Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Switch me? 'Lucky' on rail; 'sweet' horse draws 20

Each year, the Kentucky Derby draw sheds a little light on -- and throws a little wrench into -- the race strategy that will play out on the following Saturday.

I'm not sure when I've had as visceral an initial reaction to the draw as I have this morning. Defending juvenile champ (and morning-line 3/1 favorite) Lookin at Lucky and jockey Garrett Gomez, who would prefer to come up through the field with a later run, drew Post 1, open to the prospects of getting pinned-down and roughed-up on the rail. And the horse a lot of observers think will be the speed of the speed -- gate-to-wire Santa Anita Derby winner Sidney's Candy -- drew the far outside, Post 20.

Not that you can't win from either place.

Since 1900, a dozen horses have won from the rail -- equal to the highest winning post-position, tied with No. 5. Although the race hasn't been won from No. 1 in 23 years; Ferdinand last did it in 1986.

And Big Brown two years ago proved Post 20 wasn't hopeless even for a relative speed horse by becoming only the second Derby champion ever to win the race from that far outside. (Though posts 17 and 19 have never had a winner, and Post 18 only one -- Gato Del Sol, 1982.)

But you'd have to think the connections of Sidney's Candy, including young jock Joe Talamo, in his first Kentucky Derby, would rather have the 1-and-gun (at least over Post 20). Hog the rail all the way around and take the shortest route to the 10-furlong finish line. And No. 20 might not be quite the curse as the 23-year-rail-drought promises for Lucky, who has had nothing but trash trips since he can't remember when. Gomez could (if he would) cautiously pick his time and place to drift down toward the inside on the first run past the grandstand and just try not to get hung out too wide on the near turn. And, almost surely avoid being trapped inside like he and the horse were in Candy's SA Derby romp.

Alas, each horse and rider will just have to make the best they can from the luck of the draw.

Which always makes pre-Derby Wednesday so very interesting.

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