03/02/2012 1:57PM

Klein: Union Rags no bargain in Pool 2 of Kentucky Derby Future Wager

Benoit & Associates
If I'll Have Another, upset winner of the Robert Lewis, is anywhere close to his 30-1 morning-line odds, he's worth a wager in Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager.

Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager took place three weeks ago, and it was so popular that bettors poured more money into it than they had since it debuted in 1999. The field, which includes every 3-year-old except the 23 individual betting interests, was made the 3-2 favorite. Union Rags was the second choice at 7-1.

Handicappers who didn’t go “all in” with their futures funds in Pool 1 should be even more opinionated in Pool 2, which began Friday and concludes Sunday.

Bettors who played the field are rooting for change. They should be encouraged to see that six of the 23 individual betting interests from the opening pool, 26 percent, are no longer viewed favorably enough to merit being included individually the second time around. Algorithms, the most highly regarded member of that group, was injured, and will miss the Kentucky Derby while he is recovering. Other individual interests ran poorly, and are unlikely to be a factor.

:: Get free past performances for Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager

Those who liked the chances of Union Rags enough to bet on him in Pool 1 are probably very happy. He closed at 7-1 in that pool, and he figures to be so well supported this time that his odds should be significantly lower, perhaps only half of that price.

Regardless of how you might have invested in Pool 1, you will want to view Pool 2 as objectively and dispassionately as you possibly can.
Is Union Rags a bargain at odds that might be in the neighborhood of 7-2 or 4-1? He toyed with his opponents while winning the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth by four lengths, and most handicappers have been raving about him since that race. Take into consideration the fact that he needed the race following a 16-week vacation, and he is difficult to pick against. But the one thing that has been overlooked by many observers is the quality of the field Union Rags defeated in the Fountain of Youth. Eight horses were entered, but it seemed easy to boil the field down to three contenders – Union Rags, Algorithms, and Discreet Dancer.

Algorithms was scratched, and Discreet Dancer was unable to come anywhere close to matching his strong one-turn form in his first start around two turns. He surrendered down the stretch and finished third, beaten by 6 1/4 lengths. His Beyer dropped sharply from an average of 97 in his first two tries to 84.

With no serious competition left in the Fountain of Youth, Union Rags did what he should have been expected to do. He dominated a weak field. News Pending finished second in that race, and he might turn out to be a good, improving horse. But coming into the Fountain of Youth he owned only a single narrow  win over maidens from six previous starts. That win was earned on turf. His career-best dirt Beyer was a 62. That helps to explain why he was a 27-1 longshot.

As things stand now, Union Rags is clearly the horse to beat in the Kentucky Derby. But there will be plenty of twists, turns, and chaos to deal with in the just less than nine weeks to the May 5 Derby. I’m not ready to take low single-digit odds on him with other serious contenders likely to pop up each week. Some of them are going to enjoy two- turn races a lot more than Discreet Dancer.

I recommended bets on Out of Bounds and Fed Biz in Pool 1. Out of Bounds didn’t get rolling until deep stretch when he won the one-mile Sham by a half-length. Improvement is possible at longer distances. He closed at 23-1, and might be a similar price in this pool. Fed Biz beat maidens, then cruised past first-level optional $80,000 claimers by 5 3/4 lengths, with a 97 Beyer. He closed at 21-1, an overlaid price. His 12-1 morning line suggests that he will be a lower price this time.

There are more potential overlays to sort through in this pool.

Initially it concerned me that I’ll Have Another tired late in his first three sprints. But after taking another look at his victory in the 1 1/16-mile Robert Lewis Memorial, he was a completely different horse that day, following a five-month layoff. He attended a fast pace, then was really striding out down the stretch, like a horse who can handle more distance. He’s eligible to improve, and looks like a nice overlay with a 30-1 morning line. He already has $151,000 in graded stakes earnings.

Bodemeister drew away without being asked to empty the tank when he defeated maidens by 9 1/4 lengths, with a 99 Beyer in a one-mile race. He is one more good race away from becoming a popular prime contender. There is no guarantee that he has that race in him, but his 15-1 morning line makes it worth giving him the benefit of the doubt.

I will bet on I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister to win. And I will bet the field on top of both in the exacta.