02/08/2013 1:07PM

Steve Klein: Kentucky Derby Future Wager value plays

Tom Keyser
With continued progress, Normandy Invasion could develop into a Kentucky Derby contender. He is 20-1 on the morning line for Pool 1 of the Future Wager.

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and the woman I love recently left me a note with a couple of hints about what she would like to receive from me. The clues were roses and jewelry. I have been around the block a couple of times, so I know that hints and clues are actually commands on Valentine’s Day.

I have no problem with a dozen roses and some type of gift as well, but doesn’t she realize that my holiday, my big day, comes four days before hers? Apparently not. Pool 1 of the Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby Future wager closes at 6 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.

As always, 23 horses have been chosen to be individual betting interests, and the 24th option is the field, which is a bet on all of the other 3-year-olds.

Exacta bets are also offered. Rather than using them as a way to add risk to my bets, I like to use the exacta as a way to ensure that I will still win a bet even if a field horse defeats the horse I have selected to win. More about that later.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

The field is always a big factor in Pool 1, but odds below 2-1 are only moderately attractive. A good case can be made for some of the contenders who were excluded as individual betting interests, but as a group they are still more appealing to me this year than they have been in some recent years, so they are still worth sifting through.

Seven of the 23 horses listed individually, which is more than 30 percent of the pool horses, are trained by Todd Pletcher. Add in Baffert’s four, and they have nearly half of the pool horses.

The two individual horses at the lowest morning line odds are Violence and Shanghai Bobby, who are both listed at 12-1.

Violence is 3 for 3, but he has run only about as fast as many other horses in this pool, and he must improve to be competitive with the fastest contenders. I’ll pass at 12-1.

Shanghai Bobby was expected to win the Holy Bull as the even-money favorite in his return from a break of nearly three months, but he was clearly second best to Itsmyluckyday. Improvement is possible in the second race of his form cycle, but he hasn’t yet shown that he wants to ration his speed as kindly as he will have to in order to win a 1 1/4-mile race. I’ll try to beat him at 12-1.

Here are the horses I like, in order of preference, with betting value factored in:

Normandy Invasion made an eye-catching move, then flattened out a bit late when he finished a nose behind Overanalyze in the Grade 2 Remsen. He has improved significantly in both of his races since his debut, and another forward move seems likely with added maturity either when he returns from a break of about three months – possibly in the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star – or the second time back. Either way, continued progress would make him a prime contender in the Kentucky Derby. His 20-1 morning line is worth taking.

Itsmyluckyday is on a roll now, with two impressive wins at Gulfstream, including a decisive two-length victory over Shanghai Bobby. While it is possible that he merely loves the main track at Gulfstream, I’m leaning towards the idea that he is the real deal. His 15-1 morning line is an acceptable price.

Revolutionary dominated maidens in a highly rated race on the inner track at Aqueduct two races ago, then gamely overcame a ridiculously tough trip to win the Grade 3 Withers on that surface last time. He’ll have to prove that he can match his best form at other venues, but he’ll be a serious threat if he can. His 20-1 morning line offers some value.

Verrazano looked sensational beating a slow group of $75,000 optional claimers by 16 1/4 lengths going a mile at Gulfstream with a 105 Beyer, but I have mixed feelings about him. There wasn’t much behind him as the second finisher managed to earn only a 74 Beyer. There are reasons to be skeptical when he faces much stronger company going two turns in a graded stakes, even more so while attempting to cover 1 1/4 miles, but his 15-1 morning line is reasonable in this pool on the hope that he might be up to the task. I’ll pass if he is bet down to 11-1 or lower.

Anyone looking to minimize his expenditure on this pool (jewelry buyers, I’m talking to you) can stick with the top three selections.

I’ll also cover my win bets by taking the field on top with each of these individual horses for second in the exacta.