02/04/2010 12:00AM

Wave of the future is playing the field

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ARCADIA, Calif. - It is surprising that many horseplayers still believe they can find the Kentucky Derby winner three months ahead of time. Is anyone that smart? No. But that will not keep bettors from trying anyway in the first round of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which begins Friday, Feb. 12.

Bettors can do themselves a favor by keeping it simple and embracing the chaos of Derby season. With only 23 individual horses listed in the future wager, the only sensible selection is "all others," No. 24. After all, in February there is a good chance the Derby winner is not yet on the radar screen.

In 11 years of the future wager's existence, five Derby winners were not even listed in Pool 1: Mine that Bird (2009), Big Brown (2008), Smarty Jones (2004), War Emblem (2002) and Charismatic (1999). A $2 bet on "all others" each year produced $37.80 in returns from $22 in wagers in Pool 1.

The payoffs balloon in Pool 2, this year scheduled for March 5-7. Those same five Derby winners were not listed in the second pool, either, and No. 24 generated $83.80 in returns from $22 wagered. Someday, the structure of the wager may change. Until then, No. 24 "all others" is the only way to play.

Meanwhile, the handicapping notebook is full again, with stuff like this . . .

* A press-box wag asked a question after My Aunt Fanny, owned by Santa Anita's president, Ron Charles, scored an $18 upset Jan. 31 in the first leg of the pick six. Was Charles happier his horse won, or happier there could be a carryover? Charles admitted for a short while he shed his executive role and became a giddy owner. "Because I win as infrequently as I do, I'd almost forgotten how exciting and how much fun winning a race is," Charles said. "The pick six never entered my mind until later in the day."

* Speaking of owners, in the walking ring before the Santa Monica Handicap on Jan. 31, Gabby's Golden Gal's owner Arnold Zetcher showed a gift from his wife, Ellen. Zetcher pulled up his slacks, revealing bright pink socks matching the colors of his stable silks. "My lucky socks," Zetcher said, "same as the ones I wore Friday," when his Andina won. Gabby's Golden Gal followed suit, surprising the Santa Monica at $25.20. Saturday in race 1, Zetcher-owned Red Door Drive enters as the obvious favorite. Paddock observers might check the color of the owner's socks before placing wagers.

* When the good sprint filly Bickersons crushed 2009 champion

2-year-old filly She Be Wild last weekend at Gulfstream Park, it did more than reestablish Bickersons as a top sprinter. It also flattered Blind Luck, the California sensation who toyed with Bickersons in the Hollywood Starlet. Makes you wonder if the best 2-year-old filly of 2009 was the one who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies: Blind Luck.

* Speaking of Blind Luck, when she returns Saturday she will try to end the recent drought by Hollywood Starlet winners who made their 3-year-old debuts in the Las Virgenes. The last four Starlet winners that returned in the Las Virgenes lost: Romance Is Diane (2007), Diplomat Lady (2006), Hollywood Story (2004), and Habibti (2002).

* Winvivor, the Santa Anita online betting contest, resumes Saturday with Blind Luck likely to be the most popular horse in the first day of the contest. The track's linemaker, Jon White, listed Blind Luck at 1-2 on his preliminary line. She is the shortest price of the day, and an apparent standout.

* Garrett Gomez was the king of turf favorites early this meet - his first seven grass winners were favorites. Now suddenly, Gomez is king of turf longshots. My Aunt Fanny paid $18 on Jan. 31, and Gomez came back Feb. 3 at the same number. Victor's Cry and Gomez rallied from off the hot pace in race 3, a downhill sprint, and paid $18.

* Saturday in the $65,000 Leroidesanimaux, Gomez can show his grass-riding skill on Blue Chagall in a mile race that includes Grade 1 winner Fluke and Grade 2 winner Battle of Hastings. Blue Chagall, who pulled hard in the Citation and finished off the board as the favorite, can rebound Saturday if Gomez can get him covered up. If he does not find cover, Blue Chagall might not hit the board.

* Flintstones fans will appreciate the nickname of Strub favorite Misremembered. At the Bob Baffert barn, Misremembered is affectionately called "Dino" because he apparently looks like a dinosaur. In other news, Baffert said it is not true Richard's Kid was renamed "Rashid's Kid," although he recently was purchased by Zabeel Racing, the stable owned by Rashid bin Mohammed al-Maktoum.

* With $698,589 from 14 starts, Misremembered is the richest offspring of Candy Ride. Meanwhile, a 3-year-old by Candy Ride is worth monitoring. Stachys won his debut for Steve Asmussen on Oct. 3 at Remington Park by more than 14 lengths with an Beyer Speed Figure of 84. He was claimed for $30,000 by Michael Biehler, and this week posted his third half-mile workout on the comeback trail. Stay tuned.

* A colleague returned from Las Vegas this week with future-book tickets on Setsuko, the impressive runner-up in a Jan. 27 allowance and a candidate for the Grade 3 Sham Stakes on Feb. 27. Trained by Richard Mandella, Setsuko is a son of Pleasantly Perfect. The future-book price was 150-1. Talk about value. Yes, we are "down."

* Horseplayers who are slaves to trainer statistics may have missed first-time starter Blake on Feb. 3. After all, his trainer Vladimir Cerin had lost 22 straight with first-time starters since fall 2008. On the other hand, few trainers this meet are as hot as Cerin (8 for 29), and Blake ran away by more than four lengths at a big, fat $19.