In many races, but especially in 20-horse Derby fields, the race is often won or lost right at the gate. The run from the gate to the first turn is the most critical portion of the race. Without a clean trip, you can forget smelling roses at the end of the race. As we Super Screened the field, one of the final considerations is securing insight as to which horses are likely to get the best and worst starts out of the gate.
I always find it interesting to watch past head-on replays of the Kentucky Derby as the run from the gate to the first turn. I just watched the last three Derby replays, and if you do the same, you will see that there is a remarkable consistency in the way the field flows from the post positions. Every jockey is trying to secure position to save as much ground going into the turn. The outside horse are angling sharply toward the center, and the very inside horses are trying to avoid getting shut off by the crush from the outside. The key dynamic in assessing likely good starts versus bad starts is the positioning of the early speed types. They will be most aggressively ridden early to secure position and will often shut off horses to their inside.
We took a look at the 2011 field and their post positions assigned combined with their running styles. Here's our assessment of which of the 2011 Derby horses are most likely to be compromised early and those that most likely to secure a clean trip to the wire.
2011 Kentucky Derby
Projected Good Start/Bad Start Traffic Outcomes
2011 Kentucky Derby "View of the Start"
- Historically, horses in the auxiliary gate (posts 15-20) will angle sharply to the left at the start to move quickly toward the center of the track.
- Horses lined up in posts 1 and 2 actually need to angle to the right to avoid hitting the rail.
- Horses coming from posts 11 to 14 will angle to the left to secure center position.
Horses coming from posts 3 to 10 will generally move straight ahead when leaving the gate.
- This year, it appears #4 Stay Thirsty is most likely to get squeezed back by the crush of three early speed types angling in front of him from the left and #1 Archarcharch crossing in front of him from the right.
- Others that are likely to be impeded at the start are #13 Mucho Macho Man and #16 Animal Kingdom as speed horses desperate to secure good early position angle sharply in front of them.
- As a speed horse, #18 Uncle Mo coming out of the 18 hole will be severely compromised. #20 Watch Me Go has it super tough coming from the 20 hole.
- Horses with the projected best starts include #8 Dialed In, #9 Derby Kitten, #10 Twinspired, #1 Archarcharch, #11 Master of Hounds, #7 Pants On Fire and #12 Santiva.