Number 148, The Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 1: A Review

The Road to the Kentucky Derby is in full swing, and now that Pool 1 of the Future Wager is in the books, it is time to take stock.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby is in full swing, and now that Pool 1 of the Future Wager is in the books, it is time to take stock.

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It has a solid and reassuring ring to it … “The Road to the 2022 Kentucky Derby, Number 148” … it’s rolling. Once the holiday weekend was complete, and the tickets settled, another signpost was passed—Twin Spires’ Pool 1. If you do not know, this is an annual tradition going back 24 years, but it is the 9th incarnation which has coincided with Closing Day in late November at Louisville’s own Churchill Downs. This time around, the salvo to the sequence ran from November 25th through November 28th. Not only could you place a prognostication who you thought would be in the Winner’s Circle on May 7th and the Exacta, but you could also take a look at the list of sires, picking the one that would be increasing its stud value if its colt declared victory ($50,205 was a record total with “All Other Sires” at 7/2 odds on top).

There are several interesting observations that come to mind when we dive into the choices that were made by bettors over the course of the long weekend. Overall, Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI), who owns the celebrated race, was probably very pleased to see that the Pool 1 total came to $326,448. That was over a 30% increase from 2020. When it comes to “win” wagers, as has been the fashion sine 2017, the “All Other Colts and Geldings” Category received top billing. Some of that might have to do with the fact that KYD Super Trainer, Bob Baffert, was sidelined by CDI earlier this year for triggering yet another failed test, after his winning colt, Medina Spirit, was flagged for an illegal substance. The “Baffert Ban” amounted to 2 years, and that means none of his horses can garner “KYD Points” and compete under the Twin Spires.

There are probably legions of bettors that know this, and looking for a sure bet, are hoping to cash a “sure one,” even if the odds are less than salubrious at 3/5. The gross total in the category came to $122,609, and a $2.00 bet would return $3.40 at the end of the first Saturday in May. That doesn’t seem like much of a play, but you cannot get that at a bank … some will reason. Of course, who you are getting in that “crop” includes the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) victor at Del Mar, Corniche, who is one of Baffert’s best. It remains to be seen if the connections will test the “Baffert Ban” in the KY Courts soon, or simply shift their prize son of Quality Road to another outfit. They seem pretty loyal to the current “All-Time” winningest trainer in KYD History, but that could change if the Kentucky Horseracing Commission ever sees fit to offer a ruling on Medina Spirit.

Along with the “All Others” selection, when it comes to individual runners, there were some noticeable colts that took money. Kenny McPeek’s Smile Happy, who just won the KY Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs, and Chad Brown’s Jack Christopher, who scored in the Champagne S. (G1) at Belmont (but was summarily scratched from the BC Juvenile), led the way. The former made a powerful statement for his trainer, who was forced to scratch the other half of his uncoupled entry Tiz the Bomb last Saturday, and that is probably why he ended up with $22,460 to his name. Of course, it should be noted of that gross, it was the flamboyant Jim McIngvale, known to most as “Mattress Mack,” who tossed into the kitty a cool $10,000. We all know his interest in Run Happy, the sire of McPeek’s charge, so that should not be a surprise. The noted philanthropist was not done supporting the Claiborne Team, because he also impacted the sire odds by betting $3,000 on Runhappy at 7/1. One other note concerning McPeek, the Kentucky/Florida-based trainer also had Rattle N Roll in the Pool mix at odds of 21/1 … bringing in $9,468. Not too shabby a price …

Thus, Brown’s fine specimen might be deemed the more inviting one, tabbing $18,569 to his name. If that colt by Munnings can make it back from an injury he sustained right before the Breeders’ Cup, then he could be a well-regarded prospect moving forward. His connections reported that a screw that was just inserted a couple of weeks ago into his left shin. Brown, a NYRA-based conditioner who ships widely, plans to send him to Palm Meadows and begin training in 2022 for what looks like a run through the Gulfstream Park Series that begins with the Grade 3 Holy Bull. One has to think that if he can make it back, and work nicely, that he could be a real threat. Anything can happen of course, when it comes to the Derby Trail.

As for the rest of the named field, colts that piqued an interest included a pair who were sired by star stud Gun Runner. Mark Casse’s Pappacap finished a splendid second behind Baffert’s Corniche in the BC Juvenile in early November. At odds of 23/1 in this Pool 1, that appears to be a good deal--$8,752 was his total in Pool 1. Loads of speculators love a homebred, and this one has potential for Rustlewood Farm. As a Florida bred (Medina Spirit was one too), he already has $576,00 in earnings to his name. His HOF trainer has numerous options, including the Tampa route, at his disposal. As for the other Gun Runner offspring, we cannot talk about this sire without having one from Steve Asmussen’s midst. The “All-Time” winningest trainer in North America watched Gunite end up at odds of 25/1, and tally $8,060 to his name. Another homebred, this one by Winchell Thoroughbreds, flashed some solid form through the NYRA Series at Saratoga and Belmont in the late summer and into the fall. Though he missed in the Champagne S., one has to think that he can rebound in the new year.

Last, but certainly not least, it would not be “Derby Talk” at this stage of the year without mentioning the innate ability of HOF trainer Todd Pletcher. He is newly inducted to that storied pantheon … well-deserved to be sure. Personally, I like a pair of runners from his stable in Commandperformance (31/1, $6,688), and Double Thunder (72/1, $2,952). Both were part of an uncoupled entry at Del Mar in the BC Juvenile, and though they did not finish in the money, they have some budding form in their past efforts. I particularly like the former, and will be backing this colt by Union Rags as 2022 begins to unfold. Repole and St. Elias Stables have proved time and again that they can compete at the highest stakes levels. Lightly-raced, I do not see why this one could not get the “Classic” distances over the course of the next year. One to watch for sure … in my book.

The 2022 Pool 1 bets are in, and now it is time to get ready for what December holds. We will see Derby Points on the table, from Aqueduct to Remington Park, and it is sure to be an exciting story that unfolds. With a total of 5 Pools available (the next coming January 21st-23rd), we hopefully will have a much clearer picture of who is going where. The “Baffert Ban” will continue to present us with some intriguing moments … the trainer always snatches headlines after all. What we do know is that Number 148, and its “Road,” will offer excitement in spades. Bets on … stay tuned … the ring is true!

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