Countdown to the Cup: Post Position Perils

Countdown to the Cup: Post Position Perils
Photo: Alexander Barkoff
Breeders' Cup Classic contender Lemon Drop Kid gets a kiss from his exercise rider earlier this week at Churchill Downs.
Breeders' Cup Entries, with post positions and morning line odds

So, now we have post positions. Who escaped unscathed, who got lucky, and who fell victim to those agonizing little pills?

Of course, post positions often wind up having little effect on a horse's performance, but they do have a tendency to alter the running of a race and change strategy. And they do occasionally compromise the chances of a horse whose post position does not fit his or her running style. So, here is a look at how the runnings of the eight Breeders' Cup races might be altered because of the draw, and which horses will have to somehow adjust to their post positions.

CLASSIC: Before we get to post positions, there is one bit of morning news to report, and that is the 3-furlong blowout by Lemon Drop Kid. The son of Kingmambo was clocked in :35 4/5, but that in no way indicates what kind of work this was. Lemon Drop Kid, who has been as aggressive in his gallops as any horse we've seen, was eager to go as he approached the three-eighths pole. He quickly leveled off and came roaring out of the turn only to find three gallopers in front of him, with two of them way too close to the rail. Exercise rider George Martens suddenly found himself under race conditions. He took Lemon Drop Kid about five off the rail to get around the two inside gallopers and steered him inside the third horse. The Kid now had his blood up, and blew by the three horses, while losing time having to go so wide. Martens let him bound along inside the eighth pole, and The Kid flew home his final eighth in :11 1/5.

We can't get into a horse's head or pretend to know if he is tailing off, as many say Lemon Drop Kid is. But we will say that if this horse is indeed tailing off, he's putting on one heck of a fa├žade. Between his radiant coat, his aggressive gallops, and his overall demeanor and attitude, he sure is doing a great job of impersonating a horse who is ready to fire big. Of course, we now hear that there is rain in the forecast, which adds another element into the equation. But track conditions aside, this horse looks to be coming up to the Classic in super shape.

Now, on to the post positions. With 14 horses entered, we see nothing that is going to affect any horse's performance. Captain Steve drew the rail, and will likely be sitting in behind Albert the Great who drew the favorable 6-hole. Tiznow, the other horse with good early speed, drew post 13, which should help him get a good position outside Albert the Great going into the clubhouse turn. But Albert should control the rail, where he is most effective. Giant's Causeway, the big European threat, will break from the outside in post 14, and that also is a good post for him, as it will allow him clear sailing, following Tiznow, without getting dirt kicked in his face.

As for Fusaichi Pegasus, he couldn't have drawn better, breaking from post 9, which will likely put him in the middle of the pack, allowing Kent Desormeaux to sit behind horses or swing to the outside. Golden Missile (post 3) and Cat Thief (post 4), will be right behind the leaders, while able to save ground. Lemon Drop Kid, like Fusaichi Pegasus, will be in the garden spot, breaking from post 7, giving Edgar Prado several options. So, all in all, this was an excellent draw for everyone, and should help make the Classic the true-run race.

TURF: Williams News (post 13) and Down the Aisle (post 12) drew the two outside post positions, and being dead-closers, they were going to drop out of it anyway. Kalanisi, breaking from the rail, will get the cover Europeans love, and he'll just stay inside until the holes start to open up. Fantastic Light will drop back from post 2, and there is a good chance Frankie Dettori might just follow Kalanisi and let him do all the work finding the holes. Montjeu will break from post 4, and also will get good cover. Then when the holes start to open, we'll see just how much this great horse has left in him.

JUVENILE: Flame Thrower, the 3-1 morning line favorite, will have to do some running from post 12 if he wants to get a good position going into the clubhouse turn. But this is such a strong field, he better not exert himself too much if he want to have enough left to hold off the many top-class horses who will be charging at him through the stretch. Luck smiled on Nick Zito again, as A P Valentine, like Albert the Great, drew post 6, which should put him in great position.

In addition to Flame Thrower, Bob Baffert's other two horses, Point Given and Arabian Light, drew post 1 and 10, respectively. That will make things a bit difficult for Point Given, a big, powerful, long-striding colt who would be more effective outside of horses. So, this is a case where Baffert's two will have to overcome their posts, as will Arabian Light, but to a lesser degree. Stuck on the far outside in the 14-horse field will be Burning Roma, but the Futurity Stakes winner is a one-run horse, and he'll just drop back and try to save as much ground as possible. Yonaguska, in post 11, could have drawn better, but D. Wayne Lukas' horses have done extremely well from the outside in the Kentucky Derby, so we won't even go in that direction.

Street Cry, a horse we like a lot, drew well in post 9, which should allow him to get a good position. None of the other posts should have any effect on the running of the race.

FILLY & MARE TURF: The two that suffered the most here are Caffe Latte, who drew the far outside in the field of 14, and the German filly Catella, who will break from 13. The likely favorite, Petrushka, drew the rail, which should help her save ground and pick her spots. But as always in the case of drawing post 1, she'll need luck, as horses will have to clear the way in front of her. One mistake, and she's in danger of being caught in a trap.

The two big American fillies, Perfect Sting and Snow Polina, are in good shape, breaking from post 8 and 9, respectively, while Yellow Ribbon winner Tranquility Lake drew extremely well, coming out of post 5, where she'll be in good position to mix it up early if that what Eddie Delahoussaye wants. A real sleeper in the race, Spanish Fern, drew post 11, so she'll no doubt drop back and try to make one big late run.

SPRINT: The one horse who will have to get lucky here is More Than Ready, who we feel is sitting on a huge race. Breaking from the deadly rail in the 14-horse cavalry charge, he'll have to drop out of it, ease out from behind all the speed that has drawn in front of him, and start looking for the holes.

As for the speed, it should be bombs away, with Trippi in post 2, Caller One in post 3, and Five Star Day in post 5. Trippi probably won't try to run with the other two, but he'll want to keep the rail if he can, so expect him to be hustled along pretty good. Delaware Township, a horse with good tactical speed, drew post 14, so he'll also have to hustled out of there to try to avoid getting hung too wide going into the far turn.

The morning line favorite Kona Gold breaks from post 10, but has four closers directly inside him, which should put him in great shape, sitting right behind the top three, without having to be used too much to get there. Honest Lady drew post 13, and she'll drop way back and try to circle horses late with one big run.

Continued . . . .

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