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 in the week leading up to the race. 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 performed in the Kentucky Derby. Once the 2021 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 up their traditional 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 posts 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.

Whether or not it would have impacted the outcome or not is unknown, but it is interesting to note that in 2020, Derby winner Authentic broke from post 15 due to scratches. In previous years he would have been the first runner in the auxiliary gate and thus, about two paths wider at the start. This means he would have had to cover a bit more ground in any other year.

In the end, he was only about a length and a half better than Tiz the Law who, in any other year would have been the last horse in the main gate.

Kentucky Derby Winners by Post

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 6 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 much larger payouts.

Vertical exotic wagers are listed below:

  • Exacta: Select the first and second finishers in order in the race
  • Trifecta: Select the first, second, and third finishers in order in the race
  • Superfecta: Select the first, second, third, and fourth finishers in order 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 others may leave off the ticket.

This graph includes 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers.

Kentucky Derby in-the-Money Trends

  • The 10 post has 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
  • Post #17 is the only post to not produce a top 3 finisher in the 2000s

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: Justify (2018)
  • Last Top 3 Finish: Mr. Big News (3rd-2020)

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: Firing Line (2nd-2015)

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: Tiz the Law (2nd-2020)

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)

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)

How to Handicap the Kentucky Derby Using Post Positions

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 the 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 April 27, at 11:00 am.

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