The Kentucky Derby Futures Wagers are an interesting phenomenon.
Months before the horses line up to the post indeed, the first comes before these horses even turn three years old – people line up to place money on Kentucky Derby hopefuls.
There is no safety net for these bets. If your horse does not make it to the Kentucky Derby, you are not refunded. There is no place or show bets- it wins it all or gets nothing. You can find complete information here: twinspires.com
There is an immense risk to these bets, but there are equal amounts of allure to them. Even discounting the financial aspects of gathering the winnings, many horse racing followers love the idea of being able to tell people that they were able to identify the Kentucky Derby winner-to-be before winter had fully thawed.
The first four (out of six) pools of this year’s Future Wager have closed; the fifth pool will open on Thursday, March 31st and run until Saturday, April 2nd. In each of the four Future Wager pools that have already closed, 2022 Eclipse Champion Two-Year-Old Male Forte was the favored single entry, with the category “All Other Colts And Geldings” taking the most money overall.
In prior years, the Future Wagers have been limited to 24 entries, of which the final category was always “All Other Three-Year-Olds.” This year, the pools have expanded to 40 entries, and have separated the last category into “All Other Fillies Of 2024” and “All Other Colts And Geldings Of 2024.”
A new feature this year is the Kentucky Derby Sire Future Wager, in which fans can place bets on which stallion will have sired the Derby winner. This pool ran at the same time as the second pool for the regular Future Wager. “All Other Sires” was the favored entry; the most heavily bet individual stallion was Into Mischief. Violence, the sire of Forte, was the third choice.
If you are interested in placing a Kentucky Derby Future Wager, here are some pitfalls you will want to avoid before handing over your money.
1. Bet With Your Head, Not With Your Heart
Everyone enjoys a sentimental bet cast on a whim, but the Future Wager pools are neither the time nor the place for sentiment.
The Future Wagers are all about being able to look ahead and track a horse’s career over a sustained period of time. This includes being able to predict which horses are going to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.
Hoosier Philly, a three-year-old filly, closed out Pool 4 as the 11-1 third choice behind Forte and “All Other Colts And Geldings.” However, following her eight-length defeat in Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes, it appears that testing the waters against males is no longer on the docket for Hoosier Philly.
2. Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket
As was mentioned earlier, there is no safety net for these bets, so focusing all of your financial resources on a single entry is unlikely to prove fruitful. The Road to the Kentucky Derby is perilous and unpredictable, even for the most talented and experienced horses. Scratches abound.
Let’s look at the last Future Wager pools for each of the last five Kentucky Derbies. In 2022, the final pool had 23 individual horses, of which only 15 actually ran. In 2021, only 12 of the 23 horses mentioned went on to contest the Derby.
The year prior, which featured a September Derby due to the Covid-19 pandemic, had seven Future Wager Pools. Of those 23, only 9 were at the post. In 2019, 15 of the 23 arrived, and in 2018, there were 18 of the 23 listings.
All told, of 115 individual listings in the final Future Wager pools of the last five runnings of the Kentucky Derby, only 69 of those horses even started in the race itself. That means that a whopping 40% of these betting interests failed to even enter the starting gate.
3. Don’t Ignore Late Bloomers
In the vast majority of years, the “All Other” category takes the most money in most, if not all, of the pools.
The reason for this is fairly simple: for a horse to be a named entry in the Future Wager, he must draw attention to himself, and it isn’t until the most serious and most prestigious of the Kentucky Derby preps are run (which is generally late March to early April) that the solid superstars of the crop stamp themselves as worthy. Meanwhile, horses that had a flashy and noticeable two-year-old season often do not train on at three, find themselves to have distance limitations, or suffer injuries that force them to the sidelines.
Let us revisit the last five years’ worth of Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pools to see when the Derby winner emerged as a horse of interest.
Rich Strike was not even a blip on the radar until he crossed the line first in last year’s Kentucky Derby, so it is unsurprising that he was never mentioned by name in any Future Wager pools. Both Medina Spirit and Mandaloun first emerged as Future Wager listings in Pool 3 (February 12, 2021). Authentic burst onto the Derby scene in time to snag a feature in Pool 2 (February 7th, 2020).
Country House was an anomaly, being featured in Pool 3 (March 8th, 2019) but nowhere to be seen a month later in Pool 4 (April 5th, 2019); Maximum Security, meanwhile, was only found as an interest in Pool 4. Triple Crown winner Justify was the very definition of a late bloomer; he did not even begin his career until February of 2018, so he was not of interest until Pool 3 (March 9th, 2018).
Looking at that data, we find that of the last five Kentucky Derby winners (plus two disqualified first-place finishers), none were individual betting interests in Pool 1 and only one, Authentic, was an interest in Pool 2. This certainly does not bode well for Forte, who, as of this writing, has yet to make his three-year-old debut.