04/04/2005 11:00PM

High Fly top choice in final pool

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Eight new names are among the 23 separately listed interests in the third and final pool of the , which opens for its four-day run Thursday at noon Eastern.

Blues and Royals, a 12-length winner of the UAE Derby, is foremost among the 3-year-olds joining the Pool 3 lineup. Also, Closing Argument, who was a separate interest in Pool 1 in February but was lumped into the mutuel field for Pool 2 last month, is once again being offered separately in Pool 3.

The other new horses are Bellamy Road, Flower Alley, Greeley's Galaxy, Pavo, Survivalist, and Wild Desert.

Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has made Florida Derby winner High Fly an 8-1 morning-line favorite for Pool 3. Four horses are listed at 10-1: Consolidator, Sun King, High Limit, and Sweet Catomine.

The mutuel field, or "all others" option, is listed at 12-1. The field closed as the favorite in the first two pools, but historically, as the Derby draws nearer and the picture becomes more focused, the field has tended to lose favor with Pool 3 bettors.

Major odds shifts could follow the runnings of the Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby on Saturday. Wagering into Pool 3 will close Sunday at 6 p.m. Eastern; potential payoffs in the $2-minimum, win-only wager are determined at the close of each pool.

Churchill officials are looking for a record cumulative total for the Derby futures this year. The record three-pool total for the bet, first offered in 1999, is $1,503,806, set three years ago. Fans already have wagered $1,132,017 into the first two pools this year.

Meanwhile, 10 fillies are new to Pool 3 of the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager: Aspen Tree, Brooke's Halo, Cape Hope, Dance Away Capote, Dixie Talking, Gallant Secret, Northern Mischief, The Beter Man Can, Toll Taker, and Yankee Penny.

Sweet Catomine is listed as the 4-1 favorite over Summerly (5-1) and Sis City (6-1), but, as with the Derby futures, the Oaks morning line is largely irrelevant because many of the top contenders will be in action Saturday, including all three of those fillies. Pool 3 for the Oaks closes Sunday at 6:30 p.m., a half-hour later than the Derby's Pool 3.

Handle on the Oaks futures has been considerably less than for the Derby, with just $123,034 bet into the first two pools.