LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The last Kentucky Derby winner to come from post 1 was Ferdinand in 1986. When War of Will drew the rail Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs, trainer Mark Casse buried his head in his hands, then tried to laugh it off.
“Mark was behind me,” trainer Bob Baffert said, “and I heard a heavy gasp.”
Baffert also wasn’t thrilled with the announcement that post 17 is 0-for-40 all-time. That’s where Roadster, one of his three entries, landed. The five-time Derby winner had no complaints about the spots for Improbable (post 5) and Game Winner (post 16). Game Winner is the 5-1 second favorite, with Roadster and Improbable the 6-1 co-third choices.
Omaha Beach, the 4-1 morning-line favorite, drew favorably for Saturday’s 145th Derby. From post 12, Mike Smith should be able to track the four speed horses inside him — War of Will, Improbable, Vekoma (post 6) and Maximum Security (post 7, 10-1). Midpack stalker Tacitus (post 8, 10-1) also drew well. Sixteen of the 20 runners are 10-1 or higher, with 12 at 20-1 and up.
Smith, a two-time Derby champion, jumped off Roadster to stay with Omaha Beach, who beat Game Winner by a nose in the Rebel Stakes and Improbable by a length in the Arkansas Derby.
“I just thought that for this race Omaha Beach had more seasoning under his belt and could handle any surface,” said Smith, who called Game Winner “still the horse to beat. He just keeps coming. You have to run your ‘A’ race to beat Game Winner.”