Field a heavy favorite in Pool 1

Updated: February 8, 2012, 3:19 PM ET
By Marty McGee | Daily Racing Form



LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- As legendary as he has become, Barbaro was something of an outsider at 19-1 in Pool 1 of the 2006 Kentucky Derby Future Wager before going on to win.

Michael Matz, who trained Barbaro and trains arguably the top separately listed entry in the 2012 Derby Future Wager in Union Rags, said he remembers nothing about the future wager that year.

"I guess we're a little bit ahead of the curve this time, huh?" Matz laughed.

In 2006, Barbaro was 19-1 in Pool 1, 15-1 in Pool 2, and 9-1 in Pool 3 before winning the Derby as a 6-1 chance. Union Rags, runner-up to Hansen in Eclipse Award voting for top 2-year-old of 2011, is listed as a 10-1 chance in Pool 1 of the 2012 Derby Future Wager, which opens Friday at noon Eastern and closes Sunday at 6 p.m.

Churchill Downs linemaker Mike Battaglia has listed the mutuel field, the 24th or "all others" option, as the 9-5 morning-line favorite, followed by Algorithms at 8-1, Union Rags at 10-1, and Hansen at 12-1. Every year since Churchill began offering parimutuel futures in 1999, the field has closed as the favorite in Pool 1. A Pool 1 field horse has wound up winning the Derby in six of those 13 prior years, the latest being Animal Kingdom last year.

Matz said from his Palm Meadows training center base in south Florida earlier this week that he will run Union Rags later this month in the Fountain of Youth, "then hopefully in the Florida Derby. I like the timing of it all. That'll be just two preps for us, while Barbaro had three. But Barbaro had run only twice as a 2-year-old, and Union Rags ran four times last year. So I think we should be in pretty good shape with the scheduling."

The field usually is a low price for Pool 1, even lower than 2-1. On two previous occasions, a Pool 1 field horse has paid less than $6 by ultimately winning the Derby -- when Smarty Jones won in 2004 ($5.60) and when Mine That Bird won in 2009 ($5.80). Battaglia said the wide-open nature of the 2012 Derby lends itself to that possible scenario again, which is why he set the field at such a low morning line.

There is just one nominal Derby prep this weekend, the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Pool 2 is set for March 2-4, and Pool 3 for March 30 to April 1. A single Kentucky Oaks futures pool will be offered this year, to run concurrently with Derby Pool 2.

The futures are nonrefundable win and exacta wagers with $2 minimums, including $1 part-wheels or boxes. The takeout is 16 percent. As with any parimutuel wager, odds will change throughout the weekend, with final odds established at closing time.

The records for Pool 1 handle ($620,362) and aggregate handle ($1,665,990) were both set in 2005. Churchill enjoyed something of a spike in handle last year when a total of $1,362,101 was bet on all three pools, fifth-highest overall in the 13-year history of the futures and the most since 2007. The Pool 1 handle last year was $592,492, the second-highest ever.

Last year, Derby winner Animal Kingdom was a field member in Pools 1 and 2, then was 31-1 in Pool 3. He was 20-1 in winning on Derby Day.

Exacta payoffs on Pools 2 and 3 last year had to include the third-place finisher, Mucho Macho Man, because the first two finishers, Animal Kingdom and Nehro, both were field horses in those pools. For Pool 3, when Animal Kingdom and Nehro were separate entries, the $2 combination (1-12) returned $3,074.60, easily a record since exactas became part of the futures in 2009.

The record payoff for a $2 future win wager remains $188 on Funny Cide in Pool 1 in 2003.

Churchill tightened its traditional schedule for futures pools from four days to three in 2010, citing a lack of substantial play on Thursdays.

All futures lineups are determined by John Asher of Churchill Downs and Brad Free and Mike Watchmaker of Daily Racing Form. The 138th Derby is set for May 5.

Real-time updates of win odds and exacta probables are available through a number of sources, including television monitors at tracks and wagering outlets and on kentuckyderby.com.

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