03/09/2008 11:00PM

Pyro tops Derby futures' Pool 2 at 4-1


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Pyro closed Sunday as the 4-1 favorite in Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which drew its smallest handle in eight years.

After hovering at 6-1 for the first 2 1/2 days of the four-day wager, Pyro drew solid action after his three-length victory in Saturday's Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds, closing as a slight choice over War Pass (9-2) and the mutuel field (6-1), the 24th or "all others" option.

Rounding out the top choices were Denis of Cork (12-1), El Gato Malo (15-1), Court Vision (16-1), Colonel John (17-1), and Elysium Fields (17-1).

Another stakes winner over the weekend, Visionaire, had his odds plunge from 96-1 to a closing price of 19-1 after he rallied to win the Gotham over a sloppy track on Saturday at Aqueduct.

Handle was $325,306, the smallest since $306,259 was bet into Pool 2 in 2000, the second year for the wager. The inaugural Pool 2 in 1999, which drew $178,811, was the smallest ever. Last year, $379,613 was bet in Pool 2. Among the three futures pools that Churchill annually offers, Pool 2 is almost always the smallest.

Derby Pool 1, which was conducted Feb. 7-10, drew $439,379, the second-smallest handle for an opening pool.

In Kentucky Oaks Pool 2, which ran concurrently with the Derby pool Thursday through Sunday, Country Star closed as the lukewarm 5-1 favorite over Proud Spell (6-1). Handle was $62,503, marginally better than any other Oaks Pool 2 since Churchill first began offering Oaks future wagering in 2003. The Oaks pool is generally about 15 percent of its Derby counterpart.

The most notable wager in Oaks Pool 2 came Friday afternoon, when someone at Retama Park bet $2,000 on Pure Clan, who eventually closed as the 7-1 third choice. The other leading Oaks choices were Eight Belles (8-1), Indian Blessing (8-1), the field (9-1), Bsharpsonata

(12-1), and Absolutely Cindy (16-1).

One filly, Tizaqueena (No. 22), was scratched Thursday after her trainer, Michael Stidham, confirmed that she would not run in the Oaks. Her odds at the time were 99-1.

The 134th Oaks and Derby will be run May 2 and 3, respectively. Pool 3 for both races is set for April 3-6.