LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The shake of the pills changed the face of Breeders' Cup XI yesterday, when three of the seven expected favorites drew outside posts and made their chances of winning just a bit riskier.
Lure, Paradise Creek and Devil His Due -- all initially picked as choices by Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia -- either drew the 13 or 14 posts in bulky 14-horse fields. In two of the three instances, the poor posts resulted in changes in Battaglia's official odds line.
In the case of Devil His Due, who starts from the 14 gate in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Classic, Battaglia hastily changed his mind after the 5-year-old drew the extreme outside post. Instead, Battaglia made Preakness winner Tabasco Cat, who breaks from No. 4, the 7-2 favorite. Devil His Due now is listed officially as second choice at 4-1.
"Say what you want, but the posts these horses draw can make a lot of difference," Battaglia said. The farther out a horse is positioned in the gate, the longer he has to run.
Two former Breeders' Cup Classic winners, Arcangues in 1993 at Santa Anita Park and Unbridled in 1990 at Belmont Park, won from outside posts. But in the two previous Classics run at Churchill Downs, Alysheba in 1988 broke from the 5 hole and Black Tie Affair, who won in 1991, started from the 8 gate.
Battaglia originally listed two-time Breeders' Cup winner Lure as a 7-5 pick in the Mile. Last year, Lure drew the 12 post in a 13-horse field at Santa Anita Park and won the race by 2 1/4 lengths. At the time, Battaglia said, "Lure can start from the parking lot and still win."
But when the Shug McGaughey-trained runner drew the 14 post in Saturday's Mile, Battaglia immediately switched his line, making Lure a lesser choice at 9-5. He also shortened the price from 8-1 to 6-1 on Ski Paradise after the European filly, who was runner-up last year to Lure, drew the 2 post.
"I love Lure, but I hate the 14 hole," Battaglia said. "Realistically, I'm here at Churchill Downs calling races daily, and I see few horses who can win from the 14 hole going a mile. Mike Smith [Lure's jockey] is going to have to gun him from the gate or face getting in trouble from the European horses on his inside who might have trouble making the turn."
Last year in California, two European milers, Barathea and Ski Paradise, bore out in the run to the first turn and caused numerous bad trips. Barathea and Ski Paradise are back again and drew the 1 and 2 posts, respectively.
McGaughey said: "If the speed wants to go early, we can just track them." But the trainer was disappointed, saying, "I was hoping for a better post, but there's nothing I can do about it."
Posts are picked by drawing a pill out of a bottle and matching it with a horse's entry form, which is pulled from a stack by random.
Even though Paradise Creek drew the 13 post in a 14-horse field in the $2 million Turf, Battaglia still made him an 8-5 choice. "I love the way he has raced this year and the way he is training," Battaglia said. Additionally, post position means less in a 1 1/2 -mile race such as the Turf.
Bill Mott, Paradise Creek's trainer, drew the 14 pole with another one of his Turf entries, Fraise, who won the race in 1992. "I guess we're going to need an extra bit of luck breaking from out there," Mott said. "There is always that threat of being hung out extremely wide."
Battaglia also had some other comments to make, especially on some of his more controversial odds choices, such as making Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin a 20-1 long shot in the Classic.
* Speaking about Go For Gin: "I figured he won the Derby on a sloppy track and had everything his own way. In order for him to win the Classic, that same scenario has to happen again, and I just don't see that happening."
* Making Sky Beauty, undefeated in five starts this year, a co-favorite at 2-1 in the $1 million Distaff with Hollywood Wildcat, who has won only two of five races in 1994: "If the Distaff was run in New York, then the fans would make her the favorite. Likewise, if the race was run at Santa Anita, Hollywood Wildcat would be favored. They are meeting on neutral ground at Churchill Downs, and it seemed logical to make them co-choices, something I've never done before in a Breeders' Cup race."
* Installing the filly Soviet Problem as the 7-2 choice over males in the $1 million Sprint: "This filly has been favored in all 17 of her starts, and I'm not bucking that trend."