08/11/2002 11:00PM

Bettors play the field

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NEW YORK - Bettors failed to identify any strong individual favorites in the three Breeders' Cup future bet pools over the weekend, making the field the favorite in each.

Betting on the field was especially strong for the Breeders' Cup Mile, where bettors hammered the entry to 2-1 while making the second choice, Rock of Gibraltar, 7-2. In the pool for the Breeders' Cup Turf, the field was 4-1. In the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, the field was 5-1.

A total of $97,784 was wagered in the three pools. Bets were offered on 23 individual horses and the field entry in each pool. Betting opened on Friday at 1 p.m. Eastern and closed at 7 p.m. on Sunday.

The strength of the field betting surprised Ken Kirchner, the Breeders' Cup official responsible for the wagering pools. Kirchner said most of the field betting came in late.

"To have the field at 2-1 in the Mile, that's just mind boggling," Kirchner said. "I'm very surprised at the number of people that were using the fields, but maybe those are hedges on individual bets."

The selection of the field as the favorite was a reflection of the uncertainty surrounding the running status of many of the horses in the races and the relative obscurity of the many of the runners. Twenty-eight of the 69 horses offered in the three pools are based in Europe, and several face expensive supplementary fees in order to race. Others have not committed to plans to run yet in the Breeders' Cup, which will be held Oct. 26 at Arlington Park outside of Chicago.

Still, most bettors favored European horses over their American-based counterparts. The second choice in the Mile, Rock of Gibraltar, is based in Europe, as is the third choice, Keltos. The 13-1 fourth choice, Volponi, is based in New York.

In the Turf, bettors made California-based Beat Hollow and High Chaparral, a European, the co-second choices at 5-1. French horse Sulamani was made the fourth choice at 10-1. Sakhee, second choice on the morning line at 8-1, drifted to 15-1 after being upset in the Prix Gontaut-Biron in France on Saturday.

Two American-based horses in the Turf were conspicuously high based on the weekend's racing results. In the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga at 1 1U2 miles on the grass, With Anticipation ran down Denon and Volponi to score a narrow victory in what was perhaps the best grass distance race of the year. With Anticipation was 13-1 to win the Turf at the close of betting, while Denon was 24-1.

Americans dominated the betting in the Filly and Mare Turf, however.

American-based Astra was made the second choice at 6-1, and she was followed by Golden Apples (7-1) and England's Legend (11-1). Last year's Filly and Mare Turf winner, Banks Hill, based in England, was 12-1.

Kirchner said that total betting in the three pools "was good, but not as spectacular as we may have hoped for," especially when compared to the betting in the inaugural three pools over July 4 weekend, when wagering was $160,000 on future bets for the Classic, Distaff, and Sprint.