Betting on a horse to win three months before a race can create a state of trepidation, to say the least. Let’s face it: horses can go wrong faster than a Hollywood marriage.
That said, don’t expect Future Book wagering on the Kentucky Derby or any other sporting event worth its vig to suddenly stop.
Here’s one man’s opinion on some of the 3-year-old prospects in Southern California, with their final Churchill Downs Future Wager odds at the close of the first pool on Jan. 29:
A.P. Warrior (31-1): Those were the odds before he finished up the track in the El Camino Real Derby. Would rather invest in Enron now, even though word from his barn says he is still on the Derby trail.
Bob and John (31-1): Bob Baffert, who is as antsy as an unraced 2-year-old these days despite leading all trainers at Santa Anita, says this is his Derby horse. Won Sham Stakes by 4Â½ lengths against four tomato cans. "This will be the last powder puff race he gets," Baffert said. "From here on he’ll have to face heavyweights." Next up: Stevie Wonderboy and Brother Derek in the March 4 Santa Catalina Stakes.
Brother Derek (16-1): Underrated by everyone but his trainer, Dan Hendricks. Had defeated champion Stevie Wonderboy in one-mile San Rafael before SW’s injury. Can get a distance under ideal pace scenario, but a mile and a quarter . . .
Point Determined (18-1): Smashing winner after running third in a productive maiden race. Runner-up in said race, Latent Heat, came back to air for Bobby Frankel, but the horse wasn’t in the first pool. At 3-1 in All Other 3-year-olds category, Latent Heat is a lousy bet. If he makes it to the Derby on May 6, you’ll get better than 3-1. Meanwhile, Point Determined, a $750,000 son of 2001 Horse of the Year Point Given, disappointed finishing a distant second at 1-2 Friday after a less-than-perfect start. Still green, he needs to show considerable improvement, as does his stablemate, Point of Impact, an $800,000 son of Point Given who’s been all hype and no heart so far.
Stevie Wonderboy (OUT): Will miss Kentucky Derby due to a condylar fracture suffered after Monday’s workout at Hollywood Park. He had defeated Brother Derek by 8Â½ lengths in the Juvenile, but no Juvenile winner has ever won the Derby. That will now be the case at least another year. He is expected to miss 90 days and his hopes for a Triple Crown are done. He was 8-1.
Your Tent or Mine (21-1):Won Hollywood Prevue at seven furlongs, then was second as 9-5 favorite to Brother Derek in Grade I Hollywood Futurity at 11/16-mile on Dec. 17. At press time, had not had a recorded workout since that race. When I recently asked Neil Drysdale about the colt’s status, the Hall of Fame trainer said he was "in light training."
Neil’s barn currently is on a roll at Santa Anita and he knows how to go all in to win the Derby (Fusaichi Pegasus, 2000). But he has folded if he deems the stakes too risky, i.e., if someone spits on the track. No works in seven weeks? No thanks.
Two horses to watch that were not in the pool:
Really Indian, a son of A.P. Indy trained by Drysdale, registered an eye-catching 5Â½ length debut win at one mile in a race where bolting Point of Impact and stablemate Overland Trail were 3-5 favorites and ran a distant third and fourth.
Latent Heat gave well-regarded (and currently injured) Cindago all he could handle first out, losing by a half-length, then come back to romp. The Maria’s Mon colt worked five furlongs Saturday at Hollywood in a bullet :59.60. "It was a little too quick," said Frankel, who has never won the Derby.
As far as professional clocker Gary Young is concerned, the jury is still out three months before the 132nd Run for the Roses.
"Baffert could have a few Derby horses," Young said. "Brother Derek just goes out and wins, and Stevie Wonderboy is a nice horse, too. But I don’t think there’s a dominant horse right now. I don’t think 3-year-olds on the East Coast are better than those on the West Coast or vice-versa.
There are probably decent horses on both coasts, and we’ll see what happens.
"If I had to make a Future Book bet right now? That’s a good question. I don’t know. I can’t really say I have one."
In other words, for the time being, keep your money in your wallet.
Or, at least heed the wise words of Confucius: "When prosperity comes, do not use all of it."
”¡ Patrick Valenzuela on his success riding for Frankel this meet at Santa Anita, where they’ve combined to win six turf races: "He’s got some great horses and he’s a great horseman, so we do well together. I’m looking forward to getting more stakes wins."
He did just that with high octane runner High Limit in the Strub Stakes.