With the first of three Kentucky Derby Future Pools offered this weekend, it's a good time to share a somewhat informed wagering decision or better yet, one that requires little to no information at all.
First and foremost, we need to understand that the Future Pool 1) ties up a portion of your betting money for 12 weeks without a return and 2) the difficulty of picking a winner just minutes before post is amplified indefinitely when trying to turn the same trick three months in advance. So if you don't mind taking a portion of what you bet and leaving it on the shelf for weeks while realizing that your betting choice(s) may not even make the starting gate, then go ahead and wager away this weekend.
The timing of this year's Future Pool #1 is curious to say the least. The Hutcheson Stakes is the lone prep race this weekend that may possibly influence your future bet(s). And besides, the Hutcheson, run at seven furlongs, is hardly a bellwether for Derby success. So any and all wagers are based on your perceptions of what is to come or the limited reality of several early prep races. In either case, what you don't know is just as important as what you do know - which is close to nothing.
Here's the whole bunch of nothing from the early preps:
- Out of Bounds - sat a perfect trip behind an extremely fast pace in the Sham and beat only four rivals; so what
- Mr. Bowling - won over a crowded Lecomte Stakes field that started fast and ended slow; Fair Grounds hasn't produced a decent Derby finisher in years
- Algorithms - won in the Gulfstream slop while taking the Holy Bull Stakes over last year's champion two-year-old, Hansen; a wet surface win is a plus, but how good is Hansen really?
- Alpha - took the Withers in what amounted to a JV scrimmage; might come out of New York as the dominant horse; you'll have to go back to Funny Cide to find the last New York-based Derby winner
- Battle Hardened - who really isn't and won a stakes as a maiden; you'll have to ask, late-maiden monster or winner of extremely soft Sam Davis field?
- I'll Have Another - probably the most perplexing prep winner to date; came off a six-month layoff to win going away versus what appeared to be a very good Robert Lewis Stakes field
The surest thing left behind by these winners is the questions that outnumber any answers, like: How does beating five opponents translate to beating 19 others? Will any horse ever leave Louisiana ready to pounce in Kentucky? How much did I'll Have Another improve or did he catch an overrated field ripe for the taking?
The little somethings we know from these do not install enough confidence in me (and probably shouldn't instill such confidence in you) to make a Future play this time around. In this case revel in your ignorance and take a pass or....take the field.
Consider that taking the field gives you almost 400 options versus the pittance of choosing one or a few from 23. By my account, all odds on individual choices would have to be over 100-1 to garner the appropriate risk-reward. Also consider that "all other" Derby nominees will probably land you around even money or a 100% return on your investment.
Now consider that at a casino you get a little under a 50-50 chance when picking one of the two main roulette wheel colors (black or red) with the same even money return. (Of course there are two green spots on the wheel to give the house their little edge.) In the Derby pool it is your 400 "all other" choices vs. 23 individuals for the possibility of an almost certain even money pay off.
Finally, you don't need to know anything about any of the "all others" to determine which one will win the Derby. And if you can get anything close to even money, it's worth your time and money to take a very safe and profitable shot at this year's Derby Future Pool #1.