By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman")
Earlier today, the post positions were drawn for the thirteen Breeders’ Cup races that will be held on October 31st and November 1st at Santa Anita Park. With so many full fields to be found, and with course configurations that can favor or hinder horses in certain posts, digesting this wealth of new handicapping information will take some time. But since we have to start somewhere, here are my preliminary thoughts on which horses drew good posts and which drew not-so-good posts for the 31st running of the Breeders’ Cup…
In my opinion, the horse that drew the best of any horse in the entire Breeders’ Cup is Goldencents. Last year, the colt overcame a very poor post (#11) to win the Dirt Mile by 2 ¾ lengths. This year, his task will be much easier, as he drew the rail in a field of ten. Barring a disastrous start, Goldencents should have little trouble securing the early lead in the Dirt Mile, and from there, a repeat victory will most likely be the result.
Also drawing well in the Dirt Mile is Vicar’s in Trouble, a speedy colt that should be able to work out a great stalking trip from post three. And in the event that Goldencents does break slowly, or else doesn’t seize the early initiative, Vicar’s in Trouble could find himself in command during the opening furlongs, a major advantage for a colt that has done his best running on the lead.
The Classic drew a full field of fourteen as expected, and with a long run to the first turn, post position shouldn’t be a critical factor in the outcome of the race. The one horse that might have really been hindered by a poor draw is California Chrome, who has demonstrated a dislike for racing inside of horses. Fortunately for his connections and his fans, the Derby/Preakness winner drew well in post thirteen, virtually guaranteeing that he will be able to work out an ideal stalking trip on the outside.
In the Filly & Mare Turf, I think that Dayatthespa drew very nicely in post four. With the closers/stalkers Abaco, Just the Judge, and defending champion Dank drawn to her inside, Dayatthespa should have little trouble gaining the early lead and shifting to the rail, and in the absence of other front-runners, she may find herself in control of a very moderate early pace. I think she has a good chance to wire the field at a solid price.
Although this year’s Mile has drawn a full field of fourteen, there doesn’t appear to be a ton of early speed on paper, which could play in favor of the speedy front-runner Obviously. The six-year-old gelding drew a terrific post (#2), and with the other primary speed horses having drawn far outside, he should be able to secure his customary position on the lead and dare his rivals to chase him down. The only concern is that Obviously has shown a tendency to break slowly on occasion, and a slow start could erase whatever advantage he might have gained from his good post draw.
American Pharoah will likely be favored in the Juvenile, and drawing post five in a field of thirteen only cemented that status. His two grade I wins have come in gate-to-wire fashion, and with the other front-runners having drawn outside of American Pharoah, they’ll have to do some real running to beat him to the lead.
In the Turf Sprint, where outside posts can be an advantage over the unique downhill turf course, No Nay Never drew well in post fourteen, as did Eddie D. Stakes winner Home Run Kitten in post ten. But with the outside posts an advantage, the inside posts are—of course—a disadvantage, which brings us to…
The probable favorite in the Turf Sprint is the speedy Reneesgotzip, runner-up in this race last year and the third-place finisher in 2012. The third time may be the charm, but if she is to win the Turf Sprint, she will have to do so while breaking from post one. Is her draw a major handicap? Possibly, although it’s worth noting that she started from post four last year and lost by just a half-length.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, drawing wide can be a major disadvantage in one-mile turf races at Santa Anita, which have a short run to the first turn. This will be particularly important to keep in mind this year, with the Juvenile Turf, Juvenile Fillies, and Mile all having drawn full fields of fourteen.
In the Juvenile Turf, Lawn Ranger (#13) and Danny Boy (#14) definitely got the worst of the draw, especially Lawn Ranger, who has early speed and will likely find himself hung wide on the first turn. It might not matter as much for Danny Boy, who will be coming from well off the pace, but it’s still a concern.
Likewise, the European fillies Prize Exhibit (#13) and Qualify (#14) will also be at a disadvantage in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Before the post draw, I was all set to use Qualify in my multi-race wagers, but the fact that she has drawn the far outside post—coupled with the fact that she is not a standout in this field—has me tempted to leave her off my tickets.
Continuing along these lines, the front-running Tourist (#13) did not draw an ideal post in the Mile, especially with fellow speedster Sayaad having drawn just inside of him in post #11. The well-regarded Seek Again also landed a tough draw, as the colt—whose biggest efforts have come when rallying on the rail—will likely find himself hung wide on the turns.
Moving on, the Sprint is a race in which post position can have a major impact, as a slow start or wide draw can make a big difference when there’s less than seventy seconds from the start of the race to the finish. My feeling is that it’s generally an advantage to draw in the middle of the field, although drawing an inside or outside post is certainly not a disaster. However, with so much speed lined up in this year’s Sprint, I think that Bakken (#11), Fast Anna (#12), and Work All Week (#13) will be hard-pressed to work out a good trip from their wide draws. If one is quick enough to out-sprint the others, and the extremely quick horses drawn inside of them (such as Seeking the Sheriff, Indianapolis, and Private Zone), they might be able to get close to the rail on the turn and avoid getting hung wide. But then they have to hope that they haven’t gone too fast early, setting the race up for a closer.
Daredevil was hugely impressive in winning the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) by 2 ½ lengths with a huge Beyer speed figure, and might have challenged American Pharoah for favoritism with a better draw. But after landing post twelve, it’s seems that Daredevil will have to be very quick into stride to avoid getting caught wide on the turns.
I have had the feeling for a while that the Distaff is ripe for an upset, and that feeling grew stronger after morning line favorites Untapable and Close Hatches drew posts ten and eleven in a field of eleven. As both fillies are at their best when on or close to the pace (Close Hatches especially), they may find themselves in a bit of trouble with the speedy trio of Tiz Midnight (#2), Iotapa (#3), and Belle Gallantey (#4) having drawn inside posts. So to work out good trips, Untapable and Close Hatches may have to change their running styles, and whether they can do so successfully is a bit of a question mark.
If you have any thoughts on the post draw, feel free to share them in a comment!