02/08/2007 1:00AM

Let's place a few Derby bets now


NEW YORK – Although there are many interesting stakes races on Saturday, this weekend also offers Pool 1 of Churchill Downs's Kentucky Derby Future Wager. Like most people, the Warrior is not immune to Derby Fever. So, the Warrior is going to do something a little different by focusing on the Derby Future Wager and a race that won't even be run for another three months.

Here is a look at the 23 separate wagering interests for Pool 1 of the Derby futures. Horses are listed in betting order, with each horse's top Beyer Speed Figure in parentheses followed by pertinent comments - okay, opinions - on each, including the 24th betting interest: the "all other 3-year-olds" option.

1. Adore the Gold (102)

Ran fast winning the Swale in his first start this year . . . only loss was to Day Pass in the Nashua, and won at two turns at 2 . . . interesting if the price is right.

2. Any Given Saturday (100)

Scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in next week's Sam Davis . . . gave Tiz Wonderful everything he wanted in the Kentucky Jockey Club . . . have the feeling he'll be a serious wise-guy horse.

3. Belgravia (95)

Okay 2-year-old form . . . might make his seasonal debut in next month's Robert Lewis, which means he'll have just two Derby preps.

4. Buffalo Man (92)

Won the Spectacular Bid in his seasonal debut, but his bad defeat in the Champagne last year says he's just not good enough, regardless of his odds.

5. Circular Quay (95)

Starts in Saturday's Risen Star . . . if he runs well, his odds will suffer . . . if he runs poorly, you wouldn't want him, anyway . . . it's possible he's a closing sprinter.

6. Day Pass (90)

I like him as a racehorse, but doubt he's Derby material . . . seems to have fallen into a black hole after one workout late last year.

7. Dreaming of Anna (95)

Champion 2-year-old filly makes her first start of the year Saturday at Gulfstream . . . have serious doubts she can compete with top-class males, and, of course, she has the Oaks to point for . . . however, her connections might just be bold enough to try the Derby.

8. Drums of Thunder (95)

Got close to Nobiz Like Shobiz when second in the Holy Bull . . . only a very big price in this would compensate for suspicions that the Holy Bull effort was a fluke.

9. E Z Warrior (97)

Undefeated, and his trainer, Bob Baffert, wants to be in the Derby . . . has never been beyond six furlongs . . . missing this Sunday's San Vicente due to foot issues is not encouraging.

10. Exhale (104)

Fast maiden win last month is likely to make him a big underlay, particularly in relation to his actual chances of winning the Derby.

11. Forefathers (100)

His second in the Swale suggests real ability, and his trainer, Nick Zito, would like nothing more than another Derby starter . . . not the worst one to take a flyer on.

12. Great Hunter (90)

For all his consistency last year, he never ran all that fast . . . another whose schedule suggests he would have only two Derby preps . . . not my kind of Derby hopeful.

13. Hard Spun (95)

Crushed softies in all four of his starts, but has style, and a great pedigree . . . trouble is, his flashy race record will drive his odds below acceptable levels.

14. Lawrence the Roman (96)

Similar to Hard Spun, except his three big scores came against New York-breds . . . goes in Saturday's Whirlaway, and if he wins big, as he should, it will hurt his odds in this.

15. Liquidity (100)

Much improved in blinkers, and although beaten by Ravel in the strongly run Sham, he ran well . . . has the potential of falling through the cracks here . . . if he does, he's worth a play.

16. Nobiz Like Shobiz (98)

Wasn't wowed by his Holy Bull win, but I still believe he is an immense talent . . . trouble is, he is likely to be the lowest price among the individual betting interests here, which means you can't-shouldn't play him.

17. Notional (105)

His big Beyer came in his debut . . . his recent San Rafael win with blinkers on was okay . . . before seeing how he does in the Risen Star, count me among those skeptical of his chances.

18. Out of Gwedda (97)

Even though he was second in the Swale to Buffalo Man, I would bet he's a lower price than Buffalo Man here because of the Todd Pletcher factor . . . either way, he doesn't yet strike me as a top-level Derby hopeful, or an intriguing dark horse.

19. Ravel (102)

Absolutely loved his win in the Sham, and if he's anything close to the 15-1 that he is in the morning line for this, he is worth betting.

20. Scat Daddy (95)

He's the only horse to have beaten Nobiz Like Shobiz, having done so in last fall's Champagne, but Nobiz Like Shobiz was definitely the best horse that day . . . this one strikes me as a grinder who is likely best at a mile.

21. Stormello (96)

Got good last fall once he got the opportunity to go two turns . . . I would be more interested in him as a betting proposition if he weren't on a schedule that calls for just two Derby preps.

22. Street Sense (108)

He's the 2-year-old champion, but I don't buy him . . . as big as his Breeders' Cup Juvenile win was, he did ride the strong rail bias . . . must consider the fact that no Juvenile winner has gone on to win the Derby . . . also get the feeling from comments from his connections that all may not be perfect with him physically.

23. Zanjero (86)

Would have to jump up with a big effort in the Risen Star in his seasonal debut, because off his 2-year-old form, he is too slow to win the Derby.

24. All other 3-year-olds

This is a boring, unimaginative bet . . . it is always the favorite in Pool 1 of this wager, yet in the eight-year history of the Derby Future Wager, it has been the winning number three times . . . betting this is as much fun as watching paint dry.

Betting value is a critical component in wagering on horses, and it is even more important in a wager like this. When the race, in this case the Derby, is still months away, and when you assume the added risk of losing if your horse doesn't make it to the starting gate, good odds are an essential requirement. I would love to bet Ravel at 15-1, but I don't think he will be anywhere near that high a price. The same goes for Any Given Saturday at 20-1, but I fear he will be significantly lower than that.

So that leaves me with three potential plays - Adore the Gold, Forefathers (I guess I'm hoping the Swale proves to be a major key race), and Liquidity. While I don't believe these horses have the same chance of winning the Derby as Ravel or Any Given Saturday, or Nobiz Like Shobiz, for that matter, their odds promise to be much higher. At 25-1 or more, their odds will make assuming the added risk of a future wager acceptable. And at prices like this, there is nothing wrong with backing multiple horses, with a push on the one you feel strongest about.