Updated on 09/17/2011 12:02PM

Who will actually run? That's key


What a huge week for Thoroughbred racing - the opening of the nation's two premier summer race meets, Saratoga and Del Mar, and the national release of the movie "Seabiscuit." By Sunday night, Saratoga and Del Mar will have already played host to eight graded stakes, half of them Grade 1's, and we will know if the Biscuit is a winner once again.

Yet, with all that, there is another item of interest this week. On Friday, the first round of the begins.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I find future book betting endlessly fascinating. For one, there is the sheer entertainment value. It's interesting to watch the odds fluctuate over the betting period, and when betting closes, there is always some ridiculous underlay to knock and regrets over not getting a piece of an absurd overlay. With imagination and guts, money can be made. Funny Cide was almost 100-1 in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager last February.

This is year two of the Breeders' Cup future bet, and its schedule is a little different. There are only three betting periods this year as opposed to four last year, and the first betting period is starting three weeks later, or three weeks closer to Breeders' Cup Day. You will get two cracks at half of the Breeders' Cup races. The four races offered in round 1 are the Classic, Distaff, Sprint, and Turf. Those same races will be offered on round 2, which takes place Labor Day Weekend, while the remaining four Breeders' Cup events - the Juvenile, Juvenile Fillies, Mile, and Filly and Mare Turf - will be the offerings in round 3 in September.

The format of the Breeders' Cup future bet remains the same as last year's, which is to say it is identical to that of the Kentucky Derby future wager. There will be 23 individual betting interests for each Breeders' Cup race, rounded out by a "field" consisting of all other applicable horses in each Breeders' Cup event. But, even though the format is identical to the Kentucky Derby future wager's, there are some very different ramifications to consider. Specifically, with the starting field in the Kentucky Derby ranging as high as 20, you know going into any of the three rounds of the Derby future wager that at least three of the individual betting interests will not be starters in the Derby, and it's always difficult to identify who they might be.

However, the starting fields in the Breeders' Cup races are capped at 14, meaning that right off the bat, before the potential of injury or the factor of racing performance even come into play, at least nine of the individual betting interests are certain of not being in the starting gate on Breeders' Cup Day. And, with so many automatic exclusions being built into the system, it is sometimes much easier to identify the individual betting interests who will likely miss the actual cut.

This is something that any bettor who participates in the Breeders' Cup future bet must understand. All future bets carry risk that is inordinate when compared to simply betting a race a few minutes to post time. Horses, even good horses, can sustain injuries or lose their effectiveness at any moment. But the counterbalance to this - the thing that makes future wagers attractive - is the increased odds future wagers offer. One of the reasons why a wager like the Breeders' Cup future bet offers inflated odds is because at least nine horses who won't be there on Breeders' Cup Day will be taking money, and thus taking action away from several betting interests who will make it to their Breeders' Cup races.

Because of this, it is the bettor's duty to be informed and deal with the questions that are unique to each of the four Breeders' Cup events on which there will be future betting this weekend. For example, some of the more pertinent questions regarding the Classic are: Will Medaglia d'Oro come back as sharp as he left? Can Mineshaft maintain his brilliant form all season long? And, how will 3-year-olds like Empire Maker and Funny Cide stack up against such a strong group of elders?

How the 3-year-olds match up with their elders and whether that age group can produce a legitimate challenger for Azeri are also important questions concerning the Distaff. So, too, is this one: Will Azeri race in the Distaff, or will she be inclined to face males in the Classic?

In the Sprint, the major question revolves around Aldebaran. Right now, he is deadly at seven furlongs and a mile. But, can he get up in time going six furlongs, a distance he has never even tried yet? And, regarding the Turf, the principal question is, will the Europeans be as effective as usual considering that this year's Breeders' Cup is at Santa Anita, a warm-weather site?

The odds on Sunday afternoon in the Breeders' Cup future bet will offer some guidance. Otherwise, don't expect a lot of help this weekend. The Test and Go for Wand at Saratoga do apply to the Distaff, and the Bing Crosby at Del Mar is a sprint stakes. But right now, these races figure to have a marginal impact at best on their respective Breeders' Cup events.