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THE LUCK OF THE DRAW COVERS A LOT OF TERRITORY
Published:May 14, 2014
The standard drill at a post-position draw is for a trainer or owner to say – no matter what number his or her horse drew – that the position will be fine. The jockey will be able to work out a trip.
In the Preakness draw Wednesday, California Chrome drew No. 3 in a 10-horse field. Alan Sherman, assistant to his father, trainer Art Sherman, had made it clear that they didn't want No. 1, a position from which a horse can be crowded early in the race.
It's interesting that California Chrome will break to the inside of potential front-runners Bayern, No. 5; Social Inclusion, No. 8; and Pablo Del Monte, No. 9. If Victor Espinoza doesn't want to try for the early lead with California Chrome, the jockey will have to work out a trip around the speed horses.
"That's fine,'' Art Sherman said. "I'm leaving it up to Victor Espinoza. He knows the horse and how to handle the horse when they break.''
No horse has won the Preakness from No. 1 since Tabasco Cat in 1994, and he was among only four winners since then who broke from the inside five positions.
Dynamic Impact drew No. 1 for this race. He started from that position when he won the Illinois Derby in an eight-horse field, finding his best stride when getting to the outside in the stretch and wearing down Midnight Hawk. Norman Casse, assistant to his father, trainer Mark Casse, acknowledged that they didn't want No. 1, but said jockey Miguel Mena and Dynamic Impact will deal with it.
"He had a perfect trip from the 1-hole last time,'' Norman Casse said. "At some point, Miguel's going to have to get him to the outside, because the horse does his best running from the outside. But going into the first turn, we'll get to save all the ground and, you know, obviously, it's not what we would have preferred. ...
"He certainly likes to be on the outside better, and that will up to Miguel, when he's going to get him out. We've got the 1-hole, and there's nothing we can do about it.''
Late-running Ride On Curlin drew No. 10, the position farthest from the rail. He broke from the 18-post in a 19-horse Derby field and had a troubled trip, finishing seventh. Trainer Billy Gowan said the outside draw shouldn't be a problem in this race.
"I don't think it's a big issue at all,'' Gowan said. "We're kind of sitting right on the ground. We're the last one to load. I think we're good. I'm not worried about it at all. There's a lot of speed to the inside.
"I'd rather have the 10 than have the 1 any day of the week. That way, they can go out there, and there's enough speed that my jock (Joel Rosario) can pick him a good spot and hopefully save some ground.''
In the last 20 years, four Preakness winners broke from post positions 10 or higher. Those horses were Real Quiet, Point Given, Afleet Alex and the filly Rachel Alexandra – all champions.
Keep in mind, the horse in the post position has much to do with determining whether the position will turn out advantageous. Champions find ways to have winning trips, but there are no favorable starting spots for slow horses.
Also, it's impossible to know before a race if a horse's draw is unlucky. If a horse breaks sideways and bumps another horse, the latter's post position is – after the fast – unlucky.
There's no telling where trouble might surface early in a race. If a horse acts up in the gate, the horses alongside might be bothered. Their draw, all of a sudden, is unlucky.
The luck of the draw covers a lot of territory. It's a waste of time to worry about it.