Kentucky Derby Post Positions, Morning Line Odds, and More

On Monday, May 2, Churchill Downs drew post positions for Saturday's Grade I Kentucky Derby. Our own Matthew DeSantis breaks down the post draw and where you can find value based upon the morning line odds.
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Kentucky Derby Post Positions, Morning Line Odds, and More

Normally, drawing post positions and releasing morning line odds are done with little fanfare, but when you are talking about the Kentucky Derby, it's Must-See TV. Yes, some of it is simply the pomp and circumstance of the first leg of the Triple Crown, but there are real implications to the post draw as lining 20 horses up in a starting gate comes with tactical advantages and disadvantages. Additionally, examination of the morning line odds is a necessary process given the amount of money getting bet on the Fastest Two Minutes in Sports. Let's take a look at the post positions and morning line odds for Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

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Kentucky Derby Post Positions

Similar to the Kentucky Oaks, most of the early favorites drew somewhere between post positions 5 and 15, which is a sweet spot for producing Derby winners. That said, I think the two biggest winners from the post draw are Zandon and Messier. Breaking from the six post, Messier and jockey John Velazquez will have plenty of options. He could go and sit off the early speed of Summer is Tomorrow who is breaking to his inside. He could also sit back a bit and carve out more of a mid-pack trip, which may suit him fine given that he wore himself out at the Santa Anita Derby when chasing the pace of Forbidden Kingdom. Similarly, Zandon and Flavien Prat should be able to position mid-pack and not get shuffled too far back. Zandon is a closer and weaving through 8-10 horses is a lot easier than weaving through 16-18 horses. Prat, for my money, is the best jockey in North America right now and is in a great position to give Zandon the best possible trip.

While most horses got their preferred post draw, a few noteworthy horses may have more of an uphill climb given where they'll be starting. On the far inside, Mo Donegal will have to overcome the curse of the inside rail to be the first winner starting from that position since 1986. That said, Mo Donegal is not a horse that needs early position and, like Zandon, likes to come from well off the pace. The question will be how far back he gets shuffled. His jockey, Irad Ortiz Jr., is one of the best, and most aggressive, in the business. Watching Irad and Mo Donegal come barreling through the field late could create a lot of chaos.

Breaking from the third post position, Epicenter, may have a tough time depending on what happens around him. Summer is Tomorrow, who is going to be the early pacesetter, is to his outside, which means he's going to get crossed in front of early and could end up getting pinched or shuffled back on the rail. Yes, he showed that he could win from off the pace at the Louisiana Derby, but that was an ideal stalking trip and he will face far more kickback and pressure this time around.

Further outside, both White Abarrio and Cyberknife may have some slight complications since Classic Causeway is breaking to their outside. Why is that a big deal? Well, Classic Causeway breaks better than nearly any horse in this field and will likely be able to clear in front of those two. Both White Abarrio and Cyberknife want to sit right off the pace but could get shuffled back further than they'd like depending on what Classic Causeway does in front of them.

Kentucky Derby Morning Line Odds

Zandon (3-1) was installed at the morning line favorite and while he was certainly a winner from the post draw and should like the surface, it's still a little low for my liking. He's only won two races and I might argue too much weight was given to his victory at the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes. The second favorite, Epicenter (7-2), will likely see his odds rise for some of the reasons I outline above regarding his post position. Therefore, you can definitely find some nice value in this field. The immediate first reaction is Taiba at 12-1 is a massive overlay. The winner of the Grade I Santa Anita Derby is not without controversy given he's only making his third career start but he's got the pedigree and speed to win this race. I would be shocked if he goes off at post time higher than 6-1.

The double-digit odds horses I would focus on are Charge It (20-1), Simplification (20-1), and Pioneer of Medina (30-1). Each of those horses has something to like at a big price. Charge It, trained by Todd Pletcher, is coming off a second-place finish at the Grade I Florida Derby and is still figuring things out. He's green but talented. According to all reports, he's looked great working out at Churchill Downs. Simplification finished just behind Charge It at the Florida Derby and won the Grade II Fountain of Youth. He's experienced, reliable, and versatile as he's won on the lead and coming from off the pace. He should absolutely be added to your tickets in exotics for this race. Finally, Pioneer of Medina just drew into the field on Sunday because of Early Voting skipping the Derby for the Preakness. However, Pioneer of Medina is much better than a 30-1 horse. He finished fourth at the Risen Star after getting loose and running around prior to getting loaded in the starting gate. He came back with a strong third at the Grade I Louisiana Derby. Again, he's got talent and those odds are too attractive to pass up.

Make sure to check back every day this week for new Kentucky Oaks and Derby coverage from Matthew as we approach the Run for the Roses.

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Horse Racing

Matthew DeSantis is a horse racing handicapper with a fondness for lightly raced horses with improving speed figures. You can find him at the track playing surface changes and second off the layoff.

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