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Feb 18, 2003 7:34 AM

Despite a brutal winter storm that hampered wagering in several key markets, betting into the 2003 Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool conducted by Churchill Downs closed strongly on Sunday and ended with the field as a record-setting favorite.

There was also strong support for surprising second choice Badge of Silver, who became a major Derby contender with a win in Sunday’s Risen Star (Grade 3) at the Fair Grounds.

The mutuel field, which has been favored in the initial pool of the Future Wager in each of its five years, was a strong 2-1 choice of racing fans in the 34 states, which made it the strongest favorite in an individual pool in the history of the wager.

When wagering on Pool 1 closed on Sunday, the odds on the mutuel field stood at $2.20-to-1. The previous record favorite was last year’s field, which closed at $2.80-to-1 and paid $7.60 when War Emblem, who was not among that pool’s 23 individual horses, won the Kentucky Derby.

The mutuel field includes all horses other than the 23 individual horses listed among the pool’s 24 wagering interests.

Although the mutuel field was a heavy favorite in Pool 1, there was a significant shuffling in the odds among Pool 1’s 23 individual horses during its final wagering session. The biggest shift in support involved Badge of Silver, whose odds plummeted after his dominating 10-length victory in the Risen Star.

Odds also dropped significantly on Trust N Luck, the 5½-length winner of Saturday’s Fountain of Youth (Grade I) at Gulfstream Park and Lion Tamer, a six-length victor in Saturday’s Hutcheson (GII) at Gulfstream.

Betting action in Las Vegas on the Derby Future pools have always been mixed since many sports books offer future odds on dozens, if not hundreds, of horses, thus eliminating the necessity for betting a short-priced field bet.

In addition, the odds often vary greatly from the Future Pool odds, setting up the possibility of catching a long price on an overlooked Derby contender.

One horse that avoided the limelight and found little backing was the highly-regarded Peace Rules. The horse opened at 30-1 in the Derby Future Pool morning line and received little support over the four days of betting, closing at 66-1.

But Peace Rules found some play at Bally’s, which originally opened the horse at 150-1, but it was quickly bet down to 60-1 after it was revealed the horse was among the 23 horses listed in the Future Pool.

Trust N Luck, who stood at odds of 99-1 when wagering opened on Saturday, stood at 19-1 when Pool 1 closed on Sunday evening. Lion Tamer, who was listed on Saturday at odds as high as 44-1, closed at 20-1 after his win in the Hutcheson.

Perhaps the most dramatic drop in odds came with Badge of Silver, whose odds stood at 35-1 when he broke from the gate, but that price had been whittled to 11-1 by the time wagering closed less than an hour later. The colt had been listed at 50-1 in the Pool 1 morning line.

The four-day total for wagering on the opening pool of the 2003 Kentucky Derby Future wager was $516,906 — the third-largest single-pool total in its five-year history.

Derby fans wagered $255,651 on the pool’s final session on Sunday, which was extended by an hour this year to allow the Risen Star to be completed before the pool closed.

The strong finish to this year’s Pool 1 came despite the winter storm that closed several wagering outlets in Kentucky, including Churchill Downs’ own Trackside OTB in Louisville and its sister track, Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., and wagering outlets in key Visa Triple Crown markets in Maryland. The New York Racing Association (NYRA) cancelled live racing at Aqueduct after Sunday’s first race, but continued to offer simulcast wagering and New York City OTB outlets also remained open.

The odds in place at Sunday’s close of wagering are the official odds for Pool 1 and winning payouts on Kentucky Derby Day will be based on those odds. The 129th Kentucky Derby will be run on Saturday, May 3.

The Kentucky Derby Future Wager, conducted annually since 1999, allows racing fans to place wagers on contenders for the Kentucky Derby weeks in advance of the race at odds that could be more attractive than those they would receive on Derby Day. Two more KDFW pools are set for March 13-16 and April 3-6 and a first-ever Kentucky Oaks Future Wager is also scheduled for April 3-6. There are no refunds in either wager.