02/11/2009 1:00AM

Pool 2 to offer Derby future exacta

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Churchill Downs kept hearing from horseplayers that the Kentucky Derby Future Wager was growing stale. Now, beginning with the second of three Future Wager pools next month, Churchill will be offering an exacta to spice things up.

Permission to offer futures exactas starting with Pool 2 in the Future Wager was granted to Churchill on Tuesday afternoon at a meeting of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission in Lexington. Pool 1, which will not include exacta wagering, was scheduled to begin its four-day run on Thursday. Pool 2 is set for March 12-15 and Pool 3 for April 2-5.

With only win wagering available since the parimutuel futures were first offered in 1999, bettors' collective apathy last year translated to the second-lowest aggregate handle in the bet's history. Fans bet $1,056,520 last year, well below the record 2005 total of $1,665,990.

"I don't know if the numbers from last year necessarily reflected fans being dissatisfied with the Future Wager," said John Asher, Churchill vice president for racing communications, "but the fact is we hadn't made any changes in the format for the first 10 years - not that we didn't want to."

Asher said that expanding the Future Wager's betting interests to include all 400-plus Triple Crown nominees has proved too costly.

"We've been looking for years for ways to increase interest," he said, "and as most everybody knows, we have wanted to expand the wagering interests, but there are just too many complications regarding the various tote companies and too much expense involved. So in lieu of increasing the number of horses, we'll now have the exacta, which seems like a very attractive option and will give fans incentive to take another look at the wager."

The lone futures pool being offered this year on the Kentucky Oaks will not offer exacta wagering, said Asher, "although we'll certainly consider it for future years." The Oaks futures will coincide with Derby Pool 2 in March.

The $2-minimum exacta will have a 19 percent takeout (versus 16 percent on win wagers), with no refunds available on any bet. Wagers involving No. 24, the mutuel field or "all others" entry, will be subject to coupled-entry rules because of the possibility that the top finishers might not include any of the 23 separately listed interests. For example, if three "field" horses swept the top three spots, and the fourth finisher was No. 5, the winning combination would be 24-5. A patron will not be allowed to bet a 24-24 combination.

Asher said officials are working on how to make exacta will-pay displays easily available on television monitors and on the track website, .

Bill Steiden, a longtime bettor and horse owner from Louisville, said he had grown weary of the standard Future Wager format and was glad to see something new.

"I'd be far more inclined to bet an exacta because of the possibilities of a much bigger payoff," he said.

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