04/04/2013 11:54AM

Brad Free: 'Positive expectation' sweet words to bettors' ears

Barbara D. Livingston
Will Goldencents benefit from being slowed down early in the Santa Anita Derby, or will he just be losing his best weapon?

ARCADIA, Calif. – No matter how Saturday at Santa Anita unfolds, the Derby Day program will have a hard time topping the Fair Grounds card held on Easter Sunday.

Free money is a good thing, and Fair Grounds was giving it away March 31. Winning bettors received a substantial bonus in the Black Gold pick five, thanks to a large carryover into a mandatory payout. It created a rare case of “positive expectation” – more money was returned to winning bettors than was wagered that day.

Closing day at Fair Grounds, by rule, the Black Gold carryover of $474,420 had to be distributed. Bettors wagered an additional $817,901. After applying takeout and adding the carryover, total payout was $1,087,845, a “bonus” of $269,944 over the amount wagered.

Bettors playing the 50-cent wager still had to find five winners; 195 tickets did. Based on win payoffs, the sequence was not impossible. It included a $4.80 favorite, $10 fourth choice, $6.40 favorite, $13 fourth choice, and $17.80 fifth choice. Although a 50-cent win parlay would have paid $1,110, the wager paid five times as much, $5,578.65.

A positive-expectation situation occurred on a lesser scale March 1 at Santa Anita when the pick-five carryover was $226,901. Bettors wagered $1,294,580. After takeout, total payout was $1,340,239. The “bonus” was $45,659.

The Gulfstream Park meet was scheduled to end Friday, April 5. The track would be the scene of a mandatory-payout frenzy, assuming the Rainbow 6 was not hit Thursday. The carryover would approach $2 million. Even if bettors Friday wagered another $7 million, more would be paid out than was taken in.

Meanwhile, it is time to clean out the handicapping notebook, with stuff like this . . .

◗ California’s first “guaranteed pool” was June 14, 1998, at Hollywood Park, a guaranteed pick-six pool of $1 million. Bettors wagered $3.3 million. The early guarantees were pick-six specific and created large pools. Yet guaranteed pools provide slim benefit to bettors. The late pick four Saturday at Santa Anita (races 8-11) includes a $750,000-guaranteed pool, with 23.68 percent takeout. The pick five (races 1-5) offers no guarantee other than reduced cost – the takeout is just 14 percent.

◗ Trainer Doug O’Neill said about Goldencents: “Our plan has been to slow him down.” So the plan is to take away his weapon. O’Neill is concerned about Goldencents’s ability to carry his speed. He might be right. But if Goldencents does not utilize his main asset – his speed – what chance does he have to even hit the board in the Santa Anita Derby?

◗ What a difference between the 2011 and 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juveniles.

By this time a year ago, the 2011 Juvenile field already had returned to win 10 of 30 starts, including seven graded stakes. This season, the 2012 BC Juvenile field has returned to win just 2 of 18, no graded stakes.

Darn. As an upset candidate, Juvenile fifth-place finisher Power Broker looked interesting in the Santa Anita Derby. He still does look interesting.

◗ I like Verrazano and Vyjack, one-two Saturday in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. Also very confident that the sun will set in the west and that Pope Francis is Catholic. #MOTO

◗ Have to believe Churchill Downs next year will tinker with the points system for the Kentucky Derby. If the connections of the filly Dreaming of Julia wanted to send her in the Derby (her 114 Beyer Speed Figure is the top figure this year by a 3-year-old), she would be shut out. She has zero Derby points.

She would have been an interesting participant.

◗ Speaking of fillies in the Derby, hard to believe 25 years are gone since my first trip to Churchill Downs when Winning Colors and jockey Gary Stevens wired the 1988 Derby for D. Wayne Lukas. Confession: Despite watching Winning Colors all winter, including a Santa Anita Derby romp, my Kentucky Derby pick was Forty Niner. What a dummy.

◗ It was premature to state that Sunland Oaks winner Midnight Lucky would be favored in the Kentucky Oaks. Instead, it is evident Dreaming of Julia will be favored. That is, unless Beholder wins the Santa Anita Oaks on Saturday by 21 3/4 lengths.

◗ Trivia question: What do Santa Anita Oaks winners Composure (2003), Silent Sighs (2004), Sweet Catomine (2005), Stardom Bound (2009), and Willa B Awesome (2012) have in common? Answer: The Oaks was the final graded stakes win by each.

◗ California’s top sprinters run Saturday – Jimmy Creed in the Grade 2 Potrero Grande at Santa Anita; Sahara Sky in the Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct. Those two are headed for a May 27 showdown in the Met Mile at Belmont Park. Californians one-two in the Met? Not likely. It has been nine years since a California horse won it – Pico Central in 2004.

◗ Italian Rules might not be good enough to win the Potrero Grande on Saturday, but the allowance sprinter is a win machine and a must-use at 6-1 or higher. Italian Rules has won 6 of his last 9, earning triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in 3 of his last 5. And if likely pacesetter Comma to the Top stops, then Italian Rules would get first run.

◗ It is not good news for the local circuit that California trainer John Shirreffs plans to open a stable this summer at Belmont. During the 50-day Hollywood spring-summer meet a year ago, Shirreffs went 3 for 32, followed by a Del Mar in which he was 1 for 19.

◗ Speaking of Del Mar, the 2012 Futurity winner Rolling Fog posted his first workout on the comeback trail Wednesday morning – three furlongs in 37.40 seconds. Stay tuned.

◗ The 11th and final race Saturday at Santa Anita includes a “wise guy” single – East Sky first off the claim by Mike Mitchell, from Elmer January. However, singling East Sky is to overlook the dominating recent maiden win by Russel’s Run. Have to double the race.