Derby picture still foggy

Apr 12, 2005 6:27 AM

In the past, the third and final Kentucky Derby Future Pool has served as a fair barometer of which horses should have the inside track to the Kentucky Derby.

This year, the track remains a tangle of twists and turns. Despite solid betting into the pool and the running of three major prep races last weekend, the Derby picture remains cloudy with no clear-cut favorite emerging.

"We’ve had some individual horses over the years that were strong favorites in Pool 3, such as Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 and Empire Maker in 2003, but this year’s final Kentucky Derby future pool is truly wide open," said Mike Battaglia, racing secretary at Churchill Downs.

Last weekend’s pool, which probably generated a record amount of wagers, left enough doubt in players’ minds to make the Run for the Roses up for grabs.

The only horse to receive significant action was Bellamy Road, the Wood Memorial winner that was bet from a morning line 20-1 all the way down to 3-1.

Of course, Bellamy Road ran a huge race in New York on Saturday, but there really wasn’t any serious competition in the field.

Other than Bellamy Road, there were mostly losers when the future pool closed on Sunday evening. The highly-regarded filly, Sweet Catomine, opened the betting at 10-1, but slipped substantially to 35-1 after her poor showing in the Santa Anita Derby.

Also seeing its stock plummet was Don’t Get Mad, whose mediocre effort in the Santa Anita Derby sent his odds skyrocketing to 60-1 after opening at 30-1.

The Kentucky Derby Pool consists of 23 horses and a field bet for all the "other" horses. The odds on the field bet closed at 15-1.

There were two previous Derby pools conducted in February and March.

Combined betting for the first two Derby pools was $1,132,017. When added to the amount bet last weekend (not yet determined), this year’s pool is expected to easily top last year’s total of $1,282,168, and 2002’s record of $1,503,806.

The Kentucky Derby future wager is a $2 minimum bet, which allows fans to wager on contenders for the Kentucky Derby well in advance of the race, hopefully at odds that could be substantially higher than pari-mutuel odds on Derby Day.

The best payout for a future pool winner was Funny Cide, the 2003 Kentucky Derby winner, which returned an average of $138 to pool bettors, who would have only won $27.60 at the track. In 2000, Fusaichi Pegasus rewarded its pool backers with $27 and $26 in the first two pools, but paid only $6.60 on the first Saturday in May.

But strong pool horses can slip the attention of bettors on Derby Day. In 2002, Derby winner War Emblem rewarded its backers with $43, although future pool bettors collected only $7.60, $16 and $24.

And last year, Smarty Jones returned $10.20 to "live" bettors, while pool one players received only $5.60.