One angle I didn't hear discussed when Kentucky lawmakers considered, and ultimately failed to approve, legislation this year that would have allowed sports wagering was the foothold the state could have enjoyed in offering Kentucky Derby future wagers.
While Churchill Downs has done its best to offer future wagers--offering pari-mutuel pools on four Derby future pools, one futures pool on the sire of the Derby winner, and one on the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner--future wagers work better as a fixed-odds wager commonly offered in futures sports wagering.
As home of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1)--one of the biggest events in sports wagering--and Churchill Downs Inc., Kentucky should be the center of attention when it comes to fixed-odds future wagers on the Derby. Beyond the revenue it would generate for racing and the state, it would also bring added attention to Kentucky's signature industry.
In its pari-mutuel future pools, Churchill offers 24 betting interests--typically 23 individual horses and one "all others" wager. This format keeps the odds of many of the horses from attaining the higher odds that would typically be available if all 3-year-olds, or nearly all 3-year-olds, were assigned fixed odds as part of a sports wager.
When people think about big sports wagering days, the Super Bowl and Kentucky Derby come to mind. There certainly would be added interest in Kentucky. And with CDI's commitment to bricks-and-mortar as well as online sports wagering through its online BetAmerica platform, it's not hard to envision the day a Derby futures pool ties together all states that allow sports wagering.
For now, Churchill also plans to offer some head-to-head pari-mutuel wagers on this year's Derby card, which could help draw the attention of sports bettors.
Multiple reports covering the sports wagering issue in Kentucky note that next year the issue shouldn't be as steep a climb with Kentucky lawmakers. We'll see.
Until then, let's look at some of the value in this year's pari-mutuel Kentucky Derby Future Pools.
In Pool 1, which concluded wagering Nov. 25, eventual Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Roadster closed at 32-1. Those odds will be well above his actual odds, which figure to be in the 5-1 to 7-1 range. At the time of the first future wager pool, Roadster, trained by Derby maestro Bob Baffert, had won a six-furlong maiden race and run third in the Del Mar Futurity (G1), losing that race to stablemate Game Winner.
The value of Pool 2 was Tacitus, who closed at 96-1 in wagering that ended Feb. 10. At that point, his backers would have largely been basing their opinion on a maiden win Nov. 10 at Aqueduct Racetrack. About a month after wagering closed, the son of Tapit scored a clear victory in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) ahead of his April win in the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G2). Off those two victories, Tacitus figures to be among the favorites (5-1 range) in the Derby.
Highlighting Pool 3, for my money, was Vekoma, who closed at 37-1 March 10. The eventual Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) winner had just run third in the March 3 Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park. I don't have a good feel for what his Derby odds will be, but I suspect 37-1 will be about twice his actual odds.
And in the final pool that closed April 7, Omaha Beach provided some value at 10-1. As he figures to be one of the favorites on Derby Day, his backers here may have effectively doubled their odds. A poor run in the following week's Arkansas Derby (G1) was the only risk with this wager, but the colt won the April 13 race.
In the sire pool that closed Nov. 25, which requires bettors to select the sire of the Derby winner, the hands-down value is War Front at 41-1. That wager has his backers live to the possible favorite in Omaha Beach as well as multiple graded stakes winner War of Will.
Also of note in the sire pool: Bettors who liked champion 2-year-old male Game Winner, who was 5-1 in the Derby Future Wager conducted that same weekend, were better off playing his sire, Candy Ride (ARG), as he closed at 7-1. Beyond picking up slightly higher odds by selecting Candy Ride, they'll also be live to Vekoma.