The Week In Review: April Fool In The Derby Future Wager Pool?

Approaching the four-week mark to the GI Kentucky Derby, trainer Todd Pletcher has three highly ranked contenders, and the most impressive thing about that collective is that the Hall-of-Fame conditioner has guided them through undefeated 2023 campaigns to date, meticulously mapping out their schedules to avoid overlap.

Divisional champ Forte (Violence), now 6-for-7, won Saturday’s GI Florida Derby with a mad-dash flourish. ‘TDN Rising Star’ Tapit Trice (Tapit), the winner of the GIII Tampa Bay Derby, will be heavily favored to improve his 3-for-4 record with another score in Saturday’s GI Blue Grass S. The 3-for-3 Kingsbarns (Uncle Mo) heads to Kentucky after wiring the GII Louisiana Derby.

Latching on to a proven trainer and the prospect of getting behind the “headline horses,” bettors accordingly pounded those three Pletcher trainees in Pool 6 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW).

Unlike pools 2 through 5 earlier this season that closed on Sunday evenings after each weekend’s prep stakes had been run, this final version of the KDFW added speculative intrigue by closing at 6 p.m. Saturday, prior to the runnings of the Florida Derby and GI Arkansas Derby.

Forte closed as the 5-2 favorite, while Tapit Trice and Kingsbarns attracted 11-1 action as the co-second choices.

Forte being favored is no shock. But that prohibitively low price bettors jumped at Apr. 1 makes you wonder if some April fools got pranked in the futures pool by locking in a return that could be lower than Forte’s actual mutuel on Derby day.

For perspective, only three times in the past 14 years has the Derby favorite been sent postward at 5-2 or lower odds on race day. Even the two recent, highly popular Triple Crown winners–American Pharoah and Justify–didn’t get that heavily backed in their respective Derbies. Both went off at 2.9-1.

And the kicker is that bettors were willing to accept that apparently underlaid 5-2 price on Forte before knowing the results of the Florida Derby. Nor did they know how the colt came out of the race (reportedly fine).

But considering the historical starting prices in the Derby itself, do those ticket-holders still think they got good value on their KDFW investments? Presumably, they’ll spend the next four weeks anxiously awaiting the Derby post draw, which presents an entirely unavoidable random wrinkle that will one way or the other affect Forte’s Derby-day mutuel odds and his chances in the race itself.

As for the other two Pletcher-trained KDFW second choices, Tapit Trice at 11-1 has decent upside if he runs a monster race at Keeneland.

Tapit Trice | SV Photography

Kingsbarns, however, is likely to go off higher than his 11-1 KDFW price in the actual Derby mutuels.

Dropping down to 13-1 in Pool 6 of the KDFW, we find another seemingly underlaid surprise: Derma Sotogake (Jpn) (Mind Your Biscuits).

This 4-for-8 winner of the G2 UAE Derby could be part of the advancing wave of Japan-based horses rapidly making their marks in elite global races. But I doubt this colt will be going off lower than that ambitious KDFW price when he starts in Louisville. Since 2000, 12 winners of the UAE Derby have gone on to compete in the Kentucky Derby. The best finish among them was sixth (along with two DNF’s and a 20th-place try).

Practical Move at 14-1 represents the first sniff of KDFW Pool 6 value.

For the past month, this son of Practical Joke has been ranked as the No. 2 contender on the TDN Derby Top 12 list, and he’s either going to be the favorite or the second favorite in Saturday’s GI Santa Anita Derby. A win or a smart second sets up this colt to peak in Louisville, and if that’s the result, Practical Move will start as the second or third favorite in the Derby mutuels, somewhere in the 5-1 to 10-1 range.

But it’s the other major contender in the Santa Anita Derby–Geaux Rocket Ride (Candy Ride {Arg})–whose overlaid 33-1 KDFW Pool 6 closing odds stand out like a beacon of opportunity.

For that juicy price, you get a 2-for-2, sped-centric prospect who has shown promise enough to be ranked at No. 4 within the TDN Top 12.

Geaux Rocket Ride will vie for favoritism with Practical Move on Saturday, and his Hall-of-Fame trainer, Richard Mandella, is known for not embarking upon the Derby path unless he is confident he has a colt with a realistic shot of winning on the first Saturday in May.

Kingsbarns | Ryan Thompson

Mandella hasn’t started a horse in the Kentucky Derby since 2004. But in 2019 he was set to start the deserving favorite, Omaha Beach, before having to scratch days before the Derby when the colt was discovered to have an entrapped epiglottis.

Parked much, much deeper down the list among the 39 individual horses and the 17-1 “all others” field option for KDFW Pool 6 is one final, tantalizing long shot worth mentioning: The Brad Cox-trained Slip Mahoney at an astounding 130-1.

He’s an Arrogate colt out of an A.P. Indy mare who will be among the favorites in Saturday’s GII Wood Memorial S. at Aqueduct. Slip Mahoney was slow from the gate and second best with a big late move from 13th behind a 7 1/2-length runaway winner in the muddy GIII Gotham S. back on Mar. 4.

His distance-oriented pedigree should appreciate the stretch out to nine furlongs from three one-turn miles. And if he runs well enough to accrue the points (he’s currently No. 31 with 20 on the qualifying list), bettors will likely send him off exponentially lower in the Louisville mutuels.

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