A.E. Housman’s famous poem says it all: “When I was one-and-twenty.”
Oh, the irony of it all. Had Lookin at “Lucky” drew No. 1 in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in any year from 1998 to 2009, he would have had the No. 1 choice of post position in the selection process that was used during those years. But with the return to the tradition draw, No. 1 meant post position, not selection order. And, we all know no one wants Post 1.
And because no one wants Post 1, which usually is the only one left at the end, it means that Sidney's Candy, who drew the equally scorned Post 20, likely would have wound up in Post 1.
Are you getting all this?
Now, before anyone sounds the death knell for 3-1 favorite Lookin at Lucky or 5-1 second choice Sidney’s Candy, drawing those posts does not equate to a guaranteed defeat. The post positions that have produced the most Derby winners are Post 5 and Post 1 with 12 winners each. And Big Brown won from Post 20 in 2008, the first horse to do so.
Are these posts ideal? Not by any means. But they still have to run around the track, and we all know once those gates open, anything can happen. Fusaichi Pegasus broke from Post 15 in 2000, headed right to rail, and had a traffic-free, ground-saving trip. His dream trip on the rail resulted in victory. And who can forget Street Sense ’s and Mine That Bird’s daring runs from far back hugging the rail most of the way. In short, there is no way to predict what is going to happen, especially in a 20-horse field. Would trainers Bob Baffert and John Sadler rather have another post position? You’re darn right they would. Are they going to crawl in a hole and concede victory? Not a chance.
As Lookin at Lucky’s co-owner Pegram said, “We got the best jockey and that’s what they get paid to do. What would you rather have a dream post or a dream trip? I’ll take the dream trip. I’m not gonna bitch. Hell, it’s horseracing. Someone asked me after the draw why I’m in such a jovial mood. I told him, ‘I’m in the damn Kentucky Derby. That’s why I’m in a jovial mood.”
When Pegram headed to the paddock after the draw to watch the colt school, he went over to Baffert, who said facetiously, “You wanna scratch?”
Lookin at Lucky then walked by with his coat shining and muscle lines well defined. “Look at him,” Baffert said. “He doesn’t know he drew the ‘1.’”
With three bad trips in his last four starts, including drawing the 13-post in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and then drawing the least desired post in the Kentucky Derby, you have to wonder about Lookin at Lucky’s name. But, on the bright side, he is due for good luck, and just maybe he will get his dream trip when everyone least expects it.
With the blinkers off Lookin at Lucky, you know Garrett Gomez was planning on taking him back anyway. This could make it easier for him, not having to rush him out of the gate, and he won’t have to worry about trying to get to the inside from an outside post. He’ll already be there.
As for Sidney’s Candy, he will have to be used from Post 20 just to get a decent enough position where he’s not hung very wide on the first turn. Line of David will go to the front from Post 5, with Conveyance , breaking from Post 12, putting pressure on him from the outside. Those two are of little concern to Sidney’s Candy, who was going to lay behind them anyway. It is Homeboykris, just inside him in Post 19, Discreetly Mine (Post 15), Jackson Bend (Post 13), and American Lion (Post 7) who have the tactical speed to keep him parked wide.
American Lion, who looked great galloping Wednesday morning, should be in excellent shape from Post 7, as should Stately Victor from Post 6, Paddy O'Prado from Post 10, and Devil May Care from Post 11. Dublin, who needs to come from far back to have any chance, shouldn’t be disadvantaged from Post 17, because is his such a long-striding horse that he is most effective racing on the outside, where he has less chance of getting stopped in traffic.
In other Derby news:
-- Well, it looks as if our comments in Tuesday’s column regarding Endorsement weren’t necessary, as the backstretch rumors about the colt all week apparently had validity.
What added to the disappointment and frustration was the fact that Endorsement looked fantastic working Wednesday morning. He was really motoring around there and reaching out beautifully, and then galloped out with gusto. It wasn’t until he neared his barn that trainer Shannon Ritter, aboard the colt, felt there was something wrong.
WinStar co-owner Bill Casner’s eyes welled up with tears later in the day, not for WinStar and not even for the horse, but for Ritter, who is like family to them. Casner said they wanted this so badly for her after all the years of hard work and dedication she put in. The more he discussed Ritter, the more difficulty he had getting the words out.
-- Homeboykris turned in a solid half-mile drill in :48 2/5 Wednesday morning and looked good enough doing it.
-- American Lion was the first to gallop and made an excellent impression. As we mentioned several days ago, his coat is sparking and dappled out, and you have to be impressed with his long, fluid strides.
-- Paddy O’Prado turned in another powerful gallop. It seems apparent this colt will have no problems with stamina. He just keeps going and going and runs hard.
--- Devil May Care also had a strong gallop. Unfortunately, one of the best gallopers we’ve seen here is Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) runner-up Setsuko, who did not get in the race.