03/04/2008 1:00AM

La. Derby the key in Pool 2

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The results of the Louisiana Derby on Saturday figure to be a major variable in shaping the closing odds in Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which opens noon Eastern on Thursday at racetracks and wagering outlets throughout North America for the customary four-day run.

Six of the 23 individual wagering interests in Pool 2 are entered in the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds, most notably Pyro, whose impressive victory in the Feb. 9 Risen Star helped make him the second choice to the mutuel field in Pool 1, which ran Feb. 7-10.

Seven horses that were not available as separate interests in Pool 1 have displaced seven others for Pool 2. The new names are Cool Coal Man, Elysium Fields, Fierce Wind, Gayego,

J Be K, Nikki'sgoldensteed, and Visionaire. They replace Anak Nakal, Cowboy Cal, Crown of Thorns, Etched, Into Mischief, Signature Move, and Z Humor.

The morning line for Pool 2, set by Mike Battaglia of Churchill Downs lists, War Pass as a slight 5-1 favorite over Pyro (6-1) and the field

(10-1), but clearly the final odds could hinge greatly on how Pyro performs in the Louisiana Derby. Odds for the future wager are locked in only when the pool closes Sunday at 6 p.m. Eastern.

In Pool 1, the field - the 24th or "all others" option - closed as the 3-1 favorite, followed by Pyro at 5-1 and War Pass at 6-1. No other horse was lower than 15-1.

Besides Pyro, other Pool 2 individuals that will start in the Louisiana Derby are Blackberry Road, J Be K, Majestic Warrior, Tale of Ekati, and Yankee Bravo. One other Derby prep this weekend, the Gotham at Aqueduct on Saturday, is expected to draw two more Pool 2 horses, Giant Moon and Visionaire.

Pool 1 drew a handle of $439,379. Only in the first year of Derby futures, 1999, has there been a lower handle in Pool 1.

Meanwhile, Pool 2 in the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager will run concurrent to its Derby counterpart, with closing time set for the usual 6:30 p.m. Eastern on Sunday. Battaglia has listed Indian Blessing as the 4-1 morning-line favorite, followed by Country Star and Proud Spell, both at 6-1.

Oaks Pool 2 features eight fillies that were not available as separate interests in Pool 1. The new names are Absolutely Cindy, Highest Class, Kadira, Lovely Isle, My Baby Baby, Shes All Eltish, Sky Mom, and Vaulcluse. They replace American County, By the Light, C J's Leelee, Grace Anatomy, Izarra, Jolie the Cat, Sea Chanter, and Turn Away.

In Oaks Pool 1, Indian Blessing closed as a 4-1 favorite over Country Star and the field, both at 9-2. Handle was $65,219, the lowest since Churchill first began offering Oaks futures in 2003. Oaks futures generally draw about 15 percent of what the Derby futures get.

Pool 3 for both the Derby and Oaks will run April 3-6. The 134th Oaks and Derby will be run May 2 and 3, respectively.

Futures offered by Churchill are win-only, $2-minimum wagers conducted on a parimutuel basis. There are no refunds, although wagering is suspended on horses known to be eliminated from contention. Lineups are chosen by the three-man committee of John Asher of Churchill Downs and Brad Free and Mike Watchmaker of Daily Racing Form.