Updated on 09/17/2011 10:24AM

'Empire' tops Future Wager overlays


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Maybe all of the many people who bet the mutuel field in the first two pools of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager were onto something.

In the first of three pools in the annual Future Wager, no fewer than 10 of the 17 horses entered Wednesday for the Derby were part of the "field" - the 24th wagering option that includes all 3-year-olds except 23 separately listed interests. The outcome was almost the same with Pool 2 - nine of the horses that eventually made the Derby were part of the field.

The field was the 2.20-1 favorite for Pool 1 and the 3.60-1 favorite for Pool 2. Most notable among the field horses for both pools are Ten Most Wanted, Buddy Gil, Scrimshaw, Sir Cherokee, Brancusi, and Indian Express.

The field drifted up to 7-1 for Pool 3 when several late bloomers were removed to become separately listed interests, including Ten Most Wanted, Buddy Gil, and Brancusi. Still, seven of the 17 Derby entrants are Pool 3 field horses.

Arguably the top value wager to this point involves the Derby favorite, Empire Maker. Before he won the Florida Derby, Empire Maker closed at 12.80-1 in Pool 1, which ran Feb. 13-16. In Pool 2 (March 13-16) and Pool 3 (April 3-6), both of which were conducted before Empire Maker's Wood Memorial victory, the colt closed at 3.70-1 and 2.50-1, respectively.

Probably the next best Future Wager overlays - at least in relation to what odds they will be Saturday - are Peace Rules in Pool 1 (66-1), Ten Most Wanted in Pool 3 (17-1), Atswhatimtalknbout in Pool 1 (28-1), Brancusi in Pool 3 (38-1), and Funny Cide in Pool 3 (52-1). Then there's Supah Blitz, who is 50-1 on the Derby morning line and 164-1 in Pool 2.

Surely, the biggest underlays are the horses who fell by the wayside on the Derby trail. Horses that were bet down to less than 20-1 in any of the three pools include Badge of Silver, Indy Dancer, Kafwain, Lion Tamer, Sky Mesa, Toccet, and Trust N Luck.

But besides those non-Derby starters, there are at least three horses whose odds surely will be higher Saturday than their closing odds in selected Future Wager pools: Domestic Dispute (19-1 in Pool 1), Ten Cents a Shine (34-1 in Pool 1), and Offlee Wild (24-1 in Pool 3).

This is the fifth year for the Future Wager, on which more than $1.13 million was bet at tracks and outlets in 34 states.

Ailing Pat Day says he will be ready

Despite taking off his mounts for a third consecutive day Thursday due to back pain, Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day said he will be ready to ride Ten Most Wanted in the Kentucky Derby.

"None," Day said when asked if there was any question he would ride Saturday.

Day took off his mounts Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday due to back pain incurred when he tried to throw a heavy bag of clay in a dumpster. Day, who was also involved in two spills on the track last week, has undergone a number of treatments, including deep muscle electric stimulation, and ultrasound and massage therapy. At home, Day has treated his back with five minutes of ice and 20 minutes of heat a couple of hours a day.

On the backside early Thursday morning, Day said he hoped to ride that afternoon's card. But after meeting with his therapist, the decision was made to take off his five mounts.

"He told me he's riding [Friday] and Saturday," said Doc Danner, Day's agent.

"The only thing I know is he's still got a little stiffness. It isn't where he wants it to be. Other than [Thursday's La Troienne], this is really minor compared to things he's got to do for Friday and Saturday. I know Pat's got some big expectations for the next couple of days. He felt he'd better give it one more day."

Tagg: Funny Cide earned his way in

Thirty years after saddling his first career winner, trainer Barclay Tagg makes his first appearance in the Kentucky Derby, with the New York-bred gelding Funny Cide. While Tagg has resisted previous urges to come to the Derby, he said, he had virtually no choice this year after Funny Cide finished a half-length behind Empire Maker in the Wood Memorial.

"I wouldn't have drug him to the Derby, I'm not one to chase any empty wagons or show off," Tagg said Thursday morning, after Funny Cide schooled in the gate and paddock. "He didn't give me any reason not to run. We were beaten a half-length by the horse that's 6-5. How could you deny the horse a chance, the owners a chance, or yourself a chance? Getting here is the toughest thing, now he's gotten here. If I'd have really wanted to get him out of it, I couldn't have done it. Not graciously anyway."

Tagg said the only other horse he considered brining to the Kentucky Derby was Roo Art in 1985, but he didn't think the horse was mature enough to run so he convinced his owners to skip the race.

"I never wanted to come here unless I had a horse to come here with," Tagg said. "I'd rather watch it on TV and have a drink."

After 42 years, Smith's in a Derby

T.V. Smith is one of eight trainers saddling their first Kentucky Derby starter, sending out Offlee Wild on Saturday. It only took him 42 years to get here.

"Some guys gear their stable and their training just to have a Derby horse," Smith said. "I've never had the kind of quality to do that. It just happened this horse is."

Smith suffered a major setback on the Derby trail when Offlee Wild got sick and lost several weeks of training following his fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Fountain of Youth Stakes. So Smith turned to a somewhat unconventional training tactics to help him catch up with the competition, sending Offlee Wild out to gallop as much as 2 1/2 miles on some mornings. It was a training method taught to him by the respected veteran horseman Willard Proctor.

"He'll gallop 1 1/2 miles, walk about an eighth of a mile and then gallop another mile," Smith explained. "We don't do it on a daily basis but if you've got the time and can get them used to the regime it helps put a pretty good base under a horse and also gets them more relaxed and to let loose of the bit a little."

Smith has also been around long enough to be realistic about his chances on Saturday.

"I'm trying to keep this whole thing in perspective and so far I think we've all been holding up well," said Smith. "I didn't bring this horse to the Derby, he's bringing me. If he didn't have special quality I'd just be another spectator on Saturday. I just hope it doesn't take me another 40 years to get back here again. I don't think I'll be around that long."

Back-to-back Derby Day runs

D. Wayne Lukas runs 2002 Derby runner-up Proud Citizen in the Churchill Downs Handicap on Saturday.

On four previous Derby Days, Nick Zito saddled on the undercard a horse that had started in the previous year's Derby. Zito won the Churchill Downs Handicap twice with 4-year-olds who had run in the previous Derby: Thirty Six Red (ninth in the 1990 Derby) and Diligence (ninth in the 1996 Derby). Zito also won a Derby Day allowance race with Suave Prospect (11th in the 1995 Derby).

Zito's lone loser in a return Derby Day appearance was Go for Gin, who won the 1994 Derby, but finished third in the '95 CD 'Cap.

"I really, really wanted to win that day," said Zito. He confided to Seth Hancock, whose Claiborne Farm had purchased Go for Gin for breeding purposes, that the horse would definitely win. "I hate when I do that and then the horse loses," he said, "but Seth took it pretty good."

Woods planning a comeback

Jockey Charlie Woods Jr. was among the hundreds of visitors on the backstretch Thursday morning. Woods, the fifth-leading rider in Churchill Downs history, was wearing a neck brace, the result of recent surgery to remove a herniated disk.

Woods, 52, said he hopes to return to riding in about eight weeks - which contradicts a promise he had been making to some people.

"People are always asking me, 'When are you going to retire?' and I'd say, 'Whenever Laffit does,' " said Woods.

But when the legendary Laffit Pincay Jr. announced his retirement Tuesday, Woods couldn't follow suit. "I'm still wanting a few more years," he said.

Pick four: $750,0000 guaranteed

Churchill Downs is guaranteeing a pool of $750,000 for an all-stakes pick four on races 7-10 Saturday. Races making up the $1 minimum pick four wager are the Citgo Distaff Turf Mile, the Humana Distaff Handicap, the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, and the Kentucky Derby.

- additional reporting by David Grening and Mike Welsch