04/01/2003 1:00AM

Oaks pool debuts


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The third and final pool of the 2003 Kentucky Derby Future Wager will coincide with the first-ever Kentucky Oaks Future Wager. Both open for a four-day run Thursday at noon Eastern.

Six new horses have been introduced into Pool 3 of the Derby futures, although none is expected to draw the substantial action that Empire Maker and some of the other holdovers from the two previous pools will attract. Empire Maker, the record-smashing winner of the Florida Derby last month, has been made the 5-2 morning-line favorite by Daily Racing Form national handicapper Mike Watchmaker.

The 5-1 second choice on Watchmaker's line is Atswhatimtalknbout, whose closing odds figure to be highly dependent on his performance in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby. He is one of several Derby hopefuls running this weekend.

The new horses in Pool 3 are Alysweep, Brancusi, Buddy Gil, During, New York Hero, and Ten Most Wanted. They replace the six horses that were part of the Pool 2 lineup: Champali, Composure, Great Notion, Senor Swinger, Supah Blitz, and Ten Cents a Shine.

The mutuel field, or all 3-year-olds except the 23 separately listed wagering interests, was sent off the favorite in each of the first two pools this year (Pool 1 was offered Feb. 13-16, and Pool 2 was held March 13-16). However, as the Derby draws nearer and the contenders become more established, the field tends to become less popular with bettors. Accordingly, Watchmaker has listed the field at 20-1 in Pool 3.

Since Churchill Downs first offered the Derby Future Wager in 1999, Pool 3 usually has taken place three weeks before the Derby is run. But this year, because Palm Sunday falls on April 13, three weeks before the May 3 Derby, Churchill officials opted to move Pool 3 back one week.

"New York is dark on Palm Sunday, and we didn't want to lose them on what typically is a big day of wagering," said Churchill spokesman John Asher.

The Oaks Future Wager is simply a spinoff of something that has proved highly popular with racing fans, said Asher. "We wanted to let the Derby Future Wager get established before we ran with something like this," Asher said.

For the Oaks futures, Watchmaker has listed Storm Flag Flying as a lukewarm 9-2 favorite, followed closely by three fillies expected to run Saturday in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland: Lady Tak (5-1), Yell (6-1), and Elloluv (8-1). Following the Derby futures script, there are 23 separate Oaks interests and a field as the 24th wagering option.

Final odds for both future wagers are determined when the pools close Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Eastern. Both wagers are based on parimutuel principles (16 percent takeout) and will be available at tracks and wagering outlets in 34 states. Combined handle for the first two Derby pools this year was $907,908.