03/30/2004 12:00AM

Lion Heart listed at 8-1 as favorite in Pool 3

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - With the outlook for the 130th Kentucky Derby still remarkably unclear, the third and final pool in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager opens Thursday at noon Eastern for its customary four-day run at outlets throughout the United States.

The highly unsettled nature of the Derby picture has led Daily Racing Form national handicapper Mike Watchmaker to make an 8-1 favorite on his morning line: Lion Heart, the speedy California-based colt who runs next in the April 10 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

Lion Heart is closely followed by Wimbledon (10-1), Master David (12-1), Preachinatthebar (12-1), St Averil (12-1), and five more 3-year-olds at 15-1.

Six new names are among the 23 separately listed betting interests in Pool 3: Friends Lake, Preachinatthebar, Quintons Gold Rush, Sinister G, Smarty Jones, and Song of the Sword. They replace these dropouts from Pool 2: Fire Slam, Gradepoint, Halfbridled, Mr. Jester, Redskin Warrior, and Swingforthefences.

Since Churchill Downs first introduced the Future Wager in 1999, handle on Pool 3 historically has been higher than Pool 2, which this year was conducted March 11-14, but lower than Pool 1 (held Feb. 12-15). The Pool 2 handle was $358,966 and Pool 1 drew $536,958.

The mutuel field, or the 24th and "all others" option, closed as the favorite in the first two pools. Watchmaker has listed the field for Pool 3 at 20-1.

Meanwhile, the lineup for Pool 3 in the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager also underwent some revision from Pool 2, with five fillies stepping in: Bohemian Lady, Elusive Diva, Irish Melody, Island Sand, and Wildwood Flower. They replace Eye Dazzler, Friendly Michelle, Rare Gift, Salty Romance, and Society Selection.

Watchmaker has made Halfbridled the 4-1 morning-line favorite, followed by Madcap Escapade (5-1), Silent Sighs (8-1), and Ashado (10-1).

Wagering on both the Derby and Oaks pools closes Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Eastern.

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 3. April 1-4.

(#) Wagering Interestm/l odds
1. Action This Day 20-1
2. Birdstone 20-1
3. Borrego 30-1
4. Eddington*20-1
5. Eurosilver 15-1
6. Friends Lake* 30-1
7. Imperialism 15-1
8. Limehouse 30-1
9. Lion Heart8-1
10. Master David 12-1
11. Minister Eric30-1
12. Preachinatthebar12-1
13. Quintons Gold Rush30-1
14. Read the Footnotes15-1
15. Rock Hard Ten15-1
16. Sinister G*30-1
17. Smarty Jones*20-1
18. Song of the Sword 30-1
19. St Averil12-1
20. Tapit30-1
21. The Cliff's Edge30-1
22. Value Plus20-1
23. Wimbledon*15-1
24. All Other 3YO's8-1

* -- Not included in KDFW Pool 2