04/07/2005 11:00PM

Look forward, back for value in Pool 3

The time has passed to get any Derby Future value on Sweet Catomine.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - There may still be a bargain or two to be found in the third and final Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool of 2005, but bettors will have to work harder than they did in the first two pools to find them.

Consider the odds offered on Sweet Catomine in the first two pools vs. her morning line in Pool 3. She was available, and I recommended her as a bet, in both Pool 1 at $45.60 and Pool 2 at $35. Her only achievement since then was to win the Santa Anita Oaks as the 1-5 favorite. Guessing that she would run well in that race was a risk well worth taking when you consider that her morning line odds are only 10-1 in Pool 3, and are likely to drop lower if she wins the Santa Anita Derby.

If your plan is to watch the Derby preps this weekend and then bet the horses who impressed you, you might want to reconsider. If you like the performance of any contender who runs well this weekend, there is a good chance that most of the other bettors who saw that race will agree with you. As a result most, if not all of the betting value will disappear.

Let's take a look at some of the contenders who aren't running this weekend who might offer a fair price.

Sun King won the Tampa Derby as the 1-20 favorite. Some concern has been expressed by handicappers about his Beyer declining from 104 in his first start of the year to 91 in that race. It is true that regression is never a good thing at this time of year, but I believe that Sun King's 91 Beyer is misleading. He won the Tampa Derby comfortably by 3 1/4 lengths, and it would have been foolish for Edgar Prado to have asked him to run any faster than he needed to for the sake of padding his margin of victory or earning a flashier number. As of Friday afternoon, the odds on Sun King were only 10-1, the same as his morning line and the $22.80 that his fans accepted in Pool 2. If he drifts up to 12-1, I would play him.

Afleet Alex was well regarded in Pool 2 with a potential $19.20 payoff. His subsequent last-place finish in the Rebel was too poor to be a true indicator of his ability, but it has scared some money away, and his odds were sitting at 12-1 on Friday afternoon. When the dust settles, he may drift up closer to his 15-1 Pool 3 morning line. I will play him in this pool at 12-1 or higher.

Blues and Royals is an interesting contender. Going into the Kentucky Derby with a single prep race isn't a formula that is popular with most handicappers, but he still deserves serious consideration based on his 12-length win in the UAE Derby. I will take 12-1 or better in this pool. If that price isn't available, I will wait for the possibility of better odds on Derby Day.

I regret that High Fly just barely missed my 30-1 target price in Pool 1 at $59.40. I wish I had played him then. Unfortunately, his 8-1 price on Friday isn't nearly as good. I will pass for now.

Consolidator is a interesting contender based on his 6 1/2-length score in the San Felipe, but his 10-1 odds on Friday afternoon only seem to be about break-even to me at this point.

High Limit deserves respect for his decisive win in the Louisiana Derby, but he was helped by the clear lead he enjoyed through a slower-than-par pace. His 8-1 price on Friday is only ordinary.

My current portfolio of recommended horses at my minimum required prices reads as follows: Sweet Catomine at $45.60 in Pool 1, and $35 in Pool 2; Greater Good at $81.40 in Pool 1; and Golden Shine (now off the Derby trail) at $59.60 in Pool 2. I also recommended a bet on the field in Pool 1 at $6.20, which would cover the potential losses on the other two bets I made in Pool 1.