As a rule I do not play the Derby Future Wager but there is a certain attraction inherent in selecting the winner of a major event months beforehand and getting generous odds for that selection. There is something about human nature that makes us want to be able to say that we knew this horse was a Derby winner right from their first start. The Future Wager allows us to have hard evidence of our foresight. Although more often it's a reminder that we're not as smart as we think we are.
It is quite a risk though. Just to give you an idea of how risky it is, the first pool in the Future Wager has yielded on average 38% Derby starters. That means that just 8 or 9 horses can be expected to make it to the Derby from the list of 23. An even lower percentage actually makes it to the Derby at a shorter price than they are listed in Pool #1.
Still you can make money if you have the winner and going over the possibilities is quite fun. If you do plan on playing the Pool make sure to wait until Sunday afternoon. The odds can change dramatically, especially among the horses who are actually running this weekend. Here would be my suggestions for Pool #1.
Colonel John (30/1) - He absolutely jumps off the page at 30/1, I'm not quite sure what the line maker was thinking but perhaps with his next race not slated until the 1st of March he could be a forgotten horse. He is not exactly a hot horse since losing in the Hollywood Futurity but Colonel John is still an excellent Derby candidate. He has already proven himself to be faster than a horse like Court Vision even though he's been on a slower surface his whole career. Court Vision is 12/1. Anything over 20/1 merits a play on Colonel John.
Crown Of Thorns (20/1) - I really don't want him lower than 20/1 but it is difficult to predict how he'll be bet. Once the weekend racing starts the focus tends to shift to those horses. So I expect his price to drift Saturday and Sunday but his performance is still fresh in the minds so he might get a lot of early money. It's hard to be pessimistic with his on track performances. He does need to improve but so does nearly every single contender. I love the look of this guy.
Denis Of Cork (30/1) - His Beyer figures are low but he has not in stakes company yet so it's not all that shocking. Neither Grindstone nor War Emblem were terribly quick at this stage. What I like about Denis is 1) He's an undefeated closer, it's rare for a young horse to have consistent success coming from the back and 2) He's going to be taking the Oaklawn route of the Southwest, Rebel and Arkansas Derby. If he is any good at all he should win the Southwest and do very well in the Rebel so this may be the last chance to get on at a good price. A good price for me is 30/1 or more, preferably 40/1 or more because he still has all to prove. He is well positioned to do it but that doesn't count in the final reckoning.
Into Mischief (20/1) - I like this horse very much but I need him at 20/1 or more to be interested and with his likely participation in the San Vicente you may not get that price. On the other hand if he loses you may get that price. A loss in a 7f sprint race would not be the end of the world for him. I like the form of the Hollywood Futurity very much and he was the best of the lot on that day.
Monba (30/1) - Another Hollywood Futurity horse with a very generous price. I know Pletcher has never won the Derby and that this horse has never won a stakes race but there are a few decent vibes in his camp. He had a terrible trip at Hollywood but was making up huge amounts of ground. The visual impression was that he was at least as good as the in the money finishers. He has run over 3 different tracks including Churchill and he handled them all. No real guidance on what his TC prep campaign will look like but he's in Florida so one would assume either Tampa or Gulfstream. It's been a while since his name hit the headlines so he may stay around 30/1.
Tale Of Ekati (20/1) - He has always had a buzz around him so I don't think this play will come off but I do like him at 25/1 or more. He has plenty of talent and I thought he stuck on admirably on BC day. He may be picky surface wise but you can't outright ignore horses with a good turn of foot running for a Derby winning trainer.
War Pass (12/1) - I really don't know what the public is going to do with War Pass but I would consider this play based on the vibes of the general public. Everyone is down on War Pass all of the sudden it seems and if you could get 15/1 on this monster its a very early Christmas gift. We don't know if he'll handle the distance and the slight bout of colic was not a positive but if you need reminding how good he actually is watch a few of his races. No one has ever gotten near him. His Speed Figures are out of this world and he's working towards a debut sometime soon, likely within the next two weeks. If he shows up as good as he was last year he'll be odds on in every race to the Derby and 4/1 in the next pool. 12/1 or better is pretty fair for a horse this good.
Z Fortune (20/1) - I don't know what's going to happen with him because if he beats Pyro in the Risen Star he might be the new Derby favorite. The Risen Star is run while the pool is open so you'll definitely have to play this one later on. Perhaps I'm dreaming but I have an outside hope that his price may stay in this area if Pyro wins. Z Fortune still owns what is, in my opinion, the best 3yo performance year to date and he's never been beaten.