By Derek Simon
Every year at around this time, Churchill Downs unveils its Kentucky Derby Future Wager (pool 1), in which 23 live entrants and “All Other Three-Year-Olds” compete for the attention of bettors seeking to tab the Derby winner long before the first strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” can be heard.
When the pool is closed, the odds are locked in and players hope and pray that their chosen steeds: a) make it to the Kentucky Derby and b) win the big race, as any other outcome results in a loss.
Well, at usracing.com, one can also bet on the future Kentucky Derby winner and, unlike its pari-mutuel counterpart, there are many more horses to choose from and the odds are already set, at least at the time one places his/her bet.
So, what I thought I would do today is look at the horses comprising the KDFW and give my opinion as to the overlays and underlays.
AIROFORCE (20/1 at US Racing): I noted in a previous column that horses that competed in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile have just a 15.8 percent shot of even making it to the Kentucky Derby — and the Juvenile is among the more popular two-year-old preps (horses that finish in the money also earn entry points). Well, this Mark Casse trainee competed in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and, in fact, has never raced on the main track in three starts to date. His running style and pedigree make me think he can — and probably will — take to the dirt, but 20-1 is too low for that many “ifs.”
BRODY’S CAUSE (20/1): I hate this guy’s come-from-the-clouds running style (I’m not surprised that his connections tried him first on grass) and I think 20/1 is way too low, despite his solid juvenile form.
COCKED AND LOADED (35/1): Don’t hate, don’t love… but I would want a slightly higher price (40/1 or better).
CONQUEST BIG E (45/1): His race in the BC Juvenile was actually better than it looked on paper, especially considering this colt’s inexperience. That said, I still think the price is too low.
GIFT BOX (60/1): His maiden-breaker was impressive, but I’d wait until after the Remsen on Nov. 28 before I’d head to the windows.
GREENPOINTCRUSADER (25/1): Showed him love — and a few greenbacks — in the Champagne and he didn’t disappoint. I also thought he performed OK in the BC Juvenile despite a tough trip. He’s one I’m keeping an eye on going forward, but, from a betting standpoint, I think 25/1 is too light.
GUN RUNNER (25/1): My computerized fair odds are more than double his 25/1 price. Pass.
MOHAYMEN (20/1): According to a study done by Spy magazine in the 1990’s, the odds were 15-1 that a Playboy Playmate would aspire to help others. I had a flat tire recently… not a Playboy Playmate in sight. And I’m supposed to take 20/1 on a horse with two nondescript wins? No thanks.
MOR SPIRIT (20/1): Love the Oct. 23 win at Santa Anita, hate the price.
NYQUIST (10/1): Looks like a sprinter to me. No way, no how would I take 10/1 on this guy.
SAIL AHOY (33/1): Will be wearing blinkers for the first time in the Remsen on Saturday, so watch that race closely. If the Shug McGaughey trainee is more forwardly placed and runs well, I’d upgrade his chances. As it stands, however, Sail Ahoy is a pass for me.
SWIPE (20/1): If there were odds on this dude finishing second in the Kentucky Derby, I’d be tempted to take any price. In seven career starts, Swipe has finished in the place slot five times, with one win and one third to round out his resume. A son of Belmont winner Birdstone, the Kent Desormeaux trainee has every right to improve, but — in what has become a familiar refrain — the odds are too low.
SYNCHRONY (80/1): This was a tough call. I actually like his ability to move up on the turn, but, thus far, he’s only demonstrated that talent in sprints. Need to see more before I’d make a bet.
UNBRIDLED OUTLAW (50/1): I wish I could say my enthusiasm for his Kentucky Derby chances was unbridled… it’s not.
EXAGGERATOR (30/1): I loved his performance in the Delta Jackpot. And even though that race hasn’t produced a Kentucky Derby winner yet, I thought it highlighted what might be Exaggerator’s greatest strength — his versatility. The son of Curlin matched the Jackpot par with a -12 early speed ration (the Kentucky Derby par is -10). Yet, despite that show of early foot, he was still able to rev it up down the stretch, earning a -7 late speed ration (LSR) — the best such figure in the history of the Delta Jackpot —while holding off Sunny Ridge to win by a neck.
RATED R SUPERSTAR (80/1): I like this horse about as much as I like a swift kick in the groin, but the odds compel me to put him in the overlay category.
RIKER (80/1): I like this guy about as much I enjoy a punch in the gut… so a little bit better than Rated R Superstar. Riker’s speed makes him a threat — if he can learn to rate — and 80/1 is a fair price.
SUNNY RIDGE (125/1): Sports a 7.00 Dosage Index, but 125/1 on a gelding that won the Sapling and placed in both the Grade I Champagne and Grade III Delta Jackpot is simply too enticing to pass up.
ANNUAL REPORT (NO ODDS): Seeking to become only the seventh Derby winner since 1993 to not have started in a route as a juvenile. I’d tab him at about 50/1.
FLEXIBILTY (NO ODDS): He’s scheduled to compete in the Remsen Stakes on Nov. 28 and I’ll wait until after that race to assess his Derby chances. I’d list him at 60/1 right now.
MATT KING COAL (NO ODDS): I like what I’ve seen from this guy, but if you’re negotiating a price, help me help you and ask for 60/1.
TOEWS ON ICE (NO ODDS): He’s been great in sprints, but, as a late foal (May), I’m holding out for a route try. His breeding is a mixed bag, with a lot of stamina on the sire side and a lot of speed on the dam side.