Update: Hopportunity is out as of Thursday at 9 a.m.
The Secretariat Lounge at Churchill Downs was packed Wednesday afternoon as horse owners, trainers and racing experts waited to see which horses would get lucky and which would have to work harder to win this Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
But as the draw came and went, there were just two positions that seemed they might make a difference. Unfortunately for Wicked Strong, named so out of respect to the victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, he got the short end of the proverbial stick. He’ll start out of post 20, the very final stall of the dreaded auxiliary gate. The draw bodes so badly for the East Coast horse that it lowered his odds to 8-1. Which, when put into context, isn’t all that bad.
On the flip side, Wicked Strong’s bad luck was Hopportunity’s good luck. This horse drew spot 11 in the main gates, which caused handicappers to up his chances. Hopportunity’s odds are now 6-1, making him the second favorite horse instead of Wicked Strong. However, with Hopportunity’s withdraw, Wicked Strong’s odds may change again. Stay tuned.
The odds for the rest of the pack stayed pretty much the same, including for the race favorite California Chrome, who drew gate 5, one of the most productive gates in Kentucky Derby history. Since 1900, that gate’s produced 12 winners. And with 5/2 odds, it might very well produce a 13th this year.
Here’s a look at how the whole draw shook out and what it might mean for each contender.
1: Vicar’s in Trouble. Widely looked at as the most dreaded spot in the draw, at first blush, it seems Vicar’s in Trouble is, well, in trouble. Historically, however, this spot isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s kind of great. It’s tied for first for producing the most winners since 1900 with gate 5. In recent history, though, the last winner to emerge from starting stall No. 1 was in 1986. Can female jockey Rosie Napravnik turn it around? Odds: 30-1
2: Harry’s Holiday. Like position No. 1, this post is also not ideal. Harry’s Holiday will have to use his speed and break well in order not to get pinned on the rail. That might be difficult for a horse whose chances are already slim. Odds: 50-1
3: Uncle Sigh. Gate 3’s a fine draw, and will probably have little consequence on the race because Uncle Sigh is not a favorite. Maybe that’s how he got his name? Odds: 30-1
4: Danza. This horse likes the inside, so this is a pretty great draw for Danza, who is named after the actor Tony Danza, who will, in fact, be in attendance Saturday. Gate 4 is also statistically pretty great. It’s produced 11 winners since 1900. Odds: 10-1
5: California Chrome. The favorite remains the favorite with this good inside post. It’s the same position he had in the San Anita Derby, which California Chrome won. It also ties with position No. 1 as the most winning post since 1900 with 12 winners. We’ll see if he can keep up the pace. Odds: 5/2
6: Samraat. This position should work out fine for Samraat, especially if he can break a little quicker than California Chrome. If he does, he might have a chance to win. Odds: 15-1
7: We Miss Artie. This is a fine middle-of-the-pack spot for any horse. It probably won’t help We Miss Artie, though. Odds: 50-1
8: General A Rod. This is a good draw for any horse, especially when looked at historically. It’s managed to produce 10 winners since 1900. Sidebar: unlike Danza, General A Rod’s not named after anyone famous. Sorry, Alex Rodriguez, he’s named after his former owner. Odd: 15-1
9: Vinceremos. It’s a good position, but it doesn’t do enough to give this horse any better odds to win. Odds: 30-1
10: Wildcat Red. Ahh, yes, good ol’ stall No. 10. Most people consider this the best spot to be in not only because it’s smack in the middle of the pack, but also because the horse in this gate, along with the one in gate No. 20, has to wait the least amount of time in the starting gate before the race kicks off. Statistically, this post is pretty great, too, having produced 10 winners since 1900. Odds: 15-1
11: Hopportunity. Experts believe this draw will work in Hopportunity’s favor. In fact, after it was announced, his odds got better. Odds: 6-1
Baffert confirming now Hoppertunity will not run in KY Derby due to foot issue.— horseracinghl (@horseracinghl) May 1, 2014
12: Dance with Fate. This post is fine. That is all. Odd: 20-1
13: Chitu. Ditto from above. Odds: 20-1
14: Medal Count. Statistically, this post is not good. It’s only produced two winners since 1900. At the same time, however, some experts think it offers a value that other positions don’t. Because it’s about six feet from the auxiliary gates on the horse’s right, if something goes wrong in the main field, Medal Count will have more room to recover. Odds: 20-1
15: Tapiture. This gate offers the same advantage as above thanks to its extra room, this time on the horse’s left. However, most people think that advantage doesn’t make up for the fact that this is an outside draw, which most horses historically don’t favor. Odds: 15-1
16: Intense Holiday. Another “unlucky” outside draw, this post has recently proven to be pretty lucky. This is the gate last year’s winner, Orb, started from. Odds: 12-1
17: Commanding Curve. This is the worst gate of all time. It’s the only post that’s never produced a winner. It probably won’t again this year either. Odds: 50-1
18: Candy Boy. While not as bad as Post 17, this spot is not ideal. It’s only produced one winner since 1900. Odds: 20-1
19: Ride on Curlin. See above. This gate’s as statistically bad as Post 18. That said, Ride on Curlin should not be counted out. Odds: 15-1
20: Wicked Strong. This is a wicked bad gate. So bad, actually, that once Wicked Strong drew this gate, his odds lowered. But who knows. With the spirit of one of the most resilient cities in America in his corner, he could still pull out the win. Odds: 8-1