There are few things that please a horse racing fan more than being the first in his or her group to pick the Kentucky Derby (G1) winner.
The first opportunity to put some money behind that boasting will come this weekend when betting opens for the first Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool.
The first of three pools opens Friday, Feb. 18 at noon and closes Sunday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m.. There are 23 horses listed as individual betting interests, with the rest lumped together as “The Field”.
A lot can happen between now and the first Saturday in May. Horses can emerge from obscurity just as easily as they can be knocked off the Derby trail. The future pools allow bettors to do some long-term speculating and hopefully catch a horse at odds higher than they might be on Derby day.
Of course, these bets come at a time when no horse, even with enough earnings, is guaranteed to be in the gate for the big race. Like all long-term investments, those are just the accepted risks of the game. The trick is finding the horses with the best chance to reward that risk.
Each year, I take a look at the horses offered in the first pool and try to single out a few who might be worthy of such a ludicrous wager and others who will probably offer more value on Derby day.
The whole situation can feel like staring down the banker’s offer on the game show “Deal or No Deal”. A horse may look tempting at the odds it gives in this pool, but that price could change drastically depending on the twists and turns of the Derby trail, just like the banker’s offer can fluctuate depending on which suitcases are opened. Some horses are worth taking the banker’s deal at the odds you’ll see this weekend. Others should be held on to until the final suitcase is opened.
The question is…Deal or No Deal?
A verdict of “Deal” means a horse should be considered for a bet in this particular pool and could give a higher price now than it will later. “No Deal” means bettors should pass for now.
Please keep in mind these speculations are based solely on the morning line odds set by Churchill Downs handicapper Mike Battagalia. The odds can, and will, fluctuate according to the action in the pari-mutuel pools, which could negate some of my statements – especially if a horse is entered to race this weekend.
Also, unless otherwise noted, this is not an analysis of talent, but a projection of betting value. Just because a horse is labeled a “No Deal” does not mean I do not think it is capable of winning the Kentucky Derby, and vice versa.
For a full list of the future pool horses, along with free Daily Racing Form past performances, click here.
Anthony’s Cross showed gritty determination edging out Riveting Reason for the win in last Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita. The Indian Charlie colt has improved with added distance and appears to have overcome early difficulties with leaving the starting gate.
Above all, there is one reason to take a chance on this horse – He broke his maiden at Churchill Downs under Calvin Borel. Three wins out of the last four Derbies, including 50-1 shot Mine That Bird, means that any horse Borel chooses to ride in the race automatically becomes live. If Anthony’s Cross continues to improve throughout the spring, their past experience together could lead the rider to take a good, long look at riding this horse.
On that same note, any horse Borel chooses to ride will likely be bet into the ground on Derby day. It will take a long string of “No Factor” mounts for him to sneak in with another high-priced horse, just because every bettor in America knows what he’s capable of in that race. There are a lot of “ifs” and “maybes” in the equation, but if Anthony’s Cross makes it to the Churchill Downs gate and Calvin Borel decides to ride him, he won’t give anything close to what he’ll give this weekend.
A son of With Distinction, Decisive Moment kicked off his 2011 campaign with a win in the Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs. You know who took a detour through Southwest Louisiana on the Derby trail last year? Last place finisher Backtalk. That’s not the kind of company a Kentucky Derby winner tends to keep. Scheduling fashion faux pas aside, that race was Decisive Moment’s first victory since a narrow maiden score five starts prior, and he stepped back in class and distance to earn it. A second place finish in the rich Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) will keep him on the earnings bubble, but if Decisive Moment does manage to sneak in with a resume consistent to what he has shown so far, he should give one of the longest prices on the board on race day.
Decisive Moment also figures to be one of the most volatile propositions in the first pool by virtue of his start in Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds. His status as a viable future wager option and Derby contender could shift drastically in that race. Hold off on making too big of a judgement on him until we see what he is made of.
More keepers and tosses from the first Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool can be found behind the jump.