08/06/2002 11:00PM

Cup turf wagers are real head-scratchers

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Ready for a puzzler? Try sorting through the 69 individual horses in the three pools of the Breeders' Cup Future Wager this weekend and coming to a confident conclusion.

The three pools, which will offer future bets on the the three Breeders' Cup turf races - - will likely present the biggest challenge yet to handicappers and to Breeders' Cup's aspirations for its future bets, which were inaugurated this year with pools for the Classic, Sprint, and Distaff over the the July 4 weekend.

Twenty-eight of the 69 horses in the pools are based in Europe, including all three second choices on the morning line. The favorites for the three pools, predictably, are the field bets, which comprise any horse not listed in the pool individually.

Betting will open at 1 p.m. Eastern, and the windows will close at 7 p.m. on Sunday. Bets are win only, with no refunds allowed.

The relative obscurity of many of the European horses in the pools will likely turn many handicappers away from the races. Several additional challenges - such as reading a European trainer's mind from across the Atlantic about whether or not the horse will run, and in which race - will also likely dampen enthusiasm for large bets on a single horse.

That could mean good news for bettors who have a strong feeling about a single horse, especially if large bets fall on the field entries. Many horses will likely offer strong prices, indicative of the risk involved.

Fans should take several precautions. Many of the European horses will not commit to any race in particular until later this fall after many of the major grass races in Europe have been run, including the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in France in October.

Additionally, some horses are listed in multiple races. The filly Aquarelliste is listed in both the Turf and the Filly and Mare Turf; Orchard Park and Sarafan are both listed individually in the Turf and Mile; and Sophisticat and Rebelline are both listed in the Mile and Filly and Mare Turf. Sakhee, the 8-1 second-choice on the morning line, was also offered as an individual interest in last month's Classic future bet.

Betting is expected to be offered at most sites around the country. Bettors in New York, however, will be able to bet on the wager only at Belmont Park or at Saratoga Race Course or through telephone or Internet accounts. New York's off-track betting corporations have been unable to reach an agreement with Breeders' Cup on the bets, which are subject to a simulcast fee like any other racing event.