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For Nevadans, future betting tougher for Kentucky Derby

The ability to peer five months into the future is rare — in fact, I don’t know anyone who can do it. But that won’t stop many handicappers from taking a stab at picking the winner of the 2020 Kentucky Derby in the futures betting pools.

It’s a terrible bet, as many of the early favorites probably won’t make it into the starting gate. But I get it. It’s a good way to have a rooting interest along the road to the Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in May.

But if you want to get in on the action, you’re going to have to work a little harder this year.

Normally, Nevada horseplayers would have the option of dipping into the Churchill Downs futures betting, which began accepting bets in the first of three pools on Thanksgiving Day. That pool offers betting on 23 horses, as well as “All Other 3-year-olds,” which inevitably ends up as the heavy favorite in the first two pools.

But this year a contract dispute between Churchill Downs and the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association, which negotiates rights to various racing signals on behalf of the state’s racebooks, means Nevadans are effectively barred from participating.

Once upon a time that wouldn’t have mattered much.

The Wynn Las Vegas was renowned for years for its extensive Derby futures list put out by bookmaker Johnny Avello. But Avello is now working for DraftKings, and Wynn Las Vegas no longer offers Kentucky Derby future wagering.

Other racebooks that formerly offered Derby futures also have gradually abandoned the practice, apparently as the result of complaints from lawyers who labor on behalf of the joint with the twin spires.

The only game in town these days, as far as I know, is William Hill. The British bookmaker offers odds on 108 soon-to-be 3-year-olds at its network of sportsbooks and other outlets, such as 7-Eleven stores.

The early co-favorites in the betting at 8-1 are Independence Hall, who drew away to win the Grade 3 Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 3 in stakes record time, and Tiz the Law, who captured the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 5 by four lengths.

Other horses are a bit more enticing from a betting perspective. If you still like Dennis’ Moment, who took down the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs on Sept. 14 before losing all chance at the start of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade 1), for instance, you could back him at 16-1 as of Thursday morning.

Barring a settlement of the Churchill Downs contract dispute, the only reason to check the wagering in the Churchill Downs Derby futures pool is for a bit of comparison price shopping. You can do so at kentuckyderby.com/wager/future-wager/derby-pool-1.

Kentucky Derby lawsuit

A federal judge in Kentucky dismissed the lawsuit filed by the owners of Maximum Security seeking to reverse his disqualification in this year’s Kentucky Derby.

U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell ruled that the horse’s owners, Gary and Mary West, lacked legal grounds to challenge the stewards’ decision because “Kentucky’s regulations make clear that the disqualification is not subject to judicial review.”

Gary West nonetheless announced he will appeal the judge’s decision to a federal appeals court, telling the Louisville Courier-Journal that the way the state’s stewards make their decisions is comparable to “the way things are done under totalitarian regimes in third-world countries.”

#RJhorseracing featured races

The #RJhorseracing handicappers rarely take a week off. This weekend is no exception, and they are using their collective wisdom to solve Saturday’s $75,000 Richard R. Scherer Memorial Stakes at the Fair Grounds and the eighth race at Tampa Bay Downs, an allowance race for fillies and mares 3 and up.

But with an early publishing deadline because of the Thanksgiving holiday, we’re doing our handicapping online only this week. We’ll return to sharing our selections in print next week.

Mike Brunker’s horse racing column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.

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Simulcast dispute threatens free drinks, racing forms

That, at least, is the contention of the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association, which represents the state’s horse racing bet-takers in negotiations with Churchill Downs Inc.