I used to leave it up to Punxsutawney Phil, the famous Pennsylvania groundhog to predict an early Spring, but no more. Now I rely on Nevada betting outlets and the major offshore sportsbooks offering the Kentucky Derby futures to guarantee that Winter will finally end.
Yes, we can now envision the ritual First Saturday in May, when the Run for the Roses dictates who the best 3-year-old horse in America is. Well, at least for that two-week period, until they have to prove it again at the Preakness in Baltimore. The Kentucky Derby is on our radar and betting screens with the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 2, for those brave enough to take a risk almost three months into the future.
Ghost Time not Post Time
We mention bravery or courage because Kentucky Derby future betting is rather unique. Unlike future wagering on football or any other team sport, it's highly risky that the horse you're betting on will actually make it to the starting gate, let alone win! So many things can happen in these three months and in a horse's maturity cycle. It's equivalent to a human aging from 18 to 22 in a much shorter time span.
The other risk is the horse's owner electing not to start their horse at all. When they've invested six or seven figures and potential breeding rights worth more than purses, the dollars often outweigh the glory of the roses. KEY FACT: a bettor DOES NOT receive a sportsbook refund should their horse not start in the Derby. All wagers are based on whether they will run or not and the potential winning outcome.
Now that you've been properly notified, here's a sample look at the current Futurebook odds for the 142nd Kentucky Derby courtesy of BetOnline. For comparison odds, check the menu at other top online sportsbooks including Bovada, Heritage and Diamond Sports that feature daily horse racing wagering.
Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 2
Annual Report +6000
Awesome Speed +2200
Brody's Cause +1600
Charmed Victory +5000
Cocked and Loaded +6000
Conquest Big E +4500
Gift Box +3500
Gun Runner +3500
Matt King Coal +7500
Mo Tom +2500
Mor Spirit +950
Sail Ahoy +6500
Sunny Ridge +2500
Toews on Ice +7500
Unbridled Outlaw +10000
Awesome Banner +2500
Smokey Image +2800
Cherry Wine +2800
Immediately, at first glance is not the betting choices but the non-betting choice. The Nevada sportsbooks and large exclusive U.S. online horseracing sights like Twin Spires and TVG often feature "other 3 year-olds" as a wagering option. Over the years it has proven to be a more and more popular selection. Expect it to be in the neighborhood of around 4-5 or -120 for this round. Keep in mind that Twin Spires and TVG offer a "pari-mutuel pool" to reflect the true nature of the odds with their customary take or withhold percentage included. Here it is similar to any other future pool that cannot account for even wagering action with a withholding allowance. Therefore, it is possible to receive substantially better odds on certain horses.
"All other 3-year olds" have become a popular choice because of the proven history of this initial group not often making it to the starting gate. And also to the volatile nature of what odds you could expect on May 7th. For example, Greenpointcrusader, listed here at BetOnline at +1800 (18-1) could go off at 40-1 in the Derby. Then again, with a big victory say in a key prep like the Florida Derby, might go off at 5-1. A wager here at +1800 could be a great value.
Where's the Girls?
The next major observation is that perhaps three of the best 3-year-old horses are completely missing from the list. They happen to be fillies. Is this a coincidence or oversight? I think not.
Songbird might be one of the best female horses or perhaps THE best we've seen since Zenyatta. She's destroyed her competition in all four races including a big score in the Breeder's Cup. Jockey Mike Smith, who rode Zenyatta is her rider. The only question is whether the owners will change their minds for the Derby. Thus far they've said they will not run, opting for the Kentucky Oaks. If able to bet on her, I would place a wager in the future book the first moment available.
Rachel's Valentina and Cathryn Sophia also look to be superior fillies that are perhaps being overlooked with all the attention being put on Songbird. Rachel's Valentina has superior breeding to go the required 1 ¼ mile Derby distance, where it may be more of a potential question for Cathryn Sophia, who may be more of a sprinting specialist.
Keep this story in mind in 2016 as the girls may be stronger than the boys. And in the footsteps of last year's long overdue Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, we just might have a follow-up. Should it come from the fillies, that would really make sports history.
Best Kentucky Derby Future Bets (for now)
Moyhamen is an obvious choice due to his great record, breeding (by Tapit) and thus far impressive performance including the recent Holy Bull stakes at Gulfstream. His name means "dominant", he looks the real deal but a long way to go and maybe not worth the +375 asking price. Even as the favorite, he likely would be in the 2-1 vicinity at Churchill Downs.
Conversely, Cherry Wine is a good value at +2800 should he come up with a big effort in the upcoming Fountain of Youth Stakes on February 27th at Gulfstream. Trained by Dale Romans, the conditioner of Mohaymen, Cherry Wine is improving and has won at Churchill Downs back in November. Should Moyahmen get injured or fall back, this horse definitely gets into the field with a top trainer like Romans. And with good prep races will be much less than 28-1 odds.
Nyquist is your other potential super horse to take a shot with. He won the 3-year old male division of the Breeder's Cup and has been on the shelf since. Undefeated, he will start this Monday, President's Day at Santa Anita in the San Vincente Stakes. There are no questions concerning his connections. Trainer Doug O'Neill and owner Paul Reddam have already combined to win a Kentucky Derby with I'll Have Another in 2012.
However, there will still be questions about Nyquist's "classic distance" stamina, because the San Vincente is only at 7 furlongs. That's probably why he listed at a relatively generous +850 (8.5-1). Should he romp, look for the odds to decrease in the next Kentucky Derby Future Pool. Therefore, if you are a believer this weekend is the best time to get your money down on Nyquist at BetOnline and the other established offshore sportsbooks offering Kentucky Derby wagering. Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 2 is open at domestic outlets this weekend only!
Overall, this can be a fun way to make a good value investment for a few bucks if you're lucky enough getting your horse into the starting gate on the first Saturday in May. Like a lottery ticket, put it into the drawer and forget about it until the real signs of Spring appear.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, inlcuding NFL previews and picks from Glenn, click here.