12/17/2004 1:00AM

Derby future bet dates set


Churchill Downs has released the dates for the three pools in the 2005 Kentucky Derby Future Wager, the win-only parimutuel wager that will offered for the seventh consecutive year.

Dates for the four-day pools (Thursdays through Sundays) are: Pool 1, Feb. 10-13; Pool 2, March 10-13; and Pool 3, April 7-10.

The 131st Derby will be run on May 7 at Churchill.

Three futures pools for the Kentucky Oaks, to be run for May 6, will be conducted during the same dates.

Dates for the 2005 Future Wager coincide with several major prep races, including the Louisiana Derby on March 13 and the Santa Anita Derby on April 9. In some cases, however, major preps are scheduled before or after the futures pools open. Among those preps are the Fountain of Youth on March 5 and the Florida Derby April 2.

The Derby and Oaks futures will be available in at least 34 states.

The record aggregate handle on the Derby futures was set in 2002, when $1,503,826 was bet into the three pools. The highest payout came in Pool 1 of the 2003 Derby futures when Funny Cide, who went off 12-1 in the Derby, paid $188 for a $2 future wager.

Last year, Derby winner Smarty Jones was part of the mutuel field in the first two pools. In Pool 3, Smarty Jones was 10-1 as a separate option. He wound up a 4-1 favorite in the Derby.

Churchill began the Future Wager in 1999. The first Oaks future bet was in 2003, when only one pool was offered. Churchill expanded the Oaks to three pools last year and decided to do the same in 2005, even though handle on the Oaks futures was $158,211, compared to nearly $1.3 million on the Derby futures.

Churchill president Steve Sexton said the future wagers continue to achieve Churchill's goal of building early interest in the Derby and Oaks.