02/11/2005 12:00AM

Longshots and field the way to go

Going Wild earned a strong pace figure winning the Sham, but is he worth playing in Pool 1?

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Some bettors will be looking for entertainment value. Others will be betting more aggressively while hoping to make a big score. Either way, betting on Pool 1 of Churchill's Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which closes at 6 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, is the right way to go.

Think about it. You can't treat yourself and your spouse, or date, to a movie and refreshments for much less than $25. What do you get for your money? Less than two hours of fun. But if you bet wisely, that same $25 can give you and your significant other weeks if not months of fun, and might also turn out to be very profitable. When was the last time you won $500 or $1,000 at a movie? Please note that gathering innocent friends and family around the DVD player and booking bets during showings of "Seabiscuit" doesn't count.

Serious bettors who are willing to cast their egos aside should realize that new contenders on the Derby trail will be popping up frequently over the next few weeks, so taking odds that will probably end up in the neighborhood of 5-2 on No. 24, the grouping of "All other 3-year-olds," also known as the field, is a wise bet. Horses grouped in the field have won three of the six pool 1's offered. But the field doesn't have to be your only betting action. You can also play a few longshots and back them up with a field bet that would enable you to break even if it won.

First, a few things to consider. As has become customary, the field bet was pounded down below even money on Thursday by a large wager. History suggests that the field odds will gradually rise, and the inflated prices on most of the individual betting interests will gradually be bet down to more realistic levels.

There is only so much advice that can be given in advance concerning horses who will run this weekend while the betting pools are open. If a horse you like loses, but has what you believe is a legitimate but subtle excuse, you might get a bargain price. But if the troubled trip is so blatantly obvious that everybody decides to get on board, there will be no value. Any dominant winner of a Derby prep this weekend will almost certainly be overbet.

If you like the chances of Sweet Catomine or Lost in the Fog, but are fretting about whether either of them is going to be pointed to the Kentucky Derby, just make sure you get an attractive price to compensate for the additional risk. Based on the early betting action, Lost in the Fog is probably going to be an underlay. I would like at least 25-1 before getting on board. Sweet Catomine, whose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies win was faster than the time of Juvenile winner Wilko, is worth taking at 20-1 or higher, but not for heavy action, as the best overlays will be in the higher odds ranges.

Based on their morning-line odds, and on early betting trends, here are the longshots I will be watching:

High Fly's wide trip in the Holy Bull has attracted so much attention that he is being overbet in this pool. Interestingly, the best alternative is Closing Argument, who won the 1 1/8-mile race with a 98 Beyer. As this is written on Friday afternoon, only two other runners are taking less money than he is, so an attractive price is likely. I will take 30-1 or higher.

I gave Going Wild a good pace figure for his victory in the 1 1/8-mile Sham. The catch is that he will have to learn to be more tractable since many of the contenders are likely to want to be prominent early. I would like at least 40-1, but I'm not sure I will get it. Giacomo finished a contending third in that race, and has proven that he can rally from off the pace. I will play him at 30-1 or higher.

Sun King finished just a length behind Wilko in the Juvenile, and can continue to improve with just four races under his belt. The concern is that he lost ground late in both of his 1 1/16-mile races, so he will have to learn to relax a bit more than he has been able to so far. I will accept at least 30-1.

Greater Good has the right running style as a closer, and has won 3 of 5 career starts. He hasn't yet earned better than a 91 Beyer, but I expect improvement when he makes his first start of the year, possibly in the one-mile Southwest at Oaklawn. He is the 19th betting choice as I write this, so I expect to get at least 30-1.

I like Galloping Grocer, who was only a neck behind Rockport Harbor in the Remsen. Unfortunately I don't expect to be able to play him, since bettors will adjust their opinions based on his performance when he runs in Saturday's Whirlaway. If he wins, I won't get the 30-1 I would like. If he loses, I probably won't want it.