The second pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager opened on Friday, with 23 individual offerings and of course, the ever-popular “All Others” option comprising the docket. As was the case with the first pool, no horses currently trained by conditioners barred from running in the Kentucky Derby are offered in the Future Wagers, meaning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Corniche is not included, among others.
The first pool closed in November with “All Others” favored at 3/5, followed by Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) winner Smile Happy at 8/1 and Champagne S. (G1) victor Jack Christopher at 10/1. Per usual, there was plenty of turnover in terms of who was on offer, with eight horses leaving and nine joining the fray. Seemingly removed due to poor performance were the likes of Ben Diesel, Graphic Detail, Howling Time, and Oviatt Class, while Double Thunder, Forced Ranking, and Gunite have been missing in action as of late. Despite a strong runner-up effort in the Remington Springboard Mile (L), Ron Moquett’s Osbourne was left off, which is understandable given the quality of the new additions to this pool.
Future Wager bettors will be given the advantage of seeing three individual offerings run in this Saturday’s Lecomte S. (G3) before wagering closes on Sunday at 6 PM EST. Epicenter (15/1 future wager morning line), Pappacap (20/1), and Trafalgar (50/1) will all line up, and I’d take a wait-and-see approach on this trio before laying any money down on the three of them. They each have good recency to them and look to have good chances on paper to run well, meaning excuses for poor runs will be limited and any lackluster performances from these three will make them immediate fades in my eyes.
The headline of the Derby Trail to this point has been the Ken McPeek barn, and he is represented by four individual entities in the second pool. Smile Happy continues to lead the way and was the individual favorite on Mike Battaglia’s morning line at 8/1. His dominant win in the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) a couple of months ago certainly hasn’t left the minds of fans and bettors and I would be shocked to see him not close as the favorite once more on Sunday. Tiz the Bomb (20/1) also intrigues from this barn, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) runner-up has been training forwardly towards a start in next weekend’s Holy Bull S. (G3), and if he can replicate his maiden win on dirt in that performance he will definitely skyrocket up Derby lists. Dash Attack (20/1) joined the Derby trail with his win in the Smarty Jones (L), but the son of Munnings will have to prove to me he can handle more distance and tougher competition from here on out. Breeders’ Futurity (G1) winner Rattle N Roll (30/1) seems great value on the initial line, however, he is yet to post a work this year following a late season injury in 2021, therefore it seems like getting him to the Derby could be a bit of a project.
Chad Brown hasn’t frequented the Kentucky Derby throughout his stellar career but is present in this pool with the second and co-third individual morning line choices. Jack Christopher (10/1) has been tremendous in two career starts, highlighted by his Champagne S. (G1) win. He is back in the Chad Brown barn following an injury that withheld him from the Breeders Cup, but there are still concerns in the camp as to whether he can make the Derby. Compound that with the fact his pedigree is littered with sprinters and milers, I find this colt to be a massive underlay and think he’s a heavy fade in this pool and beyond. Zandon (12/1) seems a better option if you’re considering a Chad Brown runner. I do think this tough-luck runner-up of the Remsen S. (G2) needs to keep improving and personally don’t find him thrilling as a Derby horse, yet I also believe his odds are going to be rather inflated this go-round and would absolutely be worth playing if you hold him in high regard.
It wouldn’t be Kentucky Derby anything without Todd Pletcher, and he tops the charts with five individual horses in this pool, led by Remsen S. (G2) winner and co-third individual choice Mo Donegal (12/1). No matter how controversial his win last out may have been, there is no denying the talent this son of Uncle Mo has, and he projects like one who will only relish more races and more distance. As long as he stays healthy, he seems like the most likely horse in this Future Wager pool to actually make the Derby starting gate. Beyond him, the Pletcher barn is represented by four 50/1 morning-line options who each have major questions surrounding them. The duo of Commandperformance and Major General both flashed strong ability at the graded stakes level last fall, yet Commandperformance is yet to post a work this year, and Major General is just gearing up with two workouts in January. Varatti actually beat Mo Donegal in his maiden score in September, however, just like his two stablemates hasn’t posted much this year in the mornings. Emmanuel has garnered the most hype of any of his stablemates following a huge maiden score in December, but a few small injuries have kept him from making another start. All in all, Mo Donegal seems to be the safest option if you’re considering a Pletcher colt, given his track record in developing colts late on the Derby trail (Always Dreaming, anyone?) one could argue that there is tremendous value in his more inexperienced quartet.
The two remaining carryovers from the first pool are Classic Causeway (30/1) and Giant Game (30/1). Classic Causeway really impressed me with his runs in both the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2), posting ultra-strong figures in losses where he was handed unideal posts and forced to deal with tough race dynamics. It doesn’t seem like the waters will get more shallow with the Holy Bull S. (G3) on the radar, but if he can keep putting forward these bang-up efforts he seems to be an ideal Kentucky Derby candidate. Dale Romans has shown great ability to get high-quality juveniles in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, and Giant Game could easily fit that bill this year. His third place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) was unexpected, he gained my respect in a big way and seems like one who will develop nicely as the year progresses. Do note that runners from the Romans’ barn typically don’t fire their A-race first out at three-years old, so if you plan to play Giant Game in this second pool don’t panic if his next run doesn’t go well.
White Abarrio (50/1) is one of two colts in this pool from the Saffie Joseph Jr. barn. He exits a third in the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G3) following two wins at Gulfstream, however being beaten six lengths by two colts also offered at decent prices in this pool would make it a bit of a stretch to play here in my opinion. Make It Big (50/1) is the other Joseph colt and is the stakes winner of the two, but his win in the Remington Springboard Mile (L) wasn’t overly inspiring and the figures throughout his career are even worse.
The most notable of the still-to-be-mentioned additions to the second pool are Slow Down Andy (15/1) and Chasing Time (20/1). Slow Down Andy, the winner of the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), definitely improved as he stretched out to two turns for the first time, but I also think it’s fair to question the quality of horses he beat in that spot. The same can be said for impressive last-out allowance winner Chasing Time, who’s win at Oaklawn was all the buzz in the aftermath, yet it’s hard for me to look past both what he beat in that race, in addition to who he lost to two back, and confidently consider him a legitimate Derby horse at this junction.
Simplification (30/1) seems like his price could be crazy high in this pool given what he’s accomplished so far. He has the highest career Brisnet Speed Figure of this crop (103 in his maiden score), has run the second-best career number amongst the second pool on Thorograph, and absolutely thrashed rivals in his win in the Mucho Macho Man S. (L) last out, where he posted the highest Beyer by a three-year old colt in 2022 so far. He’ll have to show he can beat horses like Smile Happy, Jack Christopher, or Mo Donegal, but on paper, he certainly matches or exceed what any of those three have done. His pedigree also suggests the further he goes the better, perfect for when the Kentucky Derby rolls around.
Rounding out this extensive look at the second Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool for 2022 are Courvoisier (30/1) and High Oak (50/1). Kelly Breen’s Courvoisier looked a nice type winning the Jerome S. (L) at Aqueduct earlier this month and is bred to run all day, however, we can’t forget the New York road to the Kentucky Derby has been dreadful as of late and I’d be hesitant to think he matches up with the best in this division. It’s hard to get a read on Saratoga Special (G2) winner High Oak given we haven’t seen him since a fourth in the Hopeful S. (G1), so I’d pass on him for now as any value he has now will probably still be there if he appears in the third pool next month.
As per usual, the “All Others” will likely be the heavy favorite when wagering closes on Sunday, but there are some names that I think could make it worth passing on this option for now and waiting for them in future pools. Brad Cox himself has raved about Cyberknife, who runs in the Lecomte this weekend, as a potential Derby horse, and if he were to put in a good account of himself in that spot you’d certainly find him in the next Future Wager pool at exponentially better odds. American Icon is another name for Todd Pletcher coming off a big maiden score and is working forwardly. Sir London broke his maiden by open lengths at Los Alamitos for Simon Callaghan and could be a big player in the Robert Lewis S. (G3) a couple of weeks from now. Finally, God of Love is an extremely under-the-radar runner from the Mark Casse barn who did a lot of good things up at Woodbine. If he can translate his Tapeta form to dirt when he runs in the Withers S. (G3), he certainly will be getting my money when Future Pool #3 rolls around.
Top Three Bets: As previously mentioned, I think Mo Donegal is the safest play in this pool. A colt that is only going to keep improving for Pletcher and could be imposing come May. Classic Causeway and Simplification have both done a lot of nice things and won’t get enough respect this go-round, meaning there’s likely to be some excellent prices on them when wagering closes.
Top Three Fades: Jack Christopher is far from a Kentucky Derby horse in my eyes, pedigree and fitness wise it would feel like a waste of money at this point. Chasing Time has a lot of immediate recency going for him, but I find it to be a little bit too much hype. Slow Down Andy hasn’t beaten anything of substance and I think the deeper the waters get the more exposed he will be.