Lightly raced horses up degree of difficulty for handicapping Derby


This weekend is Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager offered by Churchill Downs. What stuck out to me among the 23 individual 3-year-olds in Pool 2 is the lack of experience these horses have.

For example, 12 of the 23 have three career starts or less. And since we are only 12 weeks to the Derby on May 3, most will make only two more starts. If these horses do get to Louisville, they will have started just four or five times.

Compare that to the busy 2-year-old resumes of racing greats Spectacular Bid (9), Affirmed (9) and Alydar (10), who all had twice as many starts in just their juvenile season alone.

I know today is a different era. And I’ve written how the new Derby point system is changing how trainers prepare for the race, especially with the most points being awarded from Feb. 22 on.

But the degree of difficulty in picking the Derby winner after only one, two or three career starts adds distance to our dart throw.

It makes getting value in a future bet like this even more essential. Here in Las Vegas, we can shop the Churchill Future Wager against local Future book pools in race books at Wynn Las Vegas, LVH and William Hill properties.

There is one point race this weekend, the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita. Only two Lewis starters, Candy Boy and Midnight Hawk, are in the Future Wager. Thus, the odds on most 3-year-olds will remain static barring any negative news.

Here is a word to the wise: If you handicap the Lewis, and like one of the other horses, I suggest you make your Future book bet before Saturday’s post time.

For example, horses such as Cool Samurai (75-1) and Chitu (200-1) have high odds at Wynn. You would be best served to bet them before Saturday’s post time because if they win, their odds are sure to drop.

And since they are not among the 23 individual horses, Churchill has them in the mutuel field, which opened at a low 7-5 odds.

■ GAME ON DUDE — Seven-year-old gelding Game On Dude will make his season debut in the San Antonio at Santa Anita on Saturday. He’ll be one of the shortest odds we’ll see all year.

Game On Dude is starting to look like the Denver Broncos of horse racing. Able to beat up on everyone during the regular season, but in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, or the Super Bowl for the Broncos, he comes up short.

There is a lot to like in a horse that has won $5.7 million. Our sport needs our stars to keep racing.

So as long as Game On Dude runs fast and stays sound, he’ll stay with us.

■ JOCKEY CLUB TOUR ON FOX — The Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park at 2 p.m. Sunday will kick off the Jockey Club Tour on Fox Sports 1. There will be nine shows this year featuring 20 stakes races.

The roster of on-air talent includes Greg Wolf, Richard Migliore, Simon Bray, Andy Serling and Alyssa Ali.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.