LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Jockey Pat Valenzuela climbed off Arazi after his morning workout at Churchill Downs yesterday and said the horse can run on the outside fence and still win the Kentucky Derby.
Some of those words had a prophetic ring almost an hour later, when the 6-5, early-line favorite drew the 18 post position in the 19-horse field.
Arazi was not the only big name that drew the outside. A.P. Indy, the 7-2 second choice, will start from the 16 post.
Only one horse, Gato Del Sol in 1982, has won the Derby from the 18 post position.
There were no surprises among the 19 horses officially entered. This is the largest Derby field in nearly a decade. There were 20 starters when Swale won the race in 1984.
With 19 starters, the gross purse is $984,800, the richest running in the Derby's 118-year history. The winner will earn $734,800.
Post time is set for 5:32 p.m. tomorrow.
Starting from the extreme outside is considered a distinct Derby disadvantage.
The five outside horses start from an auxiliary gate, not the main starting gate. Jockeys run the risk of either using their horses early to gain position or getting outrun.
However, Francois Boutin, trainer of Arazi, said he would rather have the 18 post than 1 or 2.
"Really, what else can I say? C'est la vie," he said.
Arazi runs from off the pace, and the outside post at will least give him maneuvering room. He won't be trapped inside of horses and essentially will be able to go wherever Valenzuela points him. "We aren't going for the lead anyway," Boutin said.
Neil Drysdale, who trains A.P. Indy, was represented at the post draw by his wife, Inger. "The worst horses got the best posts, and the best horses got the worst posts," Inger Drysdale said. "Maybe it evens things out. The good horses will have to prove they are the best ones."
Arazi started from the 14 post in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs last fall and still won.
The likely pacesetter is 15-1 shot Pistols And Roses, although his trainer, George Gianos, said yesterday that "it's only a possibility."
Gianos said he was happy with post position 7, "which means we can be close to the pace if we break well."
Shelley Riley, trainer of Casual Lies, and Sonny Hine, trainer of Technology, were pleased with their horses' inside posts. They drew the 4 and 2 posts, respectively.
Riley said: "Pistols And Roses will absolutely go to the front, perhaps pursued by Devil His Due. Then my horse and Technology can settle down, save ground and lay close to the pace."
Arazi, trained in France, is attempting to become the first foreign-trained horse to win the Derby in modern times. Irish-trained Sir Tristram tried in 1974, but finished 11th. English-based Bold Arrangement was second in 1986.
Because of Arazi's mystique, Churchill Downs officials are predicting a near-record crowd of 150,000. In 1973, 134,476 turned out to see Secretariat. The all-time attendance mark of 163,628 was set in 1974 at the 100th Derby.
The weather in Louisville tomorrow is expected to be partly cloudy with a 30 percent chance of a thundershower in late morning or early afternoon. The temperature could reach about 80 degrees.