If its six-year history is any guide, less money will be bet this long weekend on the Kentucky Derby Sire Future Wager than there was for Monday’s nightcap at Mahoning Valley in Youngstown, Ohio.
The 2021 Sire Future Wager brought only $33,264 into its win pool. Yet at an average of more than 5-1, the payoffs for this national offering from Churchill Downs are not half bad. They are also not as much of a shot in the dark as trying to pick the outright winner of a race that will not happen for more than five months.
What makes the Sire Future Wager potentially more attractive this time around is the ever-complicated Baffert factor. Get ready to take a little ride on the explanation train.
Remember, Baffert and his horses are not allowed at Churchill Downs until after the 2023 Derby. That iron-fisted declaration was announced after this year’s winner, Medina Spirit, failed a postrace drug test. Since that case will be grist for the courthouse mill for a while, assume for now that Baffert is blocked by a virtual restraining order from coming near any pair of historic spires in Kentuckiana.
As part of that ruling, Churchill Downs decided not to include any of Baffert’s stable among the 22 individual horses named in its regular Kentucky Derby Future Wager, the more popular pari-mutuel offering in which bettors simply decide which horse will win the 2022 Derby.
“Pool 1 assumes that horses under the care of trainers suspended from competing in the 2022 Kentucky Derby will not be under consideration,” a carefully worded news release from Churchill Downs said Monday night. “To that end, prospects Corniche, Messier, Pinehurst and Rockefeller are not among the 22 individual betting interests and are included within the pari-mutuel field.”
“Trainers suspended.” That was like: “Ignore him over there. He broke up with me yesterday. I am pretending he doesn’t exist. But tell me who he is talking to.”
So the Baffert stable is not completely out of mind — or out of the Future Wager. Since a horse like Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Corniche may yet be transferred to another trainer, he could be made eligible to compete in the 2022 Derby. And win it.
The “pari-mutuel field” is also known as “all other colts and geldings from the 2019 foal crop.” Since they already carry the shortest prices in the Caesars at William Hill futures in Las Vegas, Corniche and recent Grade 3 winner Messier will unquestionably be the biggest reasons bettors choose that option this weekend in the Churchill Downs pool.
The key word is “pari-mutuel.” The two colts regarded as Baffert’s best 2-year-olds will move the needle hard. The “all others” option carries a morning line of even money. That is handicapper Mike Battaglia’s conservative estimate. It probably will be odds-on when the first pool of the Future Wager closes at 6 p.m. EST Sunday.
A look at the Sire Future Wager reveals much more value with the stallions partly responsible for producing the Baffert, er, “trainers suspended” Derby candidates. Corniche is by Quality Road. Messier is by Empire Maker. They are no slouches in the breeding world. Neither are Twirling Candy and Medaglia d’Oro, who sired two more of Baffert’s two-time-winning 2-year-olds, Pinehurst and Rockefeller.
Unlike the regular Future Wager, the Sire Future Wager does offer the Baffert colts’ fathers individually. Quality Road is 8-1 on the morning line; only the “all other sires” option at 6-1 is shorter. Empire Maker is 12-1, Twirling Candy 30-1 and Medaglia d’Oro 30-1.
At least three of those big men on the breeding campus have other foals who could land in the Derby. Quality Road has maiden winner Kamui, another Baffert colt. Twirling Candy sired Candy Landing, a maiden winner for trainer Brendan Walsh, and Kaely’s Brother, a stakes winner for Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox. Medaglia d’Oro is also the sire of Freelancer, another maiden victor for Walsh, and Gilded Age, who broke his maiden last week for trainer Bill Mott.
It is not as if horseplayers must zero in totally on the Baffert barn. Measure the Sire Future Wager choices by the respect they are getting in Nevada. Gun Runner (15-1), Into Mischief (20-1) and Practical Joke (20-1) have eight foals each in the Caesars at William Hill futures. Taking that optic one more step, Gun Runner, Giant’s Causeway (15-1) and Not This Time (15-1) each have two non-Baffert progeny in the Derby Future Wager at Churchill Downs.
What’s more, Into Mischief already has a Derby winner to his stallion name. That was Authentic, trained by Baffert, in the COVID-19 classic run last September. The same goes for Pioneerof The Nile (30-1), the father of 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah, another Baffert. There is also Uncle Mo (20-1), who sired Doug O’Neill’s 2016 Derby winner Nyquist.
This season Pioneerof The Nile has Baladi, yet another of Walsh’s maiden winners. The new Uncle Mo crop includes Mo Donegal, a recent maiden breaker for Todd Pletcher, and Cooke Creek, who won this month’s Grade 3 Nashua.
The upside of the Sire Future Wager is the value for horseplayers –— and bloodstock watchers — who do their homework. The downside is the homework. There is a lot to do before the pools close.
The markets for the regular and sire wagers open at noon EST Thursday wherever Churchill Downs mutuels are available (sorry, Nevada). Since these are pari-mutuels as opposed to the fixed odds available in Nevada (sorry, New Jersey), the usual warning applies. Don’t be in a hurry to bet on Thanksgiving. Watch the tote board, look for the true value and bet as late as possible.
In addition to this weekly report, Ron Flatter’s racing column is available every Friday at VSiN.com. The Ron Flatter Racing Pod is also available at VSiN.com/podcasts. This week’s episode features analysis of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager with Horse Racing Nation and Derby Wars CEO Mark Midland. Trainer Brian Lynch discusses his 2-year-old prospect Classic Causeway racing in Saturday's Derby prep, the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. The RFRP is available for free subscription at iHeart, Apple, Google, Spotify and Stitcher. It is sponsored by 1/ST BET.