03/01/2010 12:00AM

Hidden gems from the Pool 1 field


NEW YORK - The primary philosophy behind taking the "all other 3-year-olds" option, or the field, in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager can only be that you believe the Derby winner is not among the 23 horses who were selected to be individual betting interests. Anything else would frankly be nuts. It would just make no sense to take odds of 3-2, which is precisely what the field closed at in last month's Pool 1, if you liked one, two, or even three Derby aspirants who did not receive individual betting interest status, not when you could get vastly better odds at any race book in Las Vegas. And if getting down in Vegas on a future wager fielder is not an option for you, then the next-best option would be to keep your hands in your pocket, and pass.

There were, however, several 3-year-olds who didn't quite make the cut as individual betting interests in last month's Pool 1 that were appealing on at least some level, and have since shown why. Let's take a look at a few of them:

* Caracortado: Gelding who debuted at Fairplex for a tag was 4 for 4 before the individual betting interests for Pool 1 were selected, but his only stakes win came at the expense of California-breds, and he had not yet raced as a 3-year-old. He upset the Robert B. Lewis during the Pool 1 betting period to remain undefeated, earning a career-best Beyer Figure of 97. If he was an individual betting interest in Pool 1, his odds would have surely plummeted as a result of his Lewis performance, but his price still would have been much higher than 3-2.

* Sidney's Candy: Were it not for a disappointing effort early in the Santa Anita meet that saw him finish fourth in a five-horse allowance race as the 3-5 favorite, he might well have been an individual betting interest in Pool 1. That was how impressive he was in his fast, decisive maiden win late in the Del Mar meet. Distance might ultimately prove an issue, but he proved that allowance flop was an aberration as the day after Pool 1 closed he delivered a strong score in the San Vicente.

* Discreetly Mine: A marginal candidate for individual betting interest status in Pool 1 off seconds in the Champagne and Futurity at Belmont Park last fall, he ran himself out of the picture with a dull fourth as the favorite early this year in the Spectacular Bid Stakes at Gulfstream Park over a sloppy track he's bred to adore. But a week after Pool 1 in his first attempt around two turns, something he's also bred for, he won the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds in front-running fashion. He did have to work hard to prevail in the Risen Star after getting away with an easy pace, but he also might be the sort who works only as hard as he has to.

* Tempted to Tapit: Owned a 100 Beyer Figure before the Pool 1 individual betting interests were picked, something not even champion Lookin At Lucky could claim, but that Beyer came in the mud in a maiden race on Aqueduct's inner track, conditions that invite skepticism. But he proved that wasn't a fluke when he chased Discreetly Mine all the way around the track in the Risen Star to finish second, and it appears instead that blinkers are a key to his emergence.

* D' Funnybone: Talent wasn't the issue here. His form included runaway victories last year in the Futurity (over Discreetly Mine) and Saratoga Special. What proved his undoing were major doubts about his distance ability based on his performance in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, in which he stopped to a walk after pressing the pace to finish a distant last of 13. He turned in a workmanlike performance winning the Hutcheson at Gulfstream in his 2010 bow a week after Pool 1, but distance questions remain.

* Connemara: Conversely, distance doesn't figure to be a problem at all with him. The question here is whether he is fast enough. He won his first two starts last year in modest time, but in his one start this year before Pool 1, he finished second as the 3-5 favorite in the slowly run California Derby at Golden Gate. He came back a week after Pool 1 and won that track's El Camino Real Derby, earning a career-best Beyer. But that Beyer was only an 83.

* Radiohead: He was a group stakes winner going five furlongs last summer at Ascot, but by the time of Pool 1, he hadn't raced since finishing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in his U.S. debut. But on Saturday, in his first start on dirt, he made a show of a loaded allowance field at Gulfstream and he will be a serious factor no matter what Derby prep he jumps into next, just as long as it isn't one that includes Eskendereya.

The winner of last Saturday's Sham Stakes at Santa Anita probably would have also been listed here, but Saturday's card there was scrapped because of the inability of the main track to handle rain. The Sham was the second Derby prep at Santa Anita that had to be rescheduled because of a weather cancellation (the Lewis was the other), and provides another example of how the once vital Southern California route to the Kentucky Derby has been compromised because of the synthetic surface at Santa Anita.

Weather isn't the only cause for cracks in this path to the Derby. Some local horsemen appear to have recognized the benefit of having a Derby prospect's first start on dirt come in a race before the Kentucky Derby itself. Trainer Bob Baffert deserves credit for being flexible this way with his Derby prospects this year. His Conveyance hit the road for dirt at Oaklawn and turned in an improved win. He is wisely considering the Rebel on dirt for Lookin At Lucky.