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Submitted by Jerry Antonucci on Friday, February 21, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Kentucky Derby futures a hot ticket

“What are the odds for Bayern?”

My friend bets a variety of sports, so it wasn’t an out-of-the-ordinary request, plus he isn’t an underdog-or-pass bettor like me, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch that he wanted to bet the top team in the UEFA Champions League soccer tournament, FC Bayern Munich. So I checked the odds on some local sports books and texted back: “They’re 2-1 at Station Casinos; do you want me to bet them?”

“NONONO,” he replied within a minute. “The horse to win the Derby!”

Whew! Good thing I asked. I felt like the only person in the industry that hadn’t seen or heard about the 15-length allowance win by Bayern (the horse) last Thursday at Santa Anita.

Such is the annual challenge of keeping up on all the Kentucky Derby contenders, which obviously change every year with a new crop of 3-year-olds, while also following the odds for NCAA basketball with March Madness fast approaching, the NBA, NHL, MLB (with over/under win totals also coming out this past week), the Daytona 500 this Sunday, and the Olympics (even though we don’t have wagering on that in Nevada).

But horseplayers are focused on finding a Kentucky Derby horse, whether it’s to bet him in the fixed-odds futures here or in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager parimutuel pool. I always advise people to keep track of odds from all sources to aid in finding the hot horses and also when to time their bets (the earlier the better in most cases).

The accompanying chart shows the top 20 horses on the future-book board at the Wynn Las Vegas as of Wednesday as well as the odds from the William Hill network of books in Nevada and each horse’s closing odds in the KDFW pool that closed Feb. 8. Several of the horses that have emerged the past two weeks were part of the field, which closed at odds of 3-2. Bayern is a prime example, and he no doubt will be an individual betting interest in the next KDFW pool, Feb. 27 through March 1.

Honor Code closed Pool 2 as the lowest-priced individual betting interest, and he’s the 8-1 co-chalk with Top Billing and Shared Belief at William Hill, while Wynn Las Vegas has Cairo Prince favored (as does Daily Racing Form national handicapper Mike Watchmaker) at 10-1, followed by Honor Code at 12-1, Top Billing at 14-1, and Shared Belief at 15-1. Those will again be among the most popular plays next weekend, with Top Billing’s stock most likely to rise or fall dramatically depending on his performance (along with fellow contender Commissioner) in this Saturday’s Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.

Horse      Wynn    William Hill    KDFW (Pool 2)
Cairo Prince    10-1    8-1    13-1
Honor Code    12-1    8-1    12-1
Top Billing    14-1    16-1    13-1
Shared Belief    15-1    8-1    14-1
Tapiture    18-1    18-1    38-1
Candy Boy    20-1    18-1    32-1
Strong Mandate    20-1    20-1    17-1
Vicar’s in Trouble    20-1    22-1    42-1
Tamarando    25-1    35-1    3-2(f)
Commissioner    28-1    22-1    22-1
Bayern    30-1    15-1    3-2(f)
Intense Holiday    30-1    60-1    69-1
Conquest Titan    35-1    35-1    29-1
Constitution    40-1    60-1    3-2(f)
Mexikoma    40-1    20-1    3-2(f)
Midnight Hawk    40-1    50-1    19-1
Mosler    40-1    100-1    3-2(f)
Havana    40-1    30-1    28-1
Bobby’s Kitten    45-1    40-1    46-1
Gold Hawk    45-1    50-1    3-2(f)
(f) – Field

John Avello, director of race and sports at the Wynn, said Cairo Prince, Tapiture, Candy Boy, and Vicar’s in Trouble (who runs in Saturday’s Risen Star at Fair Grounds) have been getting the biggest support of late, so that will also probably carry over to the parimutuel pool. Avello said his book’s biggest liabilities are Honor Code (from earlier bets at higher odds over the winter), Top Billing, Strong Mandate, Kobe’s Back, Tamarando, Intense Holiday, and Shared Belief.

Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading at William Hill, also said Top Billing and Shared Belief are among his book’s biggest liabilities, along with Bobby’s Kitten, Coup de Grace, Gold Hawk, and Midnight Hawk. But he said he’s not too worried about it with 10 weeks to go before the race is run.

“I’m not a big horse racing guy,” said Bogdanovich, who credited Paul Bach with compiling and maintaining William Hill’s futures, “but the bets come across my desk and it’s just like booking everything else – you post your odds and manage your risk.

“The Derby future book is great, and we’ve already written six figures on it. It’s good publicity and good for business and you usually do well on the booking side. You get whacked every once in a while, but you only have to pay out on one winning horse, so the odds are in our favor.”

Meanwhile, the rest of us try and find that one right horse at the right price, whether it’s in the futures or on the first Saturday in May.

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