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Feb 06, 2015

Look for value in Kentucky Derby Pool 2

By: By Jeff Frank, The Sports Analyst


 Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - California Chrome won last year's Kentucky Derby at 5-2 odds. However, the son of Lucky Pulpit was a hefty 30-1 in the first 2014 Future Wager.

With the initial 2015 Future Wager starting Friday, it is time to search for another possible 30-1 overlay. Don't forget, I'll Have Another, the 2012 Kentucky Derby winner, was just under 30-1 (29-1) in Pool 1, which was his highest odds in all three pools as well as on Derby Day.

A $60 winner in early February does not occur all the time as a horse from the mutuel field in the first Future Wager has won the Kentucky Derby four of the last seven years. The average odds of those four horses was 2-1. Big Brown took care of business in 2008, followed by Mine That Bird in 2009, Animal Kingdom in 2011 and then Orb in 2013.

Will the "field" reign supreme in 2015 or will one of the 23 individual horses become the Derby champion for the fourth time in the last six years?

One thing that should change is the odds of the mutuel field, which has not been higher than 8-5 the last three years. In 2015, the odds could very well be higher than 2-1 due to the number of solid individual entrants.

Still, don't automatically throw out the "field" as a possible wager because it has come through all four times its odds were higher than 3-2. Ironically, an individual entrant has won the Derby the last three times the "field" was bet down to 3-2.

The one thing not to do is wager on any of the favored individual horses. Since the Future Wager began in 1999, there have been only two colts to win the Derby that paid lower than 17-1 Pool 1, and one of the two was way back in 2000.

Since 2008, there have been 27 horses at 16-1 or lower and 15 of them did not even make the Derby. That equates to 56 percent. Of the remaining 12, only two have finished in the money (17 percent) with zero winners.

The average number of horses lower than 17-1 in the first pool over the last seven years has been four. Besides being the mean, four also is the median and the mode.

Since the top "field" horses include Eagle, War Story, Punctuate, Materiality, Vici, Madefromlucky, Danzig Moon and Bayerd, it is very likely the Kentucky Derby winner will be an individual entrant. The key, though, is to find the right one.

This year looks very similar to 2007 when the "field" for Pool 1 was 5-2 and six horses were 14-1 or lower. The Kentucky Derby winner (Street Sense) and second-place finisher (Hard Spun) were both 10-1 behind Nobiz Like Shobiz at 8-1.

Since 2007, just seven individual horses were single digits with Union Rags (7-1) the last one in 2012. Lookin At Lucky (8-1) sports the top Derby finish of the single-digit horses when he was sixth in 2010.

RUNNING DOWN THE POOL 2 FIELD

Based on what happens in Saturday's Robert B. Lewis Stakes, there could be six or seven horses lower than 17-1 when Pool 2 betting closes at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday.

If Dortmund wins the Lewis, he will be the favorite. Even if he finishes a close second, it is doubtful his odds will be higher than 15-1. Firing Line, 30-1 on the morning line, will see his odds cut in half with a victory on Saturday, and a close second could still have him lower than 17-1.

American Pharoah and Texas Red should be the second and third choices, respectively, while Carpe Diem and Upstart also will take a lot of money. El Kabeir, the Jerome winner, might not have what it takes to win at 1 1/4 miles, but if he dominates the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday, his final Pool 2 odds will be lower than his 20-1 morning line number.

One of those horses could easily win the Kentucky Derby. However, the issue this week is what to do concerning the Future Wager. It is best to stay away from all of them this weekend as there is not much of a difference between 14-1 in early February and 6-1 on the first Saturday in May. A lot can happen in three months. Don't forget, not a single Pool 1 (Pool 2 in 2014) individual entrant below 20-1 has won the Derby in eight years and only one has won over the last 14 years.

Two more of the 23 individual entrants will not see any of my money - Mr. Z and Daredevil. That leaves 14 possible plays. Of those 14, seven have run three or fewer races. Outside of Big Brown, only one Derby winner (Animal Kingdom) since 2006 had run fewer than four times prior to the second week in February.

Khozan (one), J S Bach (one), Competitive Edge (two), Itsaknockout (two) and Ocean Knight (two) all have started once or twice, so it is best to stay away from them. Gorgeous Bird and Ocho Ocho Ocho have made just three starts. (American Pharoah, Carpe Diem and Daredevil also have made fewer than four starts.)

By process of elimination, we are down to seven possibilities: Far Right (50-1 morning line), Frosted (30-1), Imperia (30-1), International Star (50-1), Lord Nelson (30-1), Prospect Park (50-1) and The Great War (30-1).

Far Right had an awful trip in the Delta Jackpot but still finished third behind Ocho Ocho Ocho and Mr. Z. In his first 2015 start, he exacted revenge on Mr. Z, winning the Smarty Jones by 1 3/4 lengths. The $2,500 purchase could very well be the longest-priced horse on the board in Pool 2.

Frosted has not shown any killer instinct of yet with four seconds and just one victory. On the other hand, he has been trapped with poor post positions in his last two stakes-placed efforts. The 3-2 Holy Bull favorite will be at least 30-1 in Pool 2.

Imperia has yet to make his 2015 debut, but he did race four times as a 2-year- old, including one on the dirt - a second to El Kabeir in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. His dam, Cocoa Beach, won close to $2 million, but the last time a Kentucky Derby-winning dam bankrolled over $300,000 was over 25 years ago.

International Star finished behind Imperia in the Kentucky Jockey Club in his final 2014 outing. The son of Fusaichi Pegasus returned to win the LeComte Stakes three weeks ago, running down a determined War Story.

Lord Nelson ran fifth in the Kentucky Jockey Club as the 8-5 favorite. He broke poorly at the start and had to go very wide around the far turn. The Bob Baffert-trained colt returned in the San Vicente defeating Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red. He did so after hopping at the start.

The son of Pulpit should handle the 10-furlong Kentucky Derby distance based on his pedigree, but his running style has yet to match. He still has two more starts before the big race, so do not count him out by any means.

Prospect Park will be much lower than his 50-1 morning line based on his impressive allowance win on Jan. 30. The March foal rolled to a 5 1/4-length score while running the mile in 1:35 3/5, which was two-fifths faster than older colts ran one hour later.

The Great War was perhaps the most impressive winner last weekend making quick work in the 96Rock Stakes at Turfway Park. The BC Juvenile fourth-place finisher rolled by 7 1/4 lengths as the 1-10 favorite. As is the case with Lord Nelson, The Great War is bred to run all day, but he has excelled in sprints far more so than in two-turn events.

TOP POOL 2 CHOICES IN 2015

Lord Nelson should be either the seventh or eighth choice among the individual entrants, which will place his odds somewhere around his morning line of 30-1. I would place a few dollars on him along with Imperia and The Great War if those two are above their 30-1 morning line odds. Prospect Park is another one to keep an eye on if he can be had at 30-1 or higher. In addition, Far Right and International Star are worth a shot at huge odds.

THE 2015 JEFF FRANK "DIRTY DOZEN"

1) Texas Red - Two remaining starts after decent 2nd in San Vicente

2) American Pharoah - Back on work tab with 36 1/5 on Feb. 2

3) Dortmund - Should remain unbeaten with a win in Robert B. Lewis

4) Carpe Diem - Makes 2015 debut in Fountain of Youth on Feb. 21

5) Firing Line - Will give Dortmund all he can handle on Saturday

6) Upstart - Has risen up the list after scintillating Holy Bull

7) Ocho Ocho Ocho - Could make 2015 debut on March 7 in San Felipe

8) Lord Nelson - Baffert has won Derby before with second-stringers

9) Ocean Knight - Dynamite in Sam F. Davis; Tampa Bay Derby is next

10) Khozan - Has the Apollo 2-year-old curse working against him

11) Imperia - Breezing at Palm Meadows for 2015 debut in Risen Star

12) International Star - Currently on top of War Story for 12th slot



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