With the Run for the Roses one of the biggest horse racing spectacles in the world, James Bisson is here to take a look at just how important post position is at the Kentucky Derby, along with post position trends that might provide some insight into the best bets for 2024.
What is post position?
Post position is generally important in horse racing – and nowhere is it more critical than in the Kentucky Derby, which boasts one of the largest fields of any major U.S. horse race. As such, it can have a big impact on the odds from our best Kentucky sports betting sites.
The post position is the stall or gate from which the horse will start the race, and it can affect a horse's chances of winning in several ways.
Horses that draw an inside post position, which is closer to the rail, may have an advantage because they have a shorter distance to travel to get to the first turn. This can save them energy and give them a better chance of being in a good position early in the race.
Meanwhile, horses that draw an outside post position, which is farther from the rail, may have to travel a longer distance to get to the first turn. This can make it harder for them to get a good position early in the race and can also force them to run wider around the turns, which can be disadvantageous.
In addition to the distance to the first turn, the post position can also affect a horse's trip during the race. Horses that draw an inside post position may be more likely to get trapped on the rail or boxed in by other horses, while horses that draw an outside post position may have more room to maneuver and avoid traffic.
How Kentucky Derby post position is determined
Post positions for the Kentucky Derby are determined through a random drawing that takes place a few days before the race. The drawing is held at Churchill Downs, the site of the Kentucky Derby, and is overseen by racing officials.
The drawing process involves assigning a numbered ball to each horse entered in the race, and then placing the numbered balls into a drum. The drum is spun to mix up the balls, and then each ball is drawn one at a time to determine the post position for each horse.
The first ball drawn corresponds to the post position for the horse in the first stall, the second ball drawn corresponds to the post position for the horse in the second stall, and so on until all of the post positions have been assigned.
Post position numbering system
Post positions in horse racing are numbered sequentially, starting from the inside rail and continuing outward. The numbering system is typically used to identify the horse's starting position in the starting gate, and to indicate the order of the horses in the race program.
In a race with eight horses, for example, the inside rail would be numbered as post position one, and the posts would continue outward from there, with post position two being next to post position one, post position three being next to post position two, and so on until post position eight.
For larger fields, the post positions are numbered in the same way, but with additional numbers added to indicate the starting position beyond the eighth stall. For example, a field of 20 horses would be numbered from post position one through post position 20.
2023 Kentucky Derby post positions
With the 2024 Kentucky Derby post position draw likely to take place the Monday prior to the race, you'll want to check out our lists of the best Kentucky Derby betting sites, and the best horse racing betting sites in general to determine the best places to make your picks as soon as the post position list is set.
Best post position at the Kentucky Derby
The Kentucky Derby post position draw is a significant event as the starting position can impact a horse's chances of winning. However, the historical data shows that the success rate of horses in the Kentucky Derby does not necessarily follow a clear pattern based on post position.
Here are the percentage of Kentucky Derby winners from each post position from 1930, the first year a starting gate was used, to 2022:
|Post Position||Win Rate|
Though post position does mean plenty for a horse's prospects, bettors would be wise not to use it as the sole barometer for determining which wagers to make via our best Kentucky sports betting apps.
The best post positions in terms of win rate are all multiples of five: the No. 5, No. 10 and No. 20 spots have all produced double-digit win rates (with the 20 position only having been in place for the 11 Kentucky Derby races prior to 2023).
We'll dig a little deeper into the other stats later.
Worst post position at the Kentucky Derby
Only the No. 17 post position have failed to produce even a single Kentucky Derby champion, and its in-the-money percentage (7.1) is better than only the No. 19 spot, which has produced a top-three finisher just 6.9 percent of the time.
Neither spot has fared well in average finish either, with both lagging well back of the pack.
Kentucky Derby wins by post position
Here are the number of Kentucky Derby winners by post position since 1930:
|Post Position||Number of Wins|
The 5, 8 and 10 spots have been the best in terms of producing Kentucky Derby champions, followed closely by spots 1 and 7. In fact, only the 2 and 6 spots have failed to produce more than five race champions among the top 10 spots – so it literally pays to be in the inner half.
Here are some interesting trends centered around Kentucky Derby wins by position:
- While the first three post positions have produced 20 Kentucky Derby winners, we haven't seen a champion crowned from spots 1, 2 or 3 since Real Quiet (No. 3) prevailed in 1998 Two Phil's came close in 2023, placing second from the No. 3 spot.
- Not only has the No. 5 spot produced the most Kentucky Derby victories, it also has the most second-place finishes in race history with eight. Its average finish of 7.33 is also tops.
- The most prolific position on the outside half of the field: No. 15, which has seen six Kentucky Derby winners, most recently Authentic in 2020.
- The final four positions in the field have yielded just five winners in Kentucky Derby history, including Rich Strike out of the 20 spot in last year's thrilling race.
In-the-money finishes by post position
Here's a look at the in-the-money (ITM) results by post position in Kentucky Derby history through the 2022 edition of the race:
|Post Position||ITM Rate|
Horses starting from the No. 10 position have produced more in-the-money finishes than any other competitors since 1930, cashing more than 29 percent of the time. The No. 2 spot is a fitting runner-up here, with the 5-hole producing the third-most cashes of all-time.
In-the-money finishes by post position trends
Here's a look at some handy trends based on in-the-money results over the years:
- No. 2 might have a strong track record of ITM success, but hasn't actually produced a top-3 finisher since Revolutionary placed third at the 2013 Kentucky Derby.
- It won't surprise many that six of the 10 inside spots in the race have a cash rate greater than 20 percent, while just three of the 10 outside positions cash at 20 percent or more.
- The No. 14 spot gets the "Close, But No Cigar" award here, producing 15 top-three finishes in Kentucky Derby history but just two victories.
- The No. 17 spot is the only one without a top-two result in the previous 35 years, with Forty Niner producing that post position's only runner-up finish in 1988.
How to use post position to handicap the Kentucky Derby
Here's how you can use post position to handicap the Kentucky Derby:
- Understand what post position means: In horse racing, post position refers to the starting gate from which each horse begins the race. The Kentucky Derby has 20 horses, so each horse is assigned a number from 1 to 20 based on the post position they draw.
- Look at historical trends: Over the years, certain post positions have been more successful than others in the Kentucky Derby. For example, horses starting from post positions 5-8 have won the race more often than any other post position, while horses starting from post positions 1 and 2 have won the race the least.
- Consider the horse's running style: Each horse has a running style, which can be classified as a front runner, a stalker, or a closer. Front runners tend to go to the front early and try to stay there, while stalkers tend to sit just behind the leaders and make a move later in the race. Closers tend to stay near the back of the pack early and make a strong late run to the finish. You should consider the horse's running style and how it fits with the post position they drew.
- Look at the track conditions: The track conditions can also impact how well a horse will do in the race. For example, if the track is wet or muddy, horses starting from the outside post positions may have a disadvantage because they'll have to run farther to get to the rail.
- Analyze the entire field: Don't just focus on one or two horses based on their post position. Look at the entire field and consider all of the factors that could impact the outcome of the race. Remember that horse racing is unpredictable, and anything can happen on race day.
Using post position to handicap the Kentucky Derby can be a helpful tool, but it's important to remember that there are many other factors to consider as well. Take your time and do your research, and hopefully, you'll pick a winner!
Horse racing betting odds pages
|Kentucky Derby Odds||Preakness Stakes Odds||Belmont Stakes Odds|
|Kentucky Derby Post Position||Preakness Stakes Post Position||Belmont Stakes Post Position|
Kentucky Derby post position FAQs
What is the best Kentucky Derby post position?
Historically the No. 5 spot has been the best post position for the Kentucky Derby, producing 10 winners and 18 top-two finishes – the best showing of both categories.
What is the worst Kentucky Derby post position?
The 17 spot is the only post position that has yet to produce a Kentucky Derby champion; Forty Niner came the closest, recording a second-place finish at the 1988 event.
How are post positions determined in the Kentucky Derby?
Post positions for the Kentucky Derby are determined by a random drawing that takes place a few days before the race. The draw is conducted in public and attended by trainers, owners, jockeys, and other officials.
Kentucky Derby betting
Here's a look at other Kentucky Derby betting content for your perusal:
- Kentucky Derby odds
- Kentucky Derby picks and predictions
- Kentucky Derby betting sites
- Horse racing betting sites
- How to bet on horse racing
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