LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The traditional pill pull for Kentucky Derby 143 was held on Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs determining the post positions for this year’s 20 starters for the Run for the Roses. The race will be televised nationally on NBC (Ch. 2) on Saturday afternoon during a four-and-a-half-hour telecast starting at 2:30 p.m. Post time for the Derby (Race 12) is 6:46 p.m. EDT. The Derby undercard will be televised on NBC Sports Network from Noon to 2:30 p.m.
- Morning line favorite Classic Empire (9-2) drew the No. 14 position early in the draw, a spot that assistant trainer Norman Casse described as “perfect.” The 14 gate is the last gate in the main gate, with 15-20 in an auxiliary gate. This will give him plenty of room to maneuver into position heading to the clubhouse turn. His father Mark, was breathing a sigh of relief by avoiding the rail and the outside post position with the draw. “It’s a good spot,” Casse said. “A couple of key contenders are outside of us, which is kind of nice.”
- Super-trainer Todd Pletcher's three horses drew as follows: Always Dreaming (No. 5), Tapwrit (No.16) and Patch (No. 20). The big draw here was Always Dreaming just outside of Fast and Accurate (post No. 3), both colts likely to head to the front from those inside post positions. Pletcher wasn’t thrilled by the 5 post, but he wasn’t discouraged by it either. “It’s fine. Ideally, I’d have liked to have been a little farther out, but he won the Florida Derby from the four, so that says something. In the end, we’re good with it,” said Pletcher.
- McCraken (5-1) was listed as the co-second choice with Always Dreaming. Trainer Ian Wilkes was also relieved he didn’t draw the rail or 20 spot. “It is a very good draw,” Wilkes said. “They were trying to tease us a little bit with the one and 20 still out for the second half of the draw. We have a good spot because there is that small gap between the main gate and the auxiliary gate.”
- Steve Asmussen’s three horses, Hence (No. 8), Untrapped (No. 4) and Lookin at Lee (No. 1). Hence’s draw was the best of the three, although with Lookin at Lee’s late running style, drawing the rail shouldn’t be as big a deal as it would be if it was another horse. Ironically, in 2010, his father drew the rail also and was out of the race before it started. He did come back to win the Preakness.
- Asmussen had thoughts on all three of his charges. “I didn't want the one hole, but if any horse can handle the one hole in the Kentucky Derby, it's Lookin At Lee,” said Asmussen. “With Untrapped, the four is a bit of a concern because Always Dreaming is just to his outside and he'll probably be the pace horse. The eight for Hence is one of the preferred spots statistically. I think, looking at the stats the last 20 years, the eight, 13 and 16 posts have produced the most in-the-money finishes.”
- The post that has been in the money the most since 1930 is No. 10. Gunnevera drew post 10 this year for trainer Antonio Sanso. Venezuelan trainer Antonio Sano called his shot with the 10 hole. “The post position is good. I said I wanted the middle of the field,” said Sano.
- Sonneteer, (50-1) is attempting to become the first maiden to win the Kentucky Derby since Brokers Tip in 1933. The son of Midnight Lute drew post No. 12.
- There were two also-eligible entries that will only draw into the race upon a scratch before 9 a.m. Friday morning, when live wagering for the Oaks-Derby double and advance Kentucky Derby wagering opens up. Both Royal Mo and Master Plan are on the outside looking in at this point.
Here's a look at the posts, morning line odds as set by Mike Battaglia for the field:
|Saddle Number||Horse||Morning Line||Trainer||Jockey|
|1||Lookin at Lee||20-1||Asmussen||Lanerie|
|2||Thunder Snow (IRE)||20-1||bin Suroor||Soumillon|
|3||Fast and Accurate||15-1||Maker||Hill|
|4||Untrapped||30-1||Asmussen||R Santana Jr|
|6||State of Honor||30-1||Casse||Lezcano|
|11||Battle of Midway||30-1||Hollendorfer||Prat|
|13||J Boys Echo||20-1||Romans||Saez|
|15||McCraken||5-1||Wilkes||B Hernandez Jr|
|17||Irish War Cry||6-1||Motion||Maragh|
|AE - 21||Royal Mo||20-1||Shirreffs||Stevens|
|AE -22||Master Plan||50-1||Pletcher||Velazquez|
If you missed it last Friday, be sure to check out my Degrees of Separation blog. In addition, last Saturday’s longshots column can be found here and the annual Derby spreadsheet with facts, figures and the latest information has been updated through the draw.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association and tweets @EquiSpace.