LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Kentucky Derby post positions may have been revealed on an ESPN show late yesterday afternoon. Essentially, they were determined at 11:15 a.m. in the Churchill Downs racing office.
It is then that the order of selection is determined. That is the real suspense. Trainer Carl Nafzger was there to hear that. So were Doug O'Neill and Larry Jones. Owners Jerry Moss and Rick Porter were also in the crowded room in the office across the road from one of the stable gates.
Twenty-two horses were entered, but Reporting for Duty and Delightful Kiss were excluded because of insufficient graded earnings. There is no also eligible list. If a horse is scratched, there will be no replacement.
They all made their way downtown later to await the show. When O'Neill heard that he got the 19th selection for Pennsylvania-bred Great Hunter, he knew the colt would be getting a real low number or real high number. With 19 and 20 left, O'Neill took 20.
In this oversized field in which it can seem like a major dust storm to the trailing horses, outside is generally better than inside because all of the front-runners are trying to get closer to the rail in the first quarter-mile.
Once the middle starts to fill up, the connections generally start heading inside or outside until there is no place left to go. That does not account for the connections of Storm in May choosing the 4 post with the first selection.
Pennsylvania-bred Hard Spun got the third selection. With posts 4 and 10 gone, Porter and Jones chose post 8. Nafzger got the sixth selection for 2-year-old champion Street Sense. He chose post 7.
Speedballs Stormello and Liquidity are in posts 17 and 9. Unbeaten, slight 7-2 morning-line favorite Curlin, with the 16th selection, ended up in post 2
The 20 horses have 12 trainers. Todd Pletcher has five (or 25 percent of the field). O'Neill, Steve Asmussen, William Kaplan and Darrin Miller each have two horses.
Nafzger (Unbridled, 1990), Barclay Tagg (Funny Cide, 2003) and John Shirreffs (Giacomo, 2005) are the three trainers to have won the Derby. Tagg has Wood Memorial winner Nobiz Like Shobiz. Shirreffs has Santa Derby winner Tiago, Giacomo's half-brother. *