03/09/2008 11:00PM

Advice for Pool 2: Look beyond this weekend's winners


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The results of Saturday's Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds and Gotham at Aqueduct will influence the closing odds in Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, just as the running of the Feb. 9 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds did a month earlier in Pool 1.

Pyro's victorious stretch rally in the Risen Star, in which he went from last to first in the final quarter-mile, resulted in him becoming the 5-1 favorite of the 23 separate betting interests in Pool 1, overtaking 6-1 War Pass, who had beaten him in their three matchups last year. (The field, the 24th or "all others" option, went off at 3-1.)

Depending on what happens in the Louisiana Derby, Pyro could maintain favoritism with a win, or lose a bit of support, should he lose. Similarly, the closing future wager odds on J Be K, Tale of Ekati, Blackberry Road, Yankee Bravo, and Majestic Warrior - other horses in Louisiana Derby - will reflect their performances this weekend.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, if you like any of those horses and wish to play them in Pool 2, you might actually be better served by an ordinary or even performance in the Louisiana Derby than a banner effort, and similarly from a prospect such as Visionaire or Giant Moon in the Gotham.

A losing race, provided the horse didn't experience a rough trip, would likely cause the betting public to focus on other horses in the future wager, and with the Derby still two months away, there is still be plenty of time for a trainer to get a horse on course leading up to the Kentucky Derby.

Trainer Barclay Tagg did that five years ago with Funny Cide. Third in the Louisiana Derby, beaten by Peace Rules and Kafwain, Funny Cide peaked in the two months that followed, running a close second behind Empire Maker in the Wood, and then upsetting that rival in the Derby.

That is not to say you should hope for a wretched performance, particularly from a horse that is on the fringe of making the Derby. That might jeopardize the horse's chances of staying on the Derby trail, or indicate a physical setback.

My inclination is to focus on the horses I like before the Louisiana Derby and Gotham are run, and view the results with a critical eye afterward, in search of value.

If a bettor likes Pyro - and he disappoints somewhat and runs third or fourth in the Louisiana Derby - chances are likely he will drift up in the betting and offer a much more respectable price than the 5-1 odds he was in Pool 1.

As for some of the others, such as the comebacking Tale of Ekati and Majestic Warrior, expect them to improve next time out, with the benefit of having started for the first time this year in the Louisiana Derby. An even or closing performance could hint of bigger things to come.

Beyond these angles, the soundest value-oriented betting strategy for Pool 2 is to support those horses that have been out of the public eye for two weeks or more.

Bettors will be focused so much this week on the Louisiana Derby and Gotham, as well as on last week's successful return of War Pass and Cool Coal Man's win in the Fountain of Youth, that those horses that raced three of four weeks ago could get overlooked. As the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind.

My strategy with the future pool is therefore twofold: Look for legitimate future wager horses from the Louisiana Derby and Gotham that might have seen their stock drop with ordinary performances, and search for value on those that have not run over the past couple weeks.

Potential plays on the latter angle include Denis of Cork, whose victory in the Southwest on Feb. 18 might already be somewhat forgotten; Georgie Boy, winner of the Feb. 10 San Vicente; and Z Fortune, runner-up to Pyro in the Risen Star. All three are scheduled to run next weekend, with Denis of Cork and Z Fortune being pointed for the Rebel, and Georgie Boy toward the San Felipe.

Lastly, at the risk of stating the obvious, wait to bet as late as possible to get the truest idea of the odds. The Derby future pool closes Sunday at 6 p.m. Eastern, and the Kentucky Oaks future pool - for those playing the fillies - ends a half-hour later at 6:30.