Off and running!

Feb 19, 2002 7:51 AM

The road to the Triple Crown races kicked off in earnest last weekend, and GamingToday was in full stride as handicapper Richard Saber tabbed the trifecta in both the Fountain of Youth and Risen Star stakes (see page 22).

Beginning this week, GT will also publish a recap of the important races leading to the Kentucky Derby and beyond (see page 23), as well as future book odds (to follow), columnist Ed Golden’s expert analysis of the country’s top 3-year-olds and much more.

This past weekend also marked the first of three Kentucky Derby Future Pools offered at Churchill Downs and betting outlets across the country. There was strong support for such well regarded horses as unbeaten European hero Johannesburg and American stars Siphonic and Repent, but racing fans made the field the early favorite as they bet in record-setting numbers.

The mutuel field includes all 3-year-olds other than the 23 horses listed among the 24 wagering interests. Its 5-2 odds made the field the strongest favorite in an individual pool in the history of the Future Wager, which is in its fourth year. The heaviest previous favorites were the field in Pool 1 of 2001 and eventual Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus in Pool 3 of 2000. Both closed at odds of 3-1.

Race fans in a record 34 states wagered $577,889 during the pool, which is the largest total for a single pool in its brief history. The previous record of $510,815 was established in Pool 1 of 2001.

Although definite figures were not available at press time, Churchill Downs officials said Nevada bettors comprised the largest block of players, and accounted for nearly 20 percent of future bets.

The second choice and favored individual horse in Pool 1 was Johannesburg, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI). Johannesburg closed at odds of 7-1 (from a morning line of 10-1), even though he hasn’t stepped onto a race track this year!

Next came a pair of 8-1 shots: California-based Siphonic, winner of the Hollywood Futurity (GI), and Repent, the winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at Churchill Downs.

Remsen (GII) winner Saarland closed at odds of 11-1, while San Vicente (GII) winner Came Home was a 14-1 risk when Pool 1 closed. The second-place finisher (to Booklet) in Saturday’s Fountain of Youth (GI) at Gulfstream Park ”” the weekend’s biggest Kentucky Derby prep race ”” was Harlan’s Holiday, who closed at 17-1, while the victorious Booklet closed at 24-1.

The second Pool 2 is set for March 14-17 and Pool 3 is scheduled for April 4-7.

While pool prices may appear attractive, it would be worth exploring future book odds offered by Las Vegas sports books, such as Bally’s, the Palms and others that offer futures. Often, players will find an overlay.

For instance, last week Bally’s listed Booklet at a whopping 100-1 and Harlan’s Holiday at 25-1. Other overlays included Came Home at 25-1, Political Attack at 100-1, Request for Parole at 65-1, Saarland at 50-1 and Saratoga Blues at 50-1.

The message for bettors is to shop around for the best prices. And continue reading GamingToday for the latest in Triple Crown tips and trends!