Trained by three-time Derby winner Bob Baffert, Bodemeister drew the No. 6 post. Six horses have won from that position, the last being Aiken-trained Sea Hero in 1993.
Bodemeister is the stronger of Baffert’s two horses, having won the Arkansas Derby by 9½ lengths in the most dominating performance of the Derby prep races. His other, 50-1 shot Liaison, landed in the No. 20 spot for Saturday’s race.
It’s the third time the Hall of Fame trainer has had the early Derby favorite. The first two didn’t work out.
Lookin At Lucky drew the dreaded inside post in 2010, got trapped along the rail and finished sixth. In 2001, Point Given was the heavy favorite and wound up fifth. He went on to win the Preakness and Belmont stakes, the final two legs of the Triple Crown.
“At least we’re in a position where we have a good chance of winning,” Baffert said. “If I got the one-hole I would be thinking they just don’t want me to win this Derby. After Lookin At Lucky, when he got the one-hole, the excitement just left me because I knew he had too much to overcome.”
Baffert had a heart attack on March 26 in Dubai, scaring his 7-year-old son Bode who was with him, and is the namesake of the Derby favorite.
“I just hope I have a chance to get my heart rate going turning for home,” Baffert said.
Union Rags drew the No. 4 post and was listed second choice on the morning line set by Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia. He is trained by Michael Matz, who won the Derby in 2006 with Barbaro only to have the colt stunningly break down after the start of the Preakness. Barbaro was euthanized eight months later.
Battaglia said if Bodemeister had drawn the No. 1 or 2 post, he would have made Union Rags the favorite.
Alpha, who was broken and trained in Aiken, will break from the No. 11 hole. The horse is 15-1.