02/15/2010 12:00AM

Plain but profitable: Play the field


Vale of York should be an overlay in Pool 1 in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager because his connections say they are uncertain whether he will be pointed towards the Derby.P

LEXINGTON, Ky. - I like futures bets, so I was interested to check out Pool 1 of the Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which is being offered this weekend. Win bets and exactas are available, with the usual menu of 23 individual betting interests and the field, which includes all other 3-year-olds.

I'm still looking forward to the glorious day when the field bet might possibly be dumped in favor of the opportunity to bet on any of the hundreds of individual horses nominated to the Derby (there were 366 early nominees this year). Many handicappers I know would love to see that happen.

Until that time, the field will continue to be the wisest bet. I have recommended it in recent years as part of a strategy that includes bets on individual interests for entertainment, as much as the possibility for profit.

I have spent a lot of time handicapping and watching race replays, hoping that an individual betting interest would excite me as a potential winner, but instead I was reminded of a joke comedian Rodney Dangerfield used to tell. Dangerfield suspects his wife might be cheating on him, so he summons the courage to confront her. He asks her if there is somebody else. She stares intently at him for a moment, then replies, "There must be."

That's the way I feel about the 23 individual betting interests offered in Pool 1. I believe there is a good chance that better options will emerge during the 76 days between Valentine's Day and the first Saturday in May.

Part 1 of my strategy will be to bet the field to win. While that isn't the world's most exciting bet, it should be noted that making that bet during each of the 11 years it has been offered in Pool 1 has resulted in a 45 percent win rate (5 of 11) and a generous 72 percent profit. Try getting that at a bank.

Once that bet has been made, there is still some fun to be had using some of the 23 individual betting interests. If you key the field in the top slot in the exacta, and it wins, one of the 23 individual interests is going to complete the exacta if one or more of them run in the Kentucky Derby, because the field option is like an entry in a regular race. It cannot occupy both of the exacta slots. So if the field wins, whichever of the 23 individual betting interests finishes second or closest to second place is considered to be the second finisher in the exacta in that particular pool.

Six of these horses are scheduled to run during the Pool 1 betting period, which opened Friday at noon Eastern and was to close Sunday at 6 p.m.

Concord Point earned a 95 Beyer going 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita in a maiden victory in his debut. He was scheduled run Friday in a six-furlong optional claiming race at Santa Anita. I would like his Kentucky Derby chances better if he were stretching out.

American Lion, Dave in Dixie, and Tiz Chrome are all 20-1 in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager morning line. They were entered in the 1 1/16-mile, Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis on Saturday at Santa Anita. If one of them were to win decisively, that horse would be worth adding in the bottom slot of the exacta.

Uptowncharlybrown is 50-1 on the morning line. He won his first two races, both at Tampa Bay Downs, both at sprint distances, by an average margin of 7 1/2 lengths and was scheduled to run in Saturday's Grade 3, 1o1/16-mile Sam F. Davis. A convincing win would make him attractive at a square price. Rule was also scheduled to run in this race, but I will pass on him in the Kentucky Derby exacta.

Vale of York, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, is 30-1 on the morning line, at least partly because his connections have indicated that there is only a 50 percent chance that he will be pointed towards the Kentucky Derby. I'm willing to take a chance on him in the exacta at that price.

Besides the win bet on the field, I will key the field on top in the exacta with Vale of York for second. I will also use the winner of the Robert B. Lewis for second if he is one of the individual betting interests, and if he wins by more than a length. And I will include Uptowncharlybrown for second if he wins his race by a length or more.