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Mar 28, 2014

Don't bet favorites in final Derby pool

By: By Jeff Frank, The Sports Analyst


 Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The last time a "field" horse in the final Future Wager won the Kentucky Derby was five years ago when Mine That Bird prevailed over a sloppy track at 50-1.

The mutual field could get the job done again this year as most of the probable Kentucky Derby entrants are far from elite with only two horses (Samraat and Tapiture) having won more than one Derby points-based race on dirt.

In addition, this crop of 3-year-olds has seen multiple winners fall by the wayside at an alarming rate with Top Billing, Shared Belief, Honor Code, New Year's Day, Havana, Indianapolis and Anchor Down all being declared out of contention. The first three on this list were 1-2-3 in the Feb. 13 edition of the Dirty Dozen

Don't forget that three of the top colts in 2009 - Quality Road, The Pamplemousse and I Want Revenge - all missed the Derby due to injuries and the result was Mine That Bird paying $103.20.

Even if the 2014 winner does not come from the field, history has proven the odds of the winner at this stage in the game will not be that much higher than at post time on the day of the race. A look back at the prices of previous Kentucky Derby winners points this out. Of the 12 single entrant Kentucky Derby winners, only four paid more than double the price in Pool 3 than on Derby day.

This year, the morning line favorites for Pool 4 are California Chrome (5-1) and Cairo Prince (6-1). Since wagering closes prior to the running of the Florida Derby and Louisiana Derby, the odds on Cairo Prince should be higher than 6-1. Furthermore, don't expect California Chrome to stay at 5-1, either. The California-bred colt's odds should rise to double digits by the end of Pool 4 wagering.

The key to betting the final future wager is not only to come up with the winning horse, but also figuring out where the value lies.

For instance, taking a possible 11-1 on California Chrome in Pool 4 is poor value when the likelihood of him being around 7-1 on Derby day is very real. And that is with a win in the Santa Anita Derby. If he loses his final prep, his odds on May 3 should be higher than in Pool 4.

When looking at Cairo Prince, it is quite possible the Holy Bull winner will wind up the favorite among single entrants in the final future wager. With the Gulfstream Park surface continuing to highlight speed, don't be surprised if he loses the Florida Derby and goes off at higher odds than in the Future Wager.

WHO TO BACK IN POOL 4?

Outside of Cairo Prince and California Chrome, expect three or four more single entrants at 15-1 or lower. Two probables are Candy Boy and Social Inclusion while Bayern, Hoppertunity and Chitu will fight it out for the final one or two spots.

Candy Boy could be between 7-1 and 15-1 on Kentucky Derby day given how he fares in the Santa Anita Derby. If he is anywhere near his 12-1 in Pool 3, then it is best to wait.

Social Inclusion is an interesting colt. Based on his two career wins over speed-favoring tracks, it would not be wise to bet a ton of money on him in the final pool, especially since he currently has zero Derby points. On the other hand, he has a tremendous pedigree (Mr. Prospector sire line and out of a Saint Ballado mare) for the 1 1/4 miles and could very well be the best of the bunch.

It is doubtful he will be higher than 12-1 in Pool 4, but if he is, it might be worth taking a shot since a dominating performance in the Wood Memorial could lead to him being favored at Churchill Downs.

Bayern appears to have gotten over his injury with a pair of solid workouts at Santa Anita. He was 17-1 in the last Future Wager when he was scheduled to race in the San Felipe. It will be interesting to see if his odds are higher in Pool 4 due to his inactivity. If so, he certainly warrants action.

Hoppertunity and Chitu would not be worthwhile plays, particularly with both colts coming off recent victories that are fresh in the public's mind.

As for the other 16 horses, two come to mind as possible plays: In Trouble and Ring Weekend.

In Trouble needs a top-three finish in the Louisiana Derby to guarantee a spot in the Kentucky Derby. He has done nothing wrong in three lifetime starts, winning his first two and then running third, beaten a half-length in the Gotham Stakes.

In Trouble had to go to the lead in that event because he drew the rail. However, look for the bay colt to come from further back on Saturday and possibly upset the closely matched field, especially with an expected strong early pace in front of him.

The Anthony Dutrow-trained 3-year-old is bred to handle the distance and his odds in Pool 4 could be higher than the 30-1 morning line. In addition, if he wins the Louisiana Derby, his Derby day odds will be somewhere in the teens.

Ring Weekend is the final horse to bet. Graham Motion, who trained Animal Kingdom to win three years ago, has this chestnut peeking at the right time. Since being gelded three races back, the son of Tapit has been much-improved with a pair of victories and a second.

As is the case with In Trouble, Ring Weekend is not a "need the lead" type even though that is how he won the Tampa Bay Derby. He raced wide until the stretch of his maiden win, his first start on dirt. In fact, he is unbeaten over the surface.

Bay of Plenty, who finished fourth in Ring Weekend's maiden win, came back to win by more than seven lengths in his next start while Ulanbator, who ran ninth, also returned a winner next time out. Also, Legend and Lynx, the second- and third-place horses, return to Gulfstream Park in Saturday's fifth race. If either of them win, Ring Weekend's maiden victory could turn out to be a very key race.

The only caveat with wagering on Ring Weekend in Pool 4 is that he could wind up around the same odds on Derby day, especially since he is scheduled to run in the Calder Derby as his final prep. Nevertheless, it might be tough to turn down those expected juicy odds.

THE JEFF FRANK "DIRTY DOZEN"

1) California Chrome - Top choice has one more start before Kentucky Derby

2) Social Inclusion - Heads to New York for final prep in Wood Memorial

3) Bayern - Back on the track after injury; will run in Arkansas or SA Derby

4) Cairo Prince - Faces top two Fountain of Youth finishers in Florida Derby

5) Candy Boy - Training sharp for SA Derby but still ranks behind top choice

6) Conquest Titan - Gets one last chance to qualify for Ky Derby in Ark Derby

7) Intense Holiday - Hoppertunity's win in Rebel shows Risen Star was no fluke

8) In Trouble - Goes from New York to Louisiana in search of Ky Derby points

9) Ring Weekend - Don't overlook this well-bred gelding's chances in Ky Derby

10) Hoppertunity - Prevailed in tight finish in Rebel; next start is undecided

11) Albano - Tough post might hurt his chances for victory in Louisiana Derby

12-T) Samraat - The sky is the limit if still unbeaten after Wood Memorial

12-T) General a Rod - A win on Saturday moves him way up in the rankings



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