04/28/2010 11:00PM

Proof that future bets aren't easy


For the second straight year, Kentucky Derby week scratches have affected future-bet odds and props.

A week ago, Eskendereya was assumed to be the heavy favorite for the 136th Run for the Roses and was a relatively low 9-1 to sweep the Triple Crown at the Wynn Las Vegas race book. But then the news broke Sunday morning that he had swelling in his left front leg and would miss the spring classics. This reminded many of last year, when presumed favorite Quality Road was declared from the Derby the Monday before the race. As many will recall, I Want Revenge inherited the favorite's role but was scratched on race day. Bob Baffert, trainer of this year's favorite, Lookin At Lucky, will be knocking on every wood thing he sees.

Lookin At Lucky was lowered to 3-1 in the Wynn future book Sunday, and that's what he was made on the morning line by Churchill's Mike Battaglia on Wednesday. Lookin At Lucky also has the lowest odds to win the Triple Crown, dropping from 20-1 to 14-1 in the absence of Eskendereya. The Wynn also has a generic Triple Crown prop on whether any horse will accomplish the feat. The odds Wednesday were +650 (win $6.50 for every $1 wagered) that, yes, we would see our first Triple Crown winner in 32 years; they were -900 (same as odds of 1-9, risking $9 for every $1 you want to win) on the no. Last week, with Eskendereya still in the field, the odds were 6-1 on a Triple Crown winner this year.

Last week, the Lucky's race books in Nevada had a prop on whether Todd Pletcher would be the winning trainer. He was expected to have five starters in the field. Lucky's had it at -115 on the yes and on the no. The prop was taken down after the Pletcher-trained Eskendereya was declared from the race, and it hadn't been put back up by early Wednesday. Right after the draw, John Avello at the Wynn said he was planning to put it up with the no at -500 and the yes at +400. Quite a change in the odds on Pletcher, who is 0 for 24 with Derby runners in nine attempts. This year, his runners are Devil May Care, Mission Impazible, Super Saver, and Discreetly Mine.

We all know Derby futures is a fluid market. I went back and checked the first Derby 136 future book in Vegas on Sept. 8, 2009, when Avello posted 131 horses. Five horses opened at under 100-1, and all five made it to the entry box: Dublin (40-1), Lookin At Lucky (45-1), Sidney's Candy (45-1), Backtalk (75-1), and Mission Impazible (85-1).

"Dublin had just won the Hopeful, so he was the logical favorite," Avello said. "Backtalk was a promising 2-year-old at the time, but he should probably be at least 100-1 on raceday, as he hasn't done much."

Lookin At Lucky went on to be 2-year-old champ, and Sidney's Candy, who is 5-1 on the Derby morning line, swept three Santa Anita Derby preps, including the Santa Anita Derby. Dublin hasn't won since the Hopeful, although he finished third in the Arkansas Derby and the Rebel.

Although we've seen time and again how hard it is to accurately predict the final Derby field even a few weeks in advance, it's even harder eight months in advance. From that opening list of 131, 11 have made the field. The nine who weren't on the radar yet were Noble's Promise, Line of David, Ice Box, Conveyance, American Lion, Dean's Kitten, Awesome Act, Paddy O'Prado, and Homeboykris.

Props for everyone

Back to the present day, just about every race book in town will be offering head-to-head matchups on the Derby. The most popular one is sure to be among the top two choices, Lookin At Lucky and Sidney's Candy, the third- and first-place finishers in the Santa Anita Derby. Lucky's race books have Lookin At Lucky as a -200 favorite; Sidney's Candy is +170. The Wynn has it a little closer, with Lookin At Lucky -170 and Sidney's Candy +140. Obviously, if you were to bet Lookin At Lucky you would want to lay the price at the Wynn, and if you like the underdog you would be better off taking the higher price at the Lucky's books. As always, odds are subject to change, and you might find better prices elsewhere.

Avello earlier this week said he was planning to put the over/under time of the race at 2:02.20, but he will be keeping an eye on weather reports. He was also working on an even/odd saddle-cloth prop, with the odd to expected to be favored, as well as an over/under winning mutuel, which Avello said he was leaning toward making $20.

For those looking to cheer against the bookmaker, Avello said the worst result for the house would be Dublin, Conveyance, Homeboykris, Awesome Act, or Paddy O'Prado. He said Lookin At Lucky and Sidney's Candy would be about break-even, and everyone else would be a winner for the Wynn.

* Derby seminars will be held at the Plaza in downtown Vegas and Sam's Town on Boulder Highway at 6 p.m. Friday night. The Orleans will have a 10 a.m. seminar on Saturday.

* The race books all over town are expected to be standing-room only with horseplayers and casual observers of the big event. For those looking for a chance to sit and take in the racing all day long, there are free public parties at the Orleans and South Point. Private VIP parties are harder to get into, though if you plan to wager $1,000 during the day you might consider the Stratosphere, which is hosting a live bankroll contest, including free entry to its VIP party, for that amount.

* Most race books will also offer either Derby T-shirts or mint julep glasses that usually require a Derby wager of $20 or $25.

* Tuley's Derby picks: 1. Line of David, 2. Sidney's Candy,

3. Homeboykris.