Updated on 09/15/2011 12:33PM

Bet on Bet on Sunshine for World Championships


LEXINGTON, Ky. - I've bet on Kentucky Derby futures, Super Bowl futures, World Series futures, NBA futures, Stanley Cup futures, Rose Bowl futures, Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open tennis futures, World Cup soccer futures, assorted golf futures, and others. All of them involve significant risk, and the potential of huge rewards. But, in my opinion, the riskiest futures bet of them all is the World Thoroughbred Championships.

The reasons are best explained by the following analogy: If you make a large bet on the Los Angeles Lakers to win next year's NBA championship, you have a pretty good idea of what you're up against. Although trades will be made, some draft picks will be signed, new faces may be worked into the starting lineup, and some retired players might make comebacks, the balance of power is much more known than unknown from year to year.

You can be sure that you'll know the ultimate goal of the team you've bet on, and you will know which teams you will be competing against. The owner of the Lakers won't suddenly announce that he has decided to point his team toward the Stanley Cup, the Super Bowl, or the World Series, rather than compete for the NBA title. And there is absolutely no threat that the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens will go after the title currently held by the Lakers (I'm not sure about offense, but you'd have to like their chances of filling up the lane on defense).

World Thoroughbred Championships futures are much trickier than that.

If you like a turf horse, you must guess whether he'll run in the Mile on the grass, or the Turf at 1 1/2 miles. There are even more complications on the dirt. Will the speed horse you like aim for the Classic, or will he duck that 1 1/4-mile race in favor of the six-furlong Sprint? In odds updated on July 4, at Bally's, Balto Star was being offered at 75-1 in the Classic, and 25-1 in the Sprint. But don't forget that, with about four months between now and the Championships, it wouldn't be surprising if it turned out that he passed on both of those races for any number of reasons as circumstances change week by week.

Nevertheless, if you're willing to accept the risk, bargains can be found by playing Championships futures early.

In fact, the results of the Aristides, a 6 1/2-furlong, Grade 3 sprint at Churchill run on June 30, suggest that one interesting contender has already signaled that he might be even more of a threat this year than he was while finishing within a length of the winner in the Sprint in 1997 and 2000.

Believe it or not, Bet on Sunshine might actually be in the best form of his career at age 9. I wasn't yet convinced before the Aristides. His second-place finish on May 28, as the 11-10 favorite in his first start since last year's Sprint, wasn't the result chalk players were hoping for, but then again, it was only a prep for better things to come.

The mild pace expected in the Aristides figured to hinder Bet on Sunshine. But few handicappers anticipated that he would trail early through a ridiculously slow 22.50-second opening quarter. That meant that Bet on Sunshine would be trying to gain ground on leaders who would have energy in reserve after coasting during the first quarter-mile. But Bet on Sunshine ran an incredible race from that point on. Calvin Borel adjusted to the slow pace by asking Bet on Sunshine to make an early bid into contention. Remarkably, he was able to glide right up to the leaders with a five-wide bid while seemingly on cruise control as the pace sped up through a 22.32-second second quarter, which was quicker than the opening split. Bet on Sunshine left no doubt about the outcome when he drew off to a clear lead in mid-stretch, then beat second betting choice Alannan by 3 1/2 lengths.

Bet on Sunshine earned a career-best 113 Beyer for his performance. That number would have won the 1997 Sprint, and would have placed him on near even terms with Kona Gold last year. And he hasn't yet been asked for his best by trainer Paul McGee, who knows exactly what to do while mapping out a campaign aimed at having this horse in peak form for the Sprint.

With a little more improvement and a little luck over the coming months, the 25-1 quoted on Bet on Sunshine on July 4 at Bally's in the World Thoroughbred Championships Sprint might produce some beautiful fireworks later this year.