The traditional pill pull for Kentucky Derby 144 was held in the Aristides Lounge on Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs. The draw determined 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 five-hour telecast starting at 2:30 p.m. Post time for the Derby (Race 12) is 6:46 p.m. ET. The Derby undercard will be televised on the NBC Sports Network from noon to 2:30 p.m.
The purse for the Derby is $2,192,000 (if all 20 horses start) with the winner grabbing a $1,432,000 share of the total.
Morning line favorite Justify (3-1) drew the No. 7 position for four-time Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert, who was pleased with the draw. "That’s a good spot, said Baffert. "We didn’t want to be in the one-hole and we didn’t want to be 20. Seven is fine but he still has to break well. If he doesn’t break well it doesn’t matter what hole he’s in."
Super-trainer Todd Pletcher's four horses drew as follows: Audible (No. 5), Magnum Moon (No. 16), Vino Rosso (No. 18) and Noble Indy (No. 19). Pletcher was indifferent about his results. “Ideally, I wouldn’t want three of my four horses in the auxiliary gate," said Pletcher describing the gate that holds posts 15 through 20. "But it’s horse racing and that’s what happens. We’ve all seen it before: good trips from bad posts, or vice versa."
Mendelssohn (5-1) was listed as the second choice on the morning line by Mike Battaglia. He shipped in from overseas on Monday and his plane was diverted to Indianapolis, before the son of Scat Daddy vanned over to Churchill Downs. He drew post No. 14 for trainer Aidan O'Brien.
Bolt d’Oro (8-1) drew post No. 11 for trainer Mick Ruis, in his first Derby as a conditioner. Ruis reflected back on last year's Juvenile after hearing his colt's post. “It’s ironic. We had 11 and Good Magic had the 6 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. We drew the same numbers. That’s kind of fun. I’m fine where we are. That’s good.”
Post No. 5 has the most winners since 1930 at an 11.4 percent clip, and where co-fourth choice Audible landed with Javier Castellano in the irons. Always Dreaming won last year’s Derby from that post.
The No. 10 post has been in the money the most since 1930 at 29.6 percent. My Boy Jack (30-1) drew post 10 this year for trainer Keith Desormeaux. The Lexington winner will have the Kent, the trainer’s brother and three-time Derby winner in the irons. "We wanted to be there or farther outside, said Keith, who trained second-place finisher Exaggerator in 2016. "With our style (a late runner) we just didn’t want to be inside and taking a lot of dirt in the face right away.”
The post position with the most futility since 1930 is No. 17. It has never produced a winner and the last ITM (in-the-money) horse was in 1988 when Forty Niner finished second. The last top five finisher was Don’t Get Mad in 2005, with a fourth-place finish. Solomini drew the ominous No. 17 post for this year’s Derby.
There was one also-eligible entry 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. Blended Citizen is on the outside looking in at this point.
Here's a look at the posts and morning line odds for the field:
|Saddle Number||Horse||Morning Line||Trainer||Jockey|
|2||Free Drop Billy||30-1||Romans||Albarado|
|6||Good Magic||12-1||Brown||J Ortiz|
|9||Hofburg||20-1||Mott||I Ortiz Jr.|
|10||My Boy Jack||30-1||Desormeaux||Desormeaux|
|15||Instilled Regard||50-1||Hollendorfer||Van Dyke|
|18||Vino Rosso||12-1||Pletcher||JR Velazquez|
If you missed it last Friday, be sure to check out my Degrees of Separation blog. In addition, last Saturday’s long shots column can be found here and the annual Derby spreadsheet with facts, figures and the latest information has been updated through today's draw.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association and tweets @EquiSpace.