01/15/2003 12:00AM

Ky. Oaks future bet approved

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Churchill Downs has received approval to conduct a Kentucky Oaks future wager this year for the first time. The Kentucky Racing Commission ruled in favor of the wager on Wednesday.

Jim Gates, interim general manager at Churchill Downs, confirmed that in addition to the Oaks future wager, Churchill will again offer three separate future wagers on the Kentucky Derby. The dates for the first two Derby pools will be Feb. 13-16 and Mar. 13-16. The lone Oaks future pool will coincide with the third Derby pool, scheduled for April 3-6.

The Oaks future wager, like that for the Derby, will have a $2 minimum and 24 betting interests - 23 individual horses and the field. A panel that will include John Asher, Churchill's racing communications director, will set the betting interests.

Gates said that the success of the Kentucky Derby future wager convinced Churchill officials that a similar future wager on the Oaks, which has grown in stature and popularity in recent years, would increase interest in the race. Instituted in 1999, the Kentucky Derby Future Wager handled more than $1 million in 2002.