03/11/2003 12:00AM

Eight added to Pool 2

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Reflecting the ever-changing picture for the 2003 Kentucky Derby, eight new horses have been added to the list of 23 separate betting interests in Pool 2 of the , which opens its four-day run Thursday at wagering outlets in 34 states.

Morning lines for Pool 2 also illustrate the wide-open nature of the 129th Derby, which will be run May 3 at Churchill Downs. Mike Watchmaker, national handicapper for Daily Racing Form, has listed Empire Maker as the 8-1 morning line favorite, while Churchill linemaker Mike Battaglia has three co-favorites at 10-1: Atswhatimtalknbout, Peace Rules, and the mutuel field, which consists of all 3-year-olds except the 23 separately listed. In Pool 1, which ran Feb. 13-16, the field closed as the 2-1 favorite.

The new horses in Pool 2 are Aristocat, Champali, Composure (the only filly on the list), Great Notion, Inamorato, Ocean Terrace, Region of Merit, and Supah Blitz. They replace Pool 1 horses Apalachian Thunder, Ozzie Cat, Saintly Look, Seattle Hoofer, Siberland, Sky Mesa, Toccet, and Whywhywhy.

Two major races this weekend figure to significantly affect how wagering on Pool 2 unfolds: the Florida Derby on Saturday at Gulfstream Park and the San Felipe on Sunday at Santa Anita.

Because Pool 2 closes at 6:30 p.m. Eastern and the San Felipe is scheduled for about 5 p.m., fans will be able to take that race into consideration before betting into Pool 2. The Sunday closing time is a departure from previous years, when pools closed at 4:30.

Wagering hours for each pool at the majority of wagering sites are: Thursday through Saturday, noon to 10 p.m. Eastern, and Sunday, noon to 6:30.

The Future Wager is a $2 minimum, win-only wager with a 16 percent takeout. No refunds are made, although wagering will be stopped on a horse if it is known to be ill or injured.

A total of $516,906 was bet into Pool 1. Pool 2 typically draws the lowest handle of the three pools. Pool 3 is set for April 3-6. A Kentucky Oaks Future Wager also will be offered concurrent with Pool 3.