Horsing around

Jan 17, 2006 3:06 AM

Although the new thoroughbred season is barely underway, the journey to the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown has already begun with a few key races this past weekend.

GamingToday begins its coverage this week with its Road to the Kentucky Derby feature, which tracks the winners of all the key prep races.

Each week, GT will also identify early Derby contenders — some of them well below the national radar — in Richard Saber’s Horses to Watch column.

In past years, Saber has excelled at picking Derby hopefuls, which often have attractive future book odds.

This season, some of his early contenders include (along with future odds) Ramsgate (200-1), Saint Daimon (200-1), Private Vow (50-1) and Bob and John (100-1).

Players who like betting Derby future odds will get their chance next week as Churchill Downs offers the first of three Kentucky Derby Future pools, Jan. 26-29.

Additional pools will be offered on March 2-5 and April 6-9. The Derby will be run on the first Saturday in May.

Each pool of the Kentucky Derby (and the Kentucky Oaks for fillies) will include 24 betting interests — 23 top three-year-olds and a "field" bet of all other contenders.

Future pool bets are a $2 minimum, win only bet. Winning payouts are based on the odds that are in place at the conclusion of the future pools.

Future pool betting will begin at noon on Thursday and continue to 6 p.m., Sunday (all times are Eastern).

Last year, the future wagering pool of $1.6 million was the largest in the pool’s seven-year history.

The largest payout for a future pool selection occurred in 2003, when Funny Cide paid $188 to future pool backers, although his track payoff was only $27.60.

But sometimes, the converse can occur. Last year, Giacomo won the Derby and rewarded its backers with a $102.60 pari-mutuel payoff. But future pool bettors received only $52 and $54.20 in the first two pools, though the third and final pool produced a $103.60 payout.