Kentucky Derby Favorite in Historically Bad Post Position

Over the weekend at Churchill Downs, officials for the Kentucky Derby drew the starting posts for the field of three-year-olds. Florida Derby winner Fierceness was the pre-post favorite, and despite drawing the dreaded 17th position, Fierceness remains atop the odds board at 5-2.

Since the Derby first went to a numbered starting gate in 1930, only one starting post has failed to yield a winner: No. 17.

Horses running from the 17th position are 0-for-44, with the best performance coming from Forty Niner, who finished second in 1988 to Winning Colors.

“I was one-for-a-million in my life,” said Fierceness owner Mike Repole. “O for 44 is way better odds than one-in-a-million. I’m in. That’s great.

“Let’s be the first of many things. I’ve never been afraid to try to be the first in anything I’ve done in life. Why would a 17 post scare me, you know?”

Repole was the founder of Glaceau, which makes Vitamin Water and was sold to Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion. He then got into thoroughbred ownership and horse racing, and Repole Stables owned Vino Rosso, the Breeder’s Cup Classic winner in 2019, and Mo Donegal, which won the Belmont Stakes in 2022.

His horse Forte was one of the pre-race favorites at the Kentucky Derby last year, but was scratched by track vets because of a bruised hoof.

Second Betting Favorite on Inside

After Fierceness, the other horse to beat is Sierra Leone, which drew the second position. It’s not a perfect draw for Sierra Leone, who is 3-1 to win on Saturday. But we have had winners from the second post before – the last coming in 1978 with Affirmed.

In 94 races, the second position has turned out seven winners at Churchill Downs.

On the rail in position one is Dornoch, running at 20-1. Catching Freedom is in position four and is the only horse besides Fierceness and Sierra Leone with odds of less than 10-1. Catching Freedom (8-1) is the Louisiana Derby winner, and is trained by Brad H. Cox, the trainer of 2021 Derby winner Mandaloun.

There are two horses at 10-1: Just a Touch, running from the eighth position, also trained by Cox, and Forever Young, starting at the 11th post and trying to become the first horse from Japan to win the Kentucky Derby, 

Betting Handle Expected to Break Record

In each of the last two years, the Kentucky Derby has broken its own record handle, and FanDuel, which is the official sportsbook partner of the Derby, thinks there is every reason to believe it will happen again this year.

“Given the excitement around the 150th anniversary, and the increased reach via online sportsbooks, we expect another record year in handle,” said Andrew Moore, general manager of racing at FanDuel.

Last year, the 149th Kentucky Derby resulted in $188.7 million in wagers, and the prediction for this year is to top $200 million.

This is the first Kentucky Derby since the state of Kentucky legalized sports betting last September. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission says that the total handle for off-track simulcasts from January through March of this year topped $70 million.

The 150th Kentucky Derby is Saturday, May 4, and the Call to Post is expected at 6:45 p.m. EST.

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