This article by Craig Milkowski from TimeformUS appears in the Breeders' Cup edition of Horseplayer Monthly. To read the rest of the issue, FOR FREE, please click here.
Post position is an important, but often misunderstood, piece of the handicapping puzzle. The following analysis is based on the last four years of racing at Santa Anita. Sadly, there isn’t enough data for races at nine furlongs or greater to draw any meaningful conclusions, but that still leaves nine of the 13 races worthy of analysis. The Santa Anita dirt surface was changed prior to the fall meet, but since post position trends are impacted much more by track layout than the surface itself, the older data is relevant.
The analysis below is based not on win percentage at “general” distances like sprint or route, but on specific distances using Impact Values and Return on Investment (ROI). The former incorporates differing field sizes into the equation, while the latter adds quality of the horses drawn in each post. Post position stats should not be final decision makers, but they should be used as a means of upgrading and downgrading horses viewed as contenders.
Dirt, Six Furlongs (Sprint)
This distance favors horses drawn in the middle of the gate. The inside four post positions all perform below average. Posts five through 10 are well above average as a group with some minor fluctuations between those posts. Posts 11 and wider are well below average.
Dirt, Seven Furlongs (Filly and Mare Sprint)
The inside posts (one through five) perform well below expectations as a group. All others as a group are excellent draws, the farther out the better.
Dirt, Eight Furlongs (Dirt Mile)
Surprisingly, there are no real trends here. The inside wins more than expected, but also tends to be bet to do so, thus ROI statistics even things out. There is very little data outside of post 10, however. Tread lightly with horses drawn in posts 11-14.
Dirt, Eight and a Half Furlongs (Juvenile, Juvenile Fillies)
The rail has been a poor draw at this distance, but posts two through six are strong, seven through nine are average, and outside of that is poor with light data.
Turf, About Six and a Half Furlongs (Turf Sprint)Posts one through five all perform below average. Posts six through 12 are very strong, probably the biggest post edge at Santa Anita overall. Posts 13 and 14 have not had enough runners for any real conclusions, but the trend would indicate those stalls won’t be at a disadvantage, at the least.
Turf, One Mile (Mile, Juvenile Turf, Juvenile Fillies Turf)
The inside six post positions hold a strong edge at this distance. The rest are poor, though again, little data exists for the outside two post positions, 13 and 14. It is hard to imagine they would not follow the trend and be poor.