LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Doug O’Neill was all smiles after early 3-1 favorite Nyquist drew the No. 13 post for the 142nd Kentucky Derby.
The number with an unlucky reputation didn’t faze the trainer. In fact, it brought back good memories.
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’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, jockey Mario Gutierrez and owner Paul Reddam teamed to win the race in 2012 with I’ll Have Another.
“The whole team is pumped up,” O’Neill said. “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 Saturday 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 said. “It might be less than perfect but it doesn’t bother me much because my horse has always been real calm in the gate. What’s there to worry about?”
Creator, Gun Runner and Mohaymen are the co-third choices at 10-1. Creator will break from the No. 3 post with Gun Runner in the No. 5. Both are trained by Steve Asmussen. Mohaymen drew the No. 14 post for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
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 12-1, the same odds as Brody’s Cause, who drew No. 19.
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,” Baffert said. “I wanted the 16. All the speed is on the outside, so there will probably be two different races going on.”
Speedster Danzing Candy drew the No. 20 post on the far outside. Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith will be gunning his horse to gain the lead before the chaotic first turn.
“I’m sure Mike Smith is happy,” Stevens said. “That speed horse is nasty in the starting gate so he won’t be in there long. I’m glad of that because I need a target in front of me.”
Todd Pletcher will saddle a pair of 15-1 shots in Destin and Outwork. Chad Brown has 20-1 shots My Man Sam and Shagaf.
The dreaded No. 1 spot that pins a horse to the inside rail coming out of the gate went to Trojan Nation, who has yet to win a race. Along with Trojan Nation, the other 50-1 shot is Oscar Nominated, whose owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey put up a supplemental fee of $200,000 to get him into the race.
That fee boosted the Derby purse to $2,391,600 if 20 horses start. The winner would receive $1,631,000.
Japanese entry Lani is listed at 30-1. The horse is known to be unpredictable in the gate, where he landed in the No. 8 hole.
New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson has a pair of long shots in 20-1 Mo Tom and 30-1 Tom’s Ready. Saints coach Sean Payton was on hand to lend support. Mo Tom drew the No. 4 post and Tom’s Ready got No. 12.