03/13/2009 1:08PM




The first day of Pool 2 Derby Futures wagering closed Thursday with $22,458 in the win pool and $7,439 in the new exacta pool, too small a sample for trend-spotting -- especially since there's a case to be made that anyone who invests on Thursday is clinically goofy. With 9 of the 22 individual betting interests scheduled to race in one of Saturday's four Derby preps, why would any sane person bet until after those races have been run -- especially since you don't get a refund if someone drops off the Derby Trail with an injury or a poor performance? Maybe some misinformed people think they're locking in a price by betting early. They're not: It's a parimutuel pool and the odds aren't set until the betting closes at 6 pm ET Sunday.

Those four races Saturday -- the G2 Louisiana Derby, Rebel and San Felipe, and the G3 Tampa Bay Derby -- are likely to alter the Futures landscape radically, so it's probably best left until Sunday to even think about handicapping the horses. It's not too soon, though, to consider betting strategies for the exacta pool, which through its very novelty is likely to offer some exxtraordinary opportunities and overlays.

With 23 betting interests -- wagering has been suspended on the injured Big Drama (#3) -- there are 506 possible Exacta Futures in play, one for each white box in the grid below:

A combination that attracts exactly 1/506th of the betting would pay $819.60 after the 19 percent exacta takeout. There should be plenty of four-digit will-pays, and it's going to be interesting to see how high the top ones can go. What price a 1-4 (Bear's Rocket-Chocolate candy) exacta?

Perhaps another useful way to think of the range of possible payouts is to consider another pool with around 506 possible combos: There are 504 possible trifecta outcomes in a nine-horse race.

I suspect the key to the payouts is going to be what people do with #24 -- the "all-others" button that amounts to a roughly 400-horse mutuel field. The field is pegged at 8-1 on the morning line, but it will be far more heavily played than that in the exactas, possibly creating inflated prices on the 462 combos that don't include a #24.

On the other hand, consider this: Since Derby Futures began in 1999, an "all-others" horse from Pool 2 has been part of the Derby Day exacta six times in 10 years. If you think that's a fair predictor, you could say there's a 60 percent chance that the winning combo will be one of the only 44 of 506 that does includes a #24.