02/12/2007 1:00AM

Field favored again, but handle slumps

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The mutuel field closed as the favorite in Pool 1 of the 2007 Kentucky Derby Future Wager - just as it has every year since Churchill Downs first began offering parimutuel futures in 1999 - while handle slumped to its lowest level in four years when the wager closed Sunday at racetracks and wagering outlets throughout North America.

The field, the 24th or "all others" option to the 23 separately listed betting interests, was the 5-2 favorite when the customary four-day run ended Sunday at 6 p.m. Eastern. Nobiz Like Shobiz closed as the 8-1 second choice, followed by Street Sense (10-1), Hard Spun (10-1), Ravel (11-1), Circular Quay (12-1), and Any Given Saturday (14-1).

The handle of $520,688 was the lowest since 2003, although the highest during that period was the record $620,362 bet in 2005. The 2006 handle for Pool 1 was $552,627.

In the previous eight years of Derby futures, a field horse from Pool 1 has won the Derby three times: Charismatic (1999), War Emblem (2002), and Smarty Jones (2004).

Meanwhile, the field also closed as the favorite in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, conducted at the same time as the Derby futures. The field was the 3-1 choice, followed closely by Rags to Riches (7-2), Dreaming of Anna (7-1), Boca Grande (9-1), Octave (10-1), and Cotton Blossom (11-1).

Wagering on two separate Oaks interests was suspended Sunday about two hours before the close of Pool 1. Meditations, who had attracted $801, and Untouched Talent ($1,072) both will be unable to compete in the Oaks. There are no refunds in the futures pools.

Handle on Oaks Pool 1 was $66,206, or barely more than 10 percent of what was handled on the Derby, keeping in line with what traditionally has resulted with the Oaks futures since Churchill first offered them in 2003.

Pool 2 for the Derby and Oaks is set for March 8-11, and Pool 3 will run April 12-15. Results are predicated on races to be run May 4-5.