Citing declining television coverage of the post position draw for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Churchill Downs is abandoning the two-tiered process that has been used since 1998 to determine the starting field for the classic.
Under the two-tiered post position draw, when horses were entered on the Wednesday before the Derby the connections drew a number which determined the order in which they would be able to select their post positions when the draw was conducted later in the day.
Now, the Louisville track is returning to a traditional format in which the number that is drawn is the actual post position for the Derby.
"Churchill Downs has decided to set aside the two-tiered post selection process for the Kentucky Derby that has been in place for more than a decade in favor of a return to the traditional blind draw for the annual Derby 'pill pull’,” Churchill Downs spokesman John Asher said Jan. 22. “The two-step post-selection process served provided some dramatic moments and a few surprises over the years, and worked well as the centerpiece of an hour-long national telecast. The national television platform allowed us to share a very important part of the Kentucky Derby tradition with new audiences and also provided a wonderful opportunity to shine the spotlight with the city of Louisville and the entire region.”
Asher said interest in televising the post position draw has gone down in recent years and that “at least for now, we no longer have that national television window.”
The return to the traditional draw will be welcome by some owners and trainers who preferred the one pill pull to having to be present for two draws during a busy Derby week.
“There has been some sentiment through the years among some owners and trainers to return to the traditional blind draw,” Asher acknowledged. “We evaluate all parts of the Derby experience following each year's renewal and the time simply felt right to return this year to the 'pill pull' format that has been part of the Kentucky Derby for the bulk of its 135-year history.
“The post draw remains one of the pivotal events of Kentucky Derby Week and we anticipate that owners, trainers, and jockeys will want to be there to experience and participate in one of the most exciting events in the final hours leading up to America's greatest race on the first Saturday in May," Asher said.