LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Doug O’Neill was all smiles after early 3-1 favourite Nyquist drew the No. 13 post for the 142nd Kentucky Derby tomorrow.
The number with an unlucky reputation didn’t faze the trainer.
In fact, it brought back good memories.
Canadian-owned Nyquist left from the same spot when he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year at Keeneland—part of his 7-0 career record.
“No matter if we drew the one or the 20, the thought is we were going to leave there with the intent of being forwardly placed and just play it by ear,” O’Neill said Wednesday after the post-position draw.
“More than anything, I’m so happy with the way he’s training, the way he’s acting,” he added.
“He’s thriving on all the positive attention.”
Four horses have won from the No. 13 spot since 1900, most recently Smarty Jones in 2004.
O’Neill, owner Paul Reddam of Windsor, Ont., and jockey Mario Gutierrez, who rose to fame at Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver, teamed to win the race in 2012 with I’ll Have Another.
“The whole team is pumped up,” O’Neill enthused.
“We’re just very optimistic for a big day.”
Exaggerator drew the No. 11 post and is the 8-1 second choice in the full field of 20 horses for the 1 1/4-mile race at Churchill Downs.
He’s trained by Keith Desormeaux, whose Hall-of-Fame brother, Kent, will be aboard.
Horses are loaded into the gate two at a time, starting with posts one and 11, which spend the most time waiting for the start.
“Kent thinks it’s a little disadvantage because we load first in a 20-horse field,” Keith noted.
“It might be less than perfect but it doesn’t bother me much because my horse has always been real calm in the gate,” he added.
“What’s there to worry about?”
Creator, Gun Runner, and Mohaymen are the co-third choices at 10-1.
Mor Spirit, trained by four-time Derby winner Bob Baffert and ridden by three-time winner Gary Stevens, will break from the No. 17 post.
No horse has won from there in the race’s previous 141 editions.
Mor Spirit is listed at 12-1.
Last year, Baffert won with American Pharoah, who swept the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes to win the sport’s first Triple Crown in 37 years.
“The last time I had the 17 post was Point Given with Gary Stevens [fifth in 2001], and here we are again,” said Baffert.
“I wanted the 16,” he added. “All the speed is on the outside, so there will probably be two different races going on.”