Forget about Tiz The Law. At least until he races next month in the Holy Bull.
The same goes for Dennis’ Moment before the Fountain of Youth. And Independence Hall before next week’s Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds.
They may be among the favorites in futures betting for the Kentucky Derby. But honestly, how many of us who play the horses want to go in at such short odds for a race that will not even take entries for nearly four months?
There are enough land mines in the process already, not the least of which is the fact that at this point each of the last three years, the eventual Kentucky Derby winner was still a maiden. Always Dreaming, Justify and Country House were all winless as 2-year-olds. It is well known that Justify was still raceless. Last year Country House did not show up in most futures books until March.
If recent history repeats itself, the eventual Derby winner is not even available to bet yet. But let’s say that he is among the 148 horses that are listed either at William Hill or globally. Outside of throwing good money after bad at long shots that look like they are hopeless to win the Derby, where does one bet?
As is so often the case in horseplaying, why not identify overlays?
I post a chart usually twice a week on Twitter (@ronflatter) comparing and contrasting the odds between William Hill, the only Nevada book taking futures bets, with those of a pair of websites that track the movement of foreign action on the Derby.
The idea is to find horses that are taking foreign money that may not be reflected in betting here in America. In other words, which horses have seen their global odds plunge while their domestic prices remain attractively high? It is the very definition of an overlay.
Chasing numbers as I am wont to do, I found four horses that stood out enough to where I made bets at William Hill – listed in order of my current faith in them.
Enforceable (125-1). If there is a long shot with a little bit of wise-guy buzz, it is this one. Despite being only 1-for-6, this colt by Tapit was cut to 33-1 at a global shop before being moved back to 66-1 after I placed my bet this week. Although his only win was in a maiden race last summer at Saratoga, this Mark Casse trainee looks like he may want more distance than he got when he finished fifth in the Breeders’ Futurity and fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club. His deep-closing style may not suit the modern-day Derby profile, but let’s see how he looks next weekend in the Lecomte. If he does well, he will not be available at 125-1.
Toledo (100-1). Here is another that shortened to 33-1 and back to 66-1 globally in the past week. Trainer Chad Brown has not yet said where he is putting this Into Mischief colt for his 3-year-old debut. Owned by Juddmonte Farms, Toledo has a win and two seconds, most recently finishing 2½ lengths behind after a wide trip in a $47,000 allowance over a mile last month at Gulfstream Park. The hope here is that two turns will be more to his liking.
By Your Side (120-1). Despite a 2-for-4 record, this colt trained by Eddie Kenneally has been locked in as a 20-1 European favorite since early September, according to Oddschecker. Someone over there must have been dumping big money on him. Fifth-placed finishes in his first two Grade 1 races – the Hopeful and the Breeders’ Futurity – are the head scratchers. But wait. He is sired by that rising star of a stallion named Constitution. That would be a good reason that he is being backed, not to mention an impressive Grade 3 win last summer at Saratoga. But he has not raced since October, and there is no word yet about his 2020 plans. By Your Side shortened to 24-1 at that global site before bouncing back to 40-1.
American Butterfly (250-1). It has been 18 years since trainer D. Wayne Lukas has had a horse finish in the money in the Derby. This colt by American Pharoah has not won since he broke his maiden on his second try last August at Saratoga. But after also-ran finishes in three stakes, he was third in an allowance race at Churchill Downs in November. Now he may be aimed to the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park in two weeks. American Butterfly is 80-1 in the global odds, and 250-1 is as long a shot as there is in the William Hill futures.
It is important to point out that I have never – ever – cashed a Kentucky Derby futures ticket. I have gotten to the gate with starters the last two years with nothing to show for it. What I am doing right now is chasing overlays. That is it. Enter at your own risk.
Between this column and the Ron Flatter Racing Pod, expect to get more-learned counsel from horseplayers who have actually had success cashing futures tickets. The input of readers is also welcome via Twitter @ronflatter.
Racing notes and opinions
Omaha Beach is the 5-4 futures favorite to win the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational in two weeks at Gulfstream Park. But a cautionary note was sounded by trainer Richard Mandella, who told DRF’s Jay Privman on Wednesday that the soon-to-be-retired 4-year-old colt had a minor “hot foot” problem. Mandella thought it might be a bruise. But he also said that it may not prevent Omaha Beach from getting in a workout Sunday in Florida, where both horse and trainer arrived since a Malibu Stakes victory Dec. 26 at Santa Anita. Considering the problems Omaha Beach had with his throat and a virus since last spring, optimism is understandably cautious.
With likely 2019 Horse of the Year Bricks And Mortar off to stud in Japan, 5-year-old mare Magic Wand tries to go one better in two weeks in the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf, which is on the Pegasus undercard. Trainer Aidan O’Brien told Racing Post’s Scott Burton that “the plan is to send her (from Ireland) to Gulfstream for the same race she ran second in last year.” In steady rain, Magic Wand finished 2½ lengths behind Bricks And Mortar on a yielding course in the 2019 Pegasus Turf. She has raced in five countries since, notably finishing second again to Bricks And Mortar in the Arlington Million and winning the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes in Australia only four days after she was 10th in the two-mile Melbourne Cup. She lost by a short head to Win Bright last month in the Hong Kong Cup. Magic Wand is 10-3 in European ante-post betting on the Pegasus Turf. Brown’s 5-year-old horse Without Parole, the third-place finisher in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, is the 9-4 favorite.
Lacking Grade 1 or Derby points prep races this weekend, the biggest purse in a graded stakes is on the main track at Santa Anita. That is where the 8½-furlong, $200,000 Grade 3 La Cañada (pronounced “con-YAH-da”) for eight older fillies and mares will be run Saturday at 7:07 p.m. EST. Two Grade 1 wins for millionaire sprinter and morning-line favorite Spiced Perfection (5-2) stand out, and with Joel Rosario riding, trainer Peter Miller is trying her at this distance for only the second time in her career. The first time came 1½ years ago when she chased a hot pace and finished a close second in a black-type stakes over the same course. In her first graded start, Baffert’s lightly raced 4-year-old Message (4-1) should set the early pace under Mike Smith. Queen Bee To You (3-1) may be poised to get first run turning into the stretch, but she is only 1-for-9 at Santa Anita. Instead, I will key eastern shipper Horologist (4-1), a surprising third at 21-1 in the Grade 1 Cotillion last September at Parx. She has been rested since she was a virtual no-show in a sprint last October at Keeneland. The hope is that with Joe Bravo flying in to ride for her new trainer Richard Baltas, Horologist will recapture the form that got her to the winner’s circle four times in a row last spring and summer. Depending on how the tote board looks, I may throw Spiced Perfection, Queen Bee To You and Zusha (15-1) into exotics.
From the “say what?” folder: Bricks And Mortar was voted by the public the winner of the 10th Secretariat Vox Populi Award. But that is not the “say what?” part. The odd part of this is that the award will be presented Saturday at Santa Anita. True, Bricks And Mortar won the Breeders’ Cup Turf there Nov. 2. But the other 12 races in his career were east of the Mississippi. And the creator of the award – Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery – was from Kentucky. Her son Chris will be at Santa Anita this weekend, and there will be a 10th-anniversary poster giveaway. Who would quibble with that? Still, this feels like the spring of 2003, when Michael Jordan’s number 23 was retired – by the Miami Heat.
Not coming next week: Promised by Jan. 15, the California Horse Racing Board report on the horse deaths last year at Santa Anita will not be posted now before the end of the month, 13 months after the first casualty, according to the Los Angeles Times. Prediction: Once the bureaucrats finally rewrite every comma, the report will eventually say a variety of factors led to the breakdowns, including weather, track conditions, pre-existing conditions in the horses, misuse of medication, nature’s design of the horse and perhaps even the Coolidge administration. There will be two-minute stories on local television news in Los Angeles, complete with reporters live at Santa Anita and file video that has been trotted out 100 times. The reporters’ every sentence from the track will start with “Now,” their dispatches will end with “back to you,” and then there will be stories about the dysfunctional royal family before the first look at seven-day forecasts. Next?
Ron Flatter’s weekly racing column is posted every Friday morning at VSiN.com. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod posted Friday mornings at VSiN.com/podcasts. On the new episode of the RFRP, Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano looks back on his successful 2019, discusses his 2020 and talks about the public’s perception of safety in racing. Longtime southern California sports writer Art Wilson reminisces about a lifetime of trips to the track and looks at how the sport is changing, especially for bettors. There is also Twitter feedback. The RFRP is also available via Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher and is sponsored by Xpressbet.