Derby futures set record

Feb 15, 2005 9:55 AM

Spring is in the air and a horse bettor’s fancy should turn to the Kentucky Derby, on which the first of three future wagering pools were held last weekend.

Now in its seventh year, the Derby future pool generated more than $600,000 in bets, a new record. While the pool listed only 23 horses plus the mutuel field, it is often a good barometer as to how players view the contenders.

As in previous years, the mutuel field emerged as the betting favorite, finishing at 2-1 when pari-mutuel windows closed on Sunday evening.

The favored individual horse and overall second choice in the betting was Jay Em Ess Stable’s unbeaten juvenile champion Declan’s Moon, who closed at 9-1. Fox Hill Farm’s unbeaten Rockport Harbor, who will attempt to give Smarty Jones’ trainer John Servis his second consecutive Derby victory, was next at 13-1.

Others that attracted strong support through the four days of betting included Afleet Alex (15-1), Roman Ruler (18-1), Harlington (19-1), and Sun King (19-1). Bandini closed at 20-1, while juvenile filly champion Sweet Catomine and unbeaten Lost In The Fog closed at 21-1.

The second Kentucky Derby future wagering pool, which is based at Churchill Downs but available at race tracks, OTBs and race books throughout North America, is scheduled for March 10-13. The third and final pool will be held April 7-10. The 131st running of the Kentucky Derby will be held at Churchill Downs on Sat., May 7.

"If we learned anything from the pool, it’s that the race to the Kentucky Derby is wide open," said Rich Saber, GT’s horseracing analyst. "There wasn’t a clear-cut choice among the bettors, and the weekend’s results underscore the parity among the young 3-year-olds."

Saber said that each of last weekend’s prep races was won by a member of the mutuel field: Scipion won the Risen Star (Grade III) at the Fair Grounds; Sort It Out took Aqueduct’s Whirlaway; Stellar Magic won Bay Meadows’ San Mateo Mile; General John B romped in the Turf Paradise Derby; and Fus-aichi Rock Star won Sunday’s San Vicente (GII) at Santa Anita. (For a complete list of Derby prep races and results, see page 7.)

"This doesn’t mean that the eventual Derby winner isn’t among the 23 future pool horses," Saber added. "It means that no horse has stepped forward to run like the eventual winner."

Does that mean bettors might find better odds at Las Vegas race books, many of which offer future Derby bets?

"Not necessarily," Saber said. "The books tend to adjust their numbers to coincide with the future pool odds.

"But there is value in some horses," he continued. "Some horses haven’t yet hit the national radar screen. You’ve got to sniff them out and bet them before everyone else catches wind of them."