01/27/2006 12:00AM

Inflating your wallet, not ego, the goal

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - There is more future than ever in Pool 1 of the Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby Futures Wager, which opened on Thursday and closes at 6 p.m. Eastern on Sunday. That's because this is the first year that Pool 1 has been offered as early as January.

There are 23 individual horses to choose from, and a field bet that includes all other 3-year-olds. It was no surprise to see that a $10,000 bet was made on the field early in the wagering on Thursday. That has become a common occurrence in recent years, and for good reason. During the seven years the Derby Futures pool has been offered, three winners have come from the field in Pool 1. Despite their current appeal, many of the 23 horses listed in this pool are unlikely to find their way into the starting gate at Churchill on Derby Day. While they show weaknesses in subsequent races that remove them from consideration, or sustain injuries that prevent them from competing, a number of other horses not listed individually will almost certainly emerge to become serious threats.

The timing of the $10,000 field bet is clever. The impact of a bet that large is much more significant during the early betting than it would be if it were made near the end of the betting on Sunday. The result is that the odds on the individual betting interests are temporarily raised considerably, while the odds on the field are temporarily pounded below even-money. Once bettors see the low odds on the field, and the high prices on the individual horses, some of them are swayed to bet on one or more of these individuals, even though the odds are likely to come down later as the total betting pool grows.

Making money should be the number one goal of futures bettors, but some players let their egos influence them to make bad decisions. The first ego-driven mistake is to want to play it too safe. Although some handicappers might be thrilled to brag that they received 7-1 in Pool 1 on the eventual winner, who paid 7-2 on the day of the race, unless they regarded that horse as being an absolute standout, he wasn't really an overlay at that price more than three months before the race.

The other ego-driven mistake bettors make is to look past the longshots who have a legitimate chance for an upset and bet on the weakest member of the group with the hope of earning huge bragging rights should a miracle occur. If I like a horse at 90-1 I will be overjoyed, but I won't like any horse simply because he is 90-1.

I want at least 20-1 on any horse in Pool 1, so although I respect them, there will be no bets on Stevie Wonderboy or Brother Derek for me. I like three potential longshots. Barbaro has been dynamic while winning his first three races, all on the turf, and still appears to have considerable upside potential. If he can run as well on the dirt as he did on the grass he will be a bargain. Barbican is also lightly raced with just three starts. He made a strong move to beat allowance company at Gulfstream going a mile, and earned a respectable 96 Beyer Speed Figure. Improvement seems likely as he continues to mature. The last potential longshot might not be enough of a longshot to qualify on my minimum odds requirement. Point Determined was an impressive 5 1/2- length maiden special winner when he stretched out from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita in his second career start. It would be no surprise to see him become a major player, but he might be overbet as a member of the Bob Baffert barn.