Lookin at Lee (2017)
2 25 91 27.5% Revolutionary (2013)
3 19 91 20.9% Golden Soul (2013)
4 15 91 16.5% Danza (2014)
5 22 91 24.2% Audible (2018)
6 13 91 14.3% Good Magic (2018)
7 19 90 21.1% Mr. Big News (2020)
8 18 90 20% Tacitus (2018)
9 17 87 19.5% Firing Line (2015)
10 24 84 28.6% Paddy O’Prado (2010)
11 12 80 15% Code of Honor (2019)
12 9 76 11.9% Afleet Alex (2005)
13 19 74 25.7% Nyquist (2016)
14 13 66 19.7% Tiz the Law (2020)
15 9 59 15.3% Authentic (2020)
16 10 48 20.8% Commanding Curve (2014)
17 3 42 7.1% Forty Niner (1988)
18 6 33 18.2% Country House (2019)
19 2 28 7.2% I’ll Have Another (2012)
20 2 17 11.8% Big Brown (2008)

In-the-money finishes by post position trends

  • Gate No. 10 has handed out the most money at the Kentucky Derby, with 24 horses finishing in the money in 84 starts (28.6%). However, the last horse to win, place, or show from No. 10 was Paddy O’Prado, finishing third way back in 2010.
  • Posts No. 2 (25 ITM in 91 starts) and No. 5 (22 ITM in 91 starts) are the next most profitable Kentucky Derby starting positions in terms of finishers in the money, but No. 13 boasts 19 ITM horses in only 74 starts for a higher ITM percentage (25.7%). 
  • The lowest percent of horses finishing in the money comes out of gate No. 17 with only three ITM in 42 starts (7.1%). However, No. 6 has just 13 ITM results in 91 overall starts (14.3%).
  • Post No. 9 has only four Kentucky Derby winners over 87 starts but has seen 17 horses finish in the money in those races (19.5%), most recently Firing Line with a second-place run against eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015.

Using post position to handicap the Kentucky Derby

When handicapping the Kentucky Derby, respect the historical production from certain post positions but put more weight into how the individual horses have performed in those starting gates. Recognize how a horse wants to run the race, either setting the pace or stalking, and how the post position influences that strategy.

If a horse draws one of the four inside positions, look back at its previous races and if it has raced from similar starting gates as well as investigate the respective jockey and how they’ve dealt with the early inside position.

Horses on the inside are often pinched up against the rail and bumped as jockeys fight for the inside line early into the race. Some jockeys holding an inside gate will push the horse hard from the start to avoid that traffic but run the risk of leaving the horse gassed for the remainder of the race.

Horses on the outside don’t find themselves getting banged around as much early on, which lends itself more to stalking paces who look to push hard late in the race. However, outside track position can be tough to make up if the early pace is fast and the horse isn’t used to the 1 ¼-mile distance.

History of post positions at the Kentucky Derby

Post positions have been used in the past 91 Kentucky Derby races, with the starting gate first being introduced in the 1930 Run for the Roses. Prior to proper gates, horses were lined up as best they could behind a series of wires. This format led to unfair positioning as well as unruly horses bumping and kicking other competitors before the start of the race.

With a field of up to 20 horses, the Kentucky Derby required two separate starting gates (most commonly 14-horse gates) until 2020 when a custom 20-horse gate was debuted. The decision for the larger gate was based on the safety of horses and riders, eliminating extra spacing between the main and auxiliary gates that caused those horses on the outside to recklessly fight for rail position against bigger break from the main gate.

Kentucky Derby post position FAQs


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