Kentucky Derby Post Positions Stats: by the Numbers

Chris Adams

One of the most anticipated events leading into the Kentucky Derby is the post draw. At this event the starting position of each horse is drawn at random. For almost all of the 20 horses, this will be more than double the size of any of the fields they have run against to this point.

With so many competitors there are more obstacles to overcome in order to win America’s most famous horse race and sometimes a variable such as which gate the horse starts from can have a dramatic impact on their chances. The following is a post by post analysis of how each starting position has done in the Kentucky Derby. Once the 2022 field is drawn, handicappers can begin determining which runners should be upgraded or downgraded based on their draw.

A Change to the Gate

One interesting development in post positions is that in 2020 Churchill Downs switched from their gate setup. Prior to 2020 the Derby was run from two separate gates. Posts 1-14 were located in the main gate while posts 15-20 were located in an attached auxiliary gate. This meant horses in those posts were actually an extra path or two away from the rail.

Some trainers thought it was an advantage to break from the 14 or 15 post because of the extra space which meant they were less likely to get pinched at the start. In 2020 Churchill Downs unveiled its brand new 20 horse gate. This gate eliminates the gap between the 14 and 15 holes.

Kentucky Derby Winners by Post

The horses who have fared the best in the Derby have traditionally come from the interior posts. However, recent contests have seen that bias start to drift toward the outer posts.

The horses who have fared the best in the Derby have traditionally come from the interior posts. However, recent contests have seen that bias start to drift toward the outer posts.

Kentucky Derby Winning Post Position Trends

  • The 5th post position has the most wins all-time with 10 victories from 91 starts.
  • Four of the last 7 Kentucky Derby winners broke from post 13 or higher.
  • Post position 17 is the only post to not have produced a Derby winner.

Kentucky Derby In-The-Money Finishes by Post

While picking the winner in the Kentucky Derby is important for anyone looking to cash a bet. Many horseplayers will look to the vertical exotics which are significantly more challenging, but can produce the largest payouts. Vertical exotic wagers are listed below.

  • Exacta: Select the first and second finishers in the race
  • Trifecta: Select the first, second, and third finishers in the race
  • Superfecta: Select the first, second, third, and fourth finishers in the race.

With these bets it is just as important to know who has a chance to run second, third and fourth as it is to know the winner. Understanding which post positions put horses at an advantage to finish in the money can be helpful in landing players on horses that other players may leave out.

Horses breaking from the inside have historically had more success getting 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in the Kentucky Derby. This graph does not include 4th place finishers.

Horses breaking from the inside have historically had more success getting 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in the Kentucky Derby. This graph does not include 4th place finishers.

Kentucky Derby In-The-Money Trends

  • The 9 & 10 posts have been the most productive historically with nearly 30% of horses hitting the top 3 in the Kentucky Derby.
  • While the outside posts have been winning more frequently in recent years, posts 1-11 have each produced at least one top 3 finisher since 2010.

A Closer Look at Each Post in the Kentucky Derby

Here is a closer look at how each post has performed in recent runnings of the Kentucky Derby.

Post Position 1

  • Last Winner: Ferdinand (1986)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Lookin At Lee (2nd-2017)

Post Position 2

  • Last Winner: Affirmed (1978)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Revolutionary (3rd-2013)

Post Position 3

  • Last Winner: Real Quiet (1998)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Golden Soul (2nd-2013)

Post Position 4

  • Last Winner: Super Saver (2010)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Danza (3rd-2014)

Post Position 5

  • Last Winner: Always Dreaming (2017)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Audible (3rd-2018)

Post Position 6

  • Last Winner: Sea Hero (1993)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Good Magic (2nd-2018)

Post Position 7

  • Last Winner: Mandaloun* (2021)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Mandaloun* (2021)

*Placed 1st following the DQ of Medina Spirit

Post Position 8

  • Last Winner: Mine That Bird (2009)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Tacitus (3rd-2018)

Post Position 9

  • Last Winner: Riva Ridge (1972)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Hot Rod Charlie (2021)

Post Position 10

  • Last Winner: Giacomo (2005)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Paddy O’Prado (3rd-2010)

Post Position 11

  • Last Winner: Winning Colors (1988)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Code of Honor (2nd-2019)

Post Position 12

  • Last Winner: Canonero II (1971)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Afleet Alex (3rd-2005)

Post Position 13

  • Last Winner: Nyquist (2016)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Nyquist (1st-2016)

Post Position 14

  • Last Winner: Carry Back (1961)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Essential Quality (2021)

Post Position 15

  • Last Winner: Authentic (2020)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Authentic (1st-2020)

Post Position 16

  • Last Winner: Animal Kingdom (2011)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Commanding Curve (2nd-2014)

Post Position 17

  • Last Winner: None
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Forty Niner (2nd-1988)

Post Position 18

  • Last Winner: Country House* (2019)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Country House* (1st-2019)

*Placed 1st following the DQ of Maximum Security

Post Position 19

  • Last Winner: I’ll Have Another (2012)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: I’ll Have Another (1st-2012)

Post Position 20

  • Last Winner: Big Brown (2008)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Big Brown (1st-2008)

Using the Data

The charts and trends above use raw data. It does not take into account the perceived talent level of the horses. One has to imagine that a Triple Crown winner like Justify could have just as easily won from a number of different posts. Handicappers will need to determine how much post position will upgrade or downgrade a horse’s ability when putting together wagers.

Betting News will provide insight into how this year’s draw might impact each runner following the post draw which takes place on Monday, May 2, from 2-3 p.m. and can be viewed via livestream on KentuckyDerby.com.

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