When choosing post positions at Wednesday's Kentucky Derby draw, trainers of this year's Derby entrants seemed to focus on minimizing the amount of time their horses would have to spend in the starting gate while the bulky field loads for Saturday's 128th renewal of the 1 1/4-mile classic.
"I would have gone for number 10 if we had the choice. It would have meant a little less time in the gate," said Tom Albertrani, assistant to Essence of Dubai's trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "But with the eight he won't be in there too long. I think we can keep him relaxed by walking behind the gate before they start."
Others echoed his comments.
"We thought it was a good spot," said H. James Bond after picking post 10 for Wood Memorial 9gr. I) winner Buddha. "Lots of horses have won from there in the history of the race. And we're the last to load. That should be an advantage."
Jim Cassidy, trainer of Ocean Sound said he chose post six over 12 as post six loads later.
Wood runner-up Medaglia d'Oro will start from post nine, which pleases trainer Bobby Frankel, who was awarded the second choice. "It was a good spot for him. We weren't going to be affected by scratches or anything in that spot," said Frankel. "He isn't going to spend a lot of time in the gate. It's right where I wanted him to be."
Ted West, who had the 16th choice for Easy Grades' starting spot, chose post 19. "19 is way out there, but we won't be in there too long, so that's a plus," the conditioner said.
Another common theme in post-draw comments by trainers was having no reservations about taking an outside post.
No horse will start Saturday's Derby closer to the outside rail than Bill Mott-trained Blue Burner, the Wood Memorial's fifth-place finisher. "It's a long way out there, but I wouldn't want to be all the way down inside," Mott said. "If we were down inside in a 20-horse field, you'd have to scoop the dirt off him with a shovel."
Wilson Brown, conditioner of longshot It'sallinthechase, picked post 18. "I didn't want to get smashed up on the rail," he said "I've got a come-from-behind horse and I don't want to be down inside getting pushed around. We'll do better outside."
Paco Gonzalez chose post 15 for Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Came Home, and the trainer believes his colt's tactical speed should help him overcome and drawbacks from the wide berth. "Eight or nine would have been our first choice, but they were taken," Gonzalez said. "So we took 15 because we'd rather be outside than inside. Chris (McCarron) was happy. This horse has tactical speed, so he'll be able to get a position into the first turn, hopefully."
While Came Home possesses tactical speed, trainer Shug McGaughey picked an outside spot for Saarland for tactical reasons. He doesn't want his late-runner using up too much energy early in the race. "We took an outside spot because if we'd gone inside and he broke sharply where there's a lot of activity he might get excited and we'd get out of our game plan," he said.
Bob Baffert said Danthebluegrassman didn't seem comfortable racing on the inside when last in the Santa Anita Derby, and chose post 17.
Steve Asmussen -- who will have only one Derby starter due to Danthebluegrassman's entry, which bumped his Windward Passage to 21st in the order of preference in a race limited to 20 starters – said Arkansas Derby (gr. II) winner Private Emblem will be loaded while wearing a blanket. Asmussen had the fourth pick and he chose gate 12. "This horse is a bit skin sensitive so he wears a blanket in the gate and he was going to load either first or second anyway," he explained. "With the blanket on he's fine in the gate. We used it on him for the first time when he ran in Texas (the Houston Texas Juvenile last December) and he's schooled countless times in the gate wearing the blanket."
Murray Johnson, whose Perfect Drift will start from post three, picked 19th of 20 and was just happy to have a starter.
"We didn't really have a lot of choice," Johnson said. "We are just glad to be in the gate because there are some people not in the gate that wanted to be there. He should be able to save some ground, and hopefully they won't put us over the inside fence."