04/16/2007 12:00AM

Curlin soars to Derby favorite in future bet


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The 10 1/2-length romp by Curlin in the Arkansas Derby led bettors to make the colt the clear-cut favorite in the third and final pool in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which ended a four-day run Sunday evening.

Curlin closed as the 7-2 favorite in Pool 3, which drew $465,123, third-highest in the nine-year history of Churchill Downs offering parimutuel futures. The aggregate total handle for the three Derby future pools this year was $1,365,424, fourth-highest in history.

After Curlin, the next choices in Pool 3 were Street Sense at 6-1, Circular Quay (9-1), Nobiz Like Shobiz (10-1), Scat Daddy (11-1), and Hard Spun (13-1). The biggest drop in odds following the two major Derby preps over the weekend, the Blue Grass Stakes and Arkansas Derby, came on Dominican, the Blue Grass winner who closed Sunday at 17-1 after opening at 70-1 on Saturday morning.

Curlin surfaced so late as a Derby contender that he was not a separately listed wagering interest, and therefore was part of the mutuel field, in Pool 1, which ran Feb. 8-11. For Pool 2, which ran March 8-11, Curlin closed at 30-1 when listed separately. The field closed as the favorite in the first two pools but is 25-1 in Pool 3.

Only 21 separate interests were available at the close of Pool 3. Wagering was suspended on Birdbirdistheword before wagering even opened Thursday, and Notional was scratched Saturday evening, hours after the colt was diagnosed with an injury.

The record for Pool 3 handle is $533,973, set in 2005, the same year the record aggregate total of $1,665,990 was set.

Meanwhile, in Pool 3 of the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, Rags to Riches closed as a 3-2 favorite followed by her Todd Pletcher-trained stablemate Octave, at 6-1, then by High Heels (10-1), Boca Grande (13-1), and Cotton Blossom (15-1).

Pool 3 handle on the Oaks was $71,040, while the aggregate Oaks handle for Pools 1, 2, and 3 was $193,086, a record since Churchill moved to a three-pool format for the Oaks in 2004. Oaks futures handle historically has been about 15opercent of the Derby handle. Churchill first offered parimutuel futures on the Derby in 1999, and the first Oaks pool was in 2003.