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What Post Position Wins the Most in Horse Racing?

Last updated: July 31, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

I was elated when my filly drew the third post position in a maiden race this week. She’s been running from the outside all year and not doing too well. But after speaking to my son about it, he thinks I give too much weight to where the horses start.

Statistically, the winningest pole position is the five, but this doesn’t mean it’s the best position for every horse or race. Some horses run better from inside posts because they don’t have to weave through other horses to get to the rail, which is especially crucial in races with a short distance to the first turn.

Post position is undoubtedly a crucial factor in horse racing. Horses must quickly move to their optimal position to succeed. With many variables that influence the outcome of a race, from breeding and raising horses to selecting the right jockey, post position is a key factor. In this blog post, we’ll explore the impact of post position on horse racing.

Introduction to Post Positions in Horse Racing

The world of horse racing is a thrilling realm of pulsating energy, quick decision-making, and, of course, fleet-footed horses. It’s not just about the fastest horse or the most skillful jockey; sometimes, it’s about where the race begins. This, in horse racing terminology, is known as the “post position.”

Picture of horse leaving the gates from their post position.

Understanding the Basics of Post Positions

Before we can delve into which post positions are most likely to churn out champions, let’s take a step back and decipher what post positions really are. Post positions in horse racing are the location of a horse in the starting gate; it’s where the horses start the race and correspond to the number of horses entered.

The horse on the farthest left, closest to the inside rail of the track, is said to be in post position one. The horse to its right is in post position two, and so on, until you reach the outermost horse. In essence, the post position is a horse’s gate or slot number at the start of the race.

How Post Positions Impact the Race

Now, you might be wondering, “Does it really matter where the horse starts? After all, isn’t the fastest horse always going to win?” The answer, intriguingly, is not as straightforward as it might seem.

Each track and each race are unique, and the post position can, indeed, play a pivotal role in the race’s outcome. Think about a track with tight turns – here, being on the inside (lower-numbered post positions) can be an advantage since the horse runs a slightly shorter distance.

But on the flip side, if a horse is a slow starter, being squeezed at the inside by faster horses can be disastrous. An outside position (higher numbers) might mean running a slightly longer overall distance. But it also allows a more unobstructed initial run, and for some horses and jockeys, that’s a preferable scenario.

So, the post position’s impact on the race varies and is influenced by numerous factors, such as the horse’s running style, the track’s characteristics, and even the jockey’s tactics. Now that we’ve got the basics covered, we can start to unravel the complex relationship between post positions and victories. Stay tuned as we delve deeper into the heart of this captivating topic..

How are horse race post positions determined?

When a horse is entered into a race, the racing secretary randomly assigns each a post position by shaking out numbers. The draw usually takes place 48 hours before the race, and the trainers are typically present.

Does Post Position Matter in Horse Racing?

There are a few theories out there about the best post position. Some say that the inside post is best, while others say that the outside post is best. So which one is it?

The answer may surprise you. According to data from Equibase, over the past ten years, horses in post position number five have won the most races. In fact, horses in post five have won almost 13% of all races run during that period. That’s significantly higher than any other post position.

But that’s not always the case; a few benefits come with being in the inside post position. Horses starting there have a shorter distance to run to the first turn. This can be helpful for horses that do not like to be in traffic or are not good at passing other horses.

Horses in the middle draws are considered to have the best chance of winning. This is because they are not affected by the traffic on either side and can run their own race. Horses in the outside post positions have a longer distance to run to the first turn, but they typically benefit from having a clear view of the track and avoiding traffic.

Picture of racehorses.

Detailed Analysis of Post Position Performance

Understanding the subtleties of post position performance requires a granular analysis. We’re going to dive headlong into a detailed breakdown, looking at how each position fares and the multitude of factors that can influence success from different post positions.

Position by Position Breakdown

A position-by-position analysis reveals fascinating nuances. Starting from the rail (position one), you might think the shortest distance around the track would translate into the highest win rate. However, historical data often shows a different story. The pressure from competing horses and potential for being boxed in can make this position challenging.

As we move outward, positions two through five tend to have slightly better outcomes. The middle positions (approximately six to ten) generally see the best results in larger races. This is likely because they strike a balance between not being squished against the rail, but also not having to cover as much extra ground as the farthest posts.

However, success in outermost positions (eleven and beyond) is far less common. The extra distance and the need for an explosive start to overcome the initial disadvantage are substantial hurdles to winning from these posts.

Factors Impacting Post Position Success

While post position plays a role in race outcomes, it’s essential to remember that it doesn’t operate in isolation. Other factors can significantly impact post position success.

Track conditions are a prime example. A muddy track can slow down horses on the inside positions more than those running on the outside. The race distance also matters; longer races tend to minimize the disadvantage of outer post positions since they allow more time for horses to recover from a bad start.

Additionally, the number of horses in a race can drastically affect the performance from a specific post position. In smaller races, the inside positions might not be as problematic, whereas in larger fields, getting boxed in at the rail becomes a greater concern.

The Role of Jockey Skills and Horse Capabilities

Finally, we must not overlook the critical roles of the jockey’s skills and the horse’s capabilities. An experienced jockey can make strategic decisions that maximize a less-than-ideal post position. They can guide the horse to find openings, pace the race properly, and leverage the horse’s strengths effectively.

Furthermore, a horse’s individual characteristics, such as its running style and temperament, can make it more or less suited to a particular post position. For instance, a horse that prefers to lead (a “front-runner”) might perform better in an outside post where it can avoid getting boxed in early on. On the other hand, a horse that does well in crowded situations might not be as disadvantaged by an inside position.

As we see, post positions are only one piece of a complex jigsaw puzzle. To have a clear picture of a race, we need to examine the interplay of all these elements – a task we’ll continue in the sections to follow.

Post position drawbacks

There are some drawbacks to being in certain post positions as well. For example, horses in the inside post position may be hampered by traffic or other horses cutting them off if they do not get out to an early lead.

And when running from the one or two post positions, the track may be heavier, which will slow a horse. Horses in the middle draws may be boxed in and unable to make a move until it is too late. Horses in the outside post positions may have difficulty passing other horses and have difficulty moving inside.

Post-position racing strategy

There are some strategies a jockey and trainer can use when a horse is in a particular post position. If a horse is in the inside post position, I encourage the jockey to try and get out quickly and gain an early lead to avoid horses crashing the rail.

If a horse is in the middle draw, it may be beneficial to wait for other horses to make their move and then make your move. If a horse is in the outside post position, it may be beneficial to wait for other horses to tire and then make your move.

No matter what post position a horse is in, they all have a chance of winning the race. It is up to the trainer and jockey to determine what strategy will work best for their horse in given circumstances.

Picture of starting gates with post position

How to Handicap a Race Using Post Positions

When you’re trying to pick a winner in a horse race, it’s essential to consider the post positions. While there is no surefire way to predict how a horse will do based on its post position, knowing some general trends can help you narrow down the field.

If you’re new to handicapping races, here are a few things to keep in mind when looking at post positions:

– Look for horses that have won from the same post position in the past. This is a good indicator that they are comfortable running from that spot. This tip won’t help you with maiden-claiming races.

– Consider the distance of the race when handicapping post positions. Horses in the inside posts have a shorter length to run, which can be an advantage in sprint races. However, in longer races, horses in the outside posts may have the advantage.

I like horses with early speed to have the inside post they can get out front before the outside horses start moving to the rail.

A Personal Experience: The Importance of Understanding Individual Horses

Well, let me share a story. Just yesterday, one of my horses was racing at Louisiana Downs. We were part of a six-horse field, and by chance or fate, we drew the sixth position. Now, for many horses, this wouldn’t pose a problem.

But this particular horse loves the rail. He has a knack for shooting straight for the inside as soon as the gates fly open. That means he either needs to be held back at the start or pushed hard to avoid getting tangled with other horses.

Our jockey, skilled as she is, had quite the challenge keeping him reined in as the other horses shot out of the gates. She fought with him, and he fell pretty far back; despite this, we ended up placing third. I firmly believe that if we’d drawn an inside post position, we would have won.

I recount this experience to underscore a crucial point: every horse is unique. Each one can excel or falter in different conditions, and their performance can be drastically affected by the post position. So, the key takeaway here is to delve into the horse’s history.

Determine the post positions from which they’ve previously performed well. The more we understand our horses and their preferences, the better we can prepare for the challenges and opportunities each race brings. Keep these things in mind when handicapping races, and you’ll be able to find some winning bets. Good luck.

A Historical Perspective on Post Positions

To fully comprehend the significance of post positions in horse racing, it’s helpful to glance back in time and look at what history has to say. Let’s saddle up and embark on a journey through the annals of horse racing to unravel the mystery of post positions.

Overview of Historical Data

As we start to peruse the historical data on horse racing, a clear pattern doesn’t exactly gallop up to us. But when we squint at the details and tally the numbers, we see that certain post positions have consistently performed better than others.

Let’s take the illustrious Kentucky Derby as an example. Records dating back to 1900 show a somewhat surprising distribution of victories. While one might expect that the horses closer to the inside rail might have a consistent advantage, the data indicates something different.

It turns out that post positions five and ten have yielded the most winners, with more than ten percent each of all victories to their credit. The inside positions, especially position one, haven’t fared as well as you’d expect.

Notable Wins from Different Positions

There are a lot of factors that go into winning a horse race – the horse’s pedigree, the jockey, the trainer, and of course, luck. But one factor that is often overblown is the post position. Many people think that if their horse starts from a specific post position, they automatically have no chance of winning. This isn’t always true.

The first race on our list is the Kentucky Derby; it’s known for being a very competitive race, and it’s often said that the post position is crucial. This was proven untrue in 2008 when Big Brown won from post number 20.

At 50-to-one odds, Mine That Bird became the second-biggest long shot to ever win the Kentucky Derby from the eight-hole, not the most desirable position in the Derby, with a win percentage of 8.9. Another notable race is the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

In this race, “I’ll Have Another” drew the 19th post position, the second-worst in the 20-horse field, and went on to win the race. These are just a few examples that show that the post position doesn’t matter as much as people think it does.

So don’t get too caught up in where your horse is starting from; the fastest horses typically win races. Instead, focus on other factors like recent form, jockey, and trainer.

Picture of a horse race before the Kentucky Derby.

What Post Position Is Best in the Kentucky Derbys

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most prestigious horse races in the world. Held annually at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, the race has a history dating back to 1875. In this blog post, we will take a look at the post positions and see which one is the best!

The Kentucky Derby is a mile-and-a-quarter race for three-year-old thoroughbred horses. It is the first leg of the American Triple Crown and is followed by the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. A field of twenty horses will line up at the starting gate on Derby day, each with its own unique post position.

So, which post position is the best in the Kentucky Derby? While there is no clear answer, there are certainly some that have fared better than others over the years. The most successful post position in history is number five, which has produced four winners since 2000 and 11 percent of all winners.

Other relatively successful post positions include the number ten (10.7% winners) and the number 15 with 10.2%. It’s worth noting that the number one post position has not had a winner since 1986.

While there is no foolproof way to predict which horse will win the Kentucky Derby, paying attention to post positions can give you a slight edge. So when you’re placing your bets, be sure to keep an eye on where each horse is starting from. You just might be able to give yourself a better chance of picking a winner. Good luck.

YouTube video

Conclusion

As we cross the finish line of our exploration into post positions in horse racing, let’s slow our galloping thoughts and gather the reins. It’s time to recap the main points and share some concluding thoughts.

Key Takeaways

Firstly, post positions matter, but they are not the be-all and end-all. They can influence the outcome of a race due to factors like track design and race distance, but they do not guarantee a win or loss. Each position comes with its unique set of challenges and advantages.

Secondly, while historical data reveals trends, it’s important to remember that each race is unique. Factors like the number of horses in the race, track conditions, and the characteristics of individual horses and their jockeys can all influence how much impact a post position will have on a particular race.

Lastly, the horse’s capabilities and the jockey’s skills play a crucial role in overcoming challenges posed by a post position. It’s the blend of horse, jockey, strategy, and post position that ultimately determines the race outcome.

Final Thoughts on Post Positions and Winning Races

Understanding the intricate dynamics of horse racing is like putting together a complex puzzle. Each piece, including the post position, contributes to the larger picture. It’s the interplay of these elements that makes horse racing so thrilling and unpredictable.

While we’ve taken a deep dive into post positions and their influence on the race, remember that in horse racing, as in life, there are few certainties. A post position that is historically successful doesn’t guarantee a win, just as an unfavorable one doesn’t spell doom. In the end, every race is a fresh chance for each horse to showcase its speed, for each jockey to display their skill, and for us, the spectators, to witness something truly special.

So, the next time you find yourself at the races or placing a bet, take a moment to consider the post positions. But don’t forget to look beyond them, too. After all, it’s the interplay of multiple factors that makes each race a unique and exhilarating event.