LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Ahmed Zayat, owner of American Pharoah, extended his hand to console rival trainer Todd Pletcher after Wednesday's post-position draw for Saturday's Kentucky Derby.
Zayat was thrilled his 5-2 favorite had drawn on the outside, post 18 in a field of 20. Third betting choice Carpe Diem (8-1) and undefeated Materiality (12-1), the standouts among Pletcher's four horses, will start from posts 2 and 3, respectively. It's been 37 years since post 2 had a winner, and 17 since one came from the 3.
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"Todd, I feel for you," Zayat said.
"Why?" Pletcher said.
The always composed Pletcher was philosophical about his bad luck of the draw. "You can get a good trip from any post, and a bad trip from any post," he said.
True, but Carpe Diem and Materiality will be forced to blast from the gate in a speed-saturated field to avoid being jammed back along the inside and losing all chance. "We'll go out and try to establish a position," Pletcher said, "just like we would from any post."
Zayat thought the stars were aligning for him, his brilliant colt and trainer Bob Baffert. "I don't like the 18, I love it," Zayat said. "I was praying for a real outside post. I'm ecstatic. You can do anything from out there."
Baffert's 3-1 second favorite, Dortmund, drew well (post 8). The three-time Derby winner was pleased with that but just "OK" with having American Pharoah out in 18. Like Pletcher, he didn't overreact to his horses' starting points.
"It's 20 horses, so it's going to be a stampede," Baffert said. "The break is going to be so important, and Dortmund is quick." Then he joked, "I'm just going to watch the one who breaks the best."
Firing Line (post 10, 12-1) and Wood Memorial winner Frosted (post 15, 12-1) landed in good places, because their riders will have options and room to maneuver for position in the quarter-mile dash to the clubhouse turn. Ocho Ocho Ocho (50-1) drew the dreaded rail, which is winless since 1986, and Far Right (30-1) was marooned in post 20.