Florida Derby: How punitive is post 11 for Forte?

Florida Derby: How punitive is post 11 for Forte?

The Todd Pletcher post 11 apologist tour is the hottest ticket leading into Saturday's Grade 1 Florida Derby, with the Hall of Fame trainer lamenting the outside draw for current Kentucky Derby favorite Forte.

The Violence colt has done little wrong during a four-race win streak, which includes a 2-year-old male championship campaign that included a Breeders' Cup Juvenile win and continued with an emphatic victory in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) in his 3-year-old debut.

Check out HRN's rankings of Kentucky Derby 2023 contenders.

The Florida Derby already was slated to be his toughest test, stretching out to 1 1/8 miles and running in his first two-turn race not utilizing an alternative start or finish line.

And that test got tougher when he drew post 11 of 12 for the $1 million race on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. At least to hear Pletcher tell it.

"I wish he weren't in post 11," Pletcher said Saturday by phone after his Kingsbarns won the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds. "Statistically we're clearly at a disadvantage, but he'll just have to prove he's that much better to overcome it."

Superficially, it's impossible to argue with Pletcher's read. The chart above shows that there have been 24 races with at least nine starters going 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Gulfstream Park the last five years. Post post 11 is 0-for-10, and posts 9-12 are 2-for-54.

But all that glitters ain't gold and all that blooms ain't mold. Post 10 is 2-for-16 with a 49.5 percent HRN Impact and +258 percent ROI. Obviously, that is a small sample size, but if post 10 can produce two winners, then why not posts 9 or 11 despite their combined 0-for-34 record?

HRN Impact measures the ratio of expected win total based on win odds against the actual win total. That -100 percent Impact looks gnarly, but the expected win percentage of post 11 was only 3.4 percent. That's a failure rate of 96.6, which means 70 percent of the time that there are 10 trials, there will be zero successes. And even grouping posts 9-12, the expected wins was three versus the two it actually was. These are hardly "the sky is falling" numbers.

And what of the inside? Would the Forte camp have been as disappointed with posts 1 or 2, which are just 1-for-48 against five expected wins? Travis Stone gets it.

In the four races that had exactly 12 horses going 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Gulfstream Park the past five years, all four winners came from posts 3-6, with one win each for each of those posts.

Is that a huge edge for the middle posts? Again – small sample size alert – four races is not enough to draw any meaningful conclusions, but evidence suggests the middle is better than the inside or outside. Still, other evidence points to the outside not being as bad as the inside in bigger fields, so it could have been worse for Forte. And if he is who the odds suggest he is, then it will not matter anyway.

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