Thoughts on Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager

Profile Picture: James Scully

February 5th, 2015

Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) opens Friday and closes Sunday at 6 p.m. (ET). has free pps, with the 23 individual betting interests as well as nearly 30 members of the mutuel field (all others) included, and real time odds are available through

And this is the first weekend of the $1 million Road to the Kentucky Derby Showdown on, where players compete for a $1 million jackpot by cashing a $20 Show bet on 19 designated prep races and the Kentucky Derby.

Dortmund (Robert Lewis) and El Kabeir (Withers) will be popular Showdown selections.

The mutuel field is listed at even-money on the KDFW Pool 2 morning line and always winds up as heavy favorite in the first pool of the New Year (Pool 1 was November 26-28). It closed at 3-2 in 2014, but bettors taking the short price in Pool 2 wound up disappointed as California Chrome rewarded backers with a $63.40 win payoff (29-1).

California Chrome was favored at 5-2 on Derby Day.

I’ll be seeking value this weekend and will provide an analysis of all 23 individual interests below.

Pool 2:

  1. American Pharoah – Two-year-old champ dominated accomplished rivals Texas Red and Calculator last season, but speedy colt is coming back from an injury that forced him out of the BC Juvenile and is listed at only 10-1. Will he continue to move forward at age three? Returned to worktab on February 2 and can’t afford any setbacks.
  2. Carpe Diem – Lots to like about his two-year-old form and appears well-suited for classic distances. Trainer Todd Pletcher figures to win another Derby eventually (one-for-40 overall) and Carpe Diem is gearing up for his return in the February 21 Fountain of Youth (G2), but not expecting much value as one of the favorites.
  3. Competitive Edge – Flashy winner of his first two outings at Saratoga, including the prestigious Hopeful Stakes (G1), Pletcher trainee has been sidelined since September 1. Precocious colt is training toward his return and is bred to handle longer distances, but he displayed so much speed last year that I want to see him try two turns first.
  4. Daredevil – No doubting the Grade 1 winner’s talent, earning big BRIS Speed ratings for runaway scores in his first two outings, but longer distances remain a legitimate question mark. Pletcher mentioned the February 28 Swale as a likely target and the seven-furlong trip should be right up the colt’s alley.
  5. Dortmund – Unbeaten colt closed as the 9-1 choice among individual interests in Pool 1 and will be well-supported once again with a good showing in Saturday’s Lewis. Anxious to see if he’s improved over the winter; chestnut is such a massive individual that supporters must hope trainer Bob Baffert can keep him healthy over the next three months.
  6. El Kabeir – Earned his first stakes win in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs and came back to capture the January 3 Jerome on Aqueduct’s inner track, likely securing a Derby berth with 21 points to his credit (the 20th horse only needed 10 points the last two years). Can’t knock his recent form but question whether he’ll be better suited for distances up to nine furlongs.
  7. Far Right – Didn’t run fast (92 BRIS Speed) capturing one-mile Smarty Jones and tough to imagine him thriving while stretching out against deeper competition this spring.
  8. Firing Line – Impressed with his two-year-old form and may have defeated Dortmund in Los Alamitos Futurity if Mr. Z doesn’t slam into him during the stretch drive. Expecting a good showing in Lewis.
  9. Frosted – Posted a pair of respectable seconds in his first two stakes attempts and could continue to move forward for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Like his tactical speed and potential for value (30-1 morning line).
  10. Gorgeous Bird – Exits a seven-length romp over allowance foes but didn’t run fast in one-turn mile (1:39). Still has a lot to prove and trainer Ian Wilkes doesn’t inspire much confidence on the Derby trail; I’ll be looking for more from the colt later this year.
  11. Imperia – Just missed when making his dirt debut in Kentucky Jockey Club and late-running colt will make his 2015 bow in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds; can develop into a top contender this spring for McLaughlin and his 30-1 morning line odds are appealing.
  12. International Star – Kudos for a surprisingly comfortable victory in the Lecomte but didn’t run very fast (94 Speed rating) and not sure about the competition he was facing. Let’s see if he can back up that form against Texas Red and Imperia in the Risen Star .
  13. Itsaknockout – Still has to try two turns and stakes rivals, but intrigued by the son of Lemon Drop Kid following a smashing 5 ¼-length one-mile allowance tally that netted a 102 BRIS Speed number. Like the turn of foot he displayed winning both starts so far and colt possesses a nice mix of speed and stamina on the female side of his pedigree. Listed at a juicy 50-1, he rates as an enticing sleeper for Pletcher.
  14. J S Bach – Recent maiden winner had everything his own way on the front end and hasn’t run fast in either of his two career starts.
  15. Khozan – Well-bred colt (half to Royal Delta) sold for $1 million at auction and performed to expectations in his career debut, earning century-topping Speed and Late Pace numbers while scoring by a widening 3 ¾-length margin at seven furlongs. His belated career debut (January 24) is a concern – Pletcher would’ve run him sooner if possible – and colt figures to make his next start against allowance foes similar to Constitution and Verrazano (January debut winners at Gulfstream the past two years for Pletcher). Exciting as they come but is up against him from an experience factor and figures to be overbet based upon the hype.
  16. Lord Nelson – Gamely defeated Texas Red by a neck in seven-furlong San Vicente, but he’s run poorly in both route attempts and is three for three in sprints. No appeal until he proves himself at two turns.
  17. Mr. Z – He veered out in several of his juvenile starts and took his erratic behavior to a new level in the Smarty Jones, throwing away a clear lead and certain victory with a right-hand turn toward the stands. D. Wayne Lukas explained it away as a tooth problem and will wheel his charge right back in the February 16 Southwest, but it’s difficult to have any confidence in colt.
  18. Ocean Knight – Count me as being down if his odds are anywhere in the 50-1 morning line range. Overcame a slow pace and wide trip to prove best by a deceiving neck margin in Sam F. Davis and I’m expecting further improvement from the lightly-raced, well-bred colt.
  19. Ocho Ocho Ocho – Improved to three for three with a gutsy win in the $1 million Delta Jackpot and is pointing for a return in the March 7 San Felipe (G2). Showed a lot of speed at two and have doubts about his propensity for longer distances despite his breeding.
  20. Prospect Park – Tapit colt impressed winning his last start over allowance foes, being forced to wait behind foes before altering course and exploding to win going away by 5 ¼ lengths, and I’m looking forward to his stakes bow next time. He’s heading in the right direction for trainer Clifford Sise Jr.
  21. Texas Red – Lost little in defeat recording a neck second in seven-furlong San Vicente, rallying boldly from the back of the pack in the final furlongs, and he’s going to be a serious threat from off the pace in upcoming starts. Has a lot going for him but probably won’t offer much value in Pool 2.
  22. The Great War – Not a fan of the Turfway-Polytrack path but still respect this front-runner. Turned in a respectable fourth when making his two-turn and dirt debut in BC Juvenile and his speed could prove dangerous down the road.
  23. Upstart – Overlooked at 53-1 in pool 1, he’ll be one of the favorites this time following a smashing 5 ½-length Holy Bull win that netted a 105 BRIS Speed rating. No value taking a short price this time around.

Outlook: Upstart (53-1) was my main play in Pool 1 (click here for Pool 1 preview) and I made three smaller bets on Frosted (38-1), Imperia (27-1) and The Great War (72-1).

In Pool 2, Ocean Knight’s 50-1 morning line odds are probably unrealistic but he should still offer excellent value – he’s my strongest opinion.

I will take long odds on both Itsaknockout and Prospect Park, two colts who look capable of making a serious impact in upcoming stakes engagements, and will continue to plug away at Frosted and Imperia if either is 30-1 or higher on Sunday afternoon.