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Horseplayers show smarts in Derby Future Wager

Last week’s Kentucky Derby Future Wager proved again that horseplayers deserve more credit than they normally receive.

They didn’t buy into the Pool 1 pretenders, a half-dozen or so horses with sprinter pedigrees. Horses such as Bob Black Jack, Georgie Boy, Signature Move, Smooth Air and Yankee Bravo drew token wagering. And they made the mutuel field the 3-1 favorite because the players understand that only one-third of the 23 listed horses usually make the Derby field.

Having 10 or so horses running as an entry for you in the Derby has been a good strategy in past years.

The individual favorite was Pyro at 5-1. His win Saturday in the Risen Star was scintillating, regardless of the time or speed figures. From the top of the stretch, the Steve Asmussen trainee rallied from last to first and won while being eased up the final 50 yards.

The second- and third-place horses — Z Fortune and Visionaire — ran well. With 11 weeks until Derby Day, they still could improve enough to be major contenders.

In the San Vicente at Santa Anita, Georgie Boy overpowered Into Mischief in the stakes race but not in the KDFW. Georgie Boy ended up 69-1, but Into Mischief was 26-1 despite losing. Into Mischief probably will improve in two-turn races. Georgie Boy appears better suited as a late-closing sprinter.

Many of the top contenders have yet to make their season debut. Eclipse champion War Pass is expected to start soon in an allowance race, then point to the Tampa Bay Derby.

Others such as Anak Nakal, Colonel John, Court Vision, Cowboy Cal, Majestic Warrior and Tale of Ekati are waiting in the wings. Apparently having only two Derby prep races has become the norm.

Here is my top-10 list: Pyro, Z Fortune, War Pass, Cowboy Cal, Tale of Ekati, Anak Nakal, Colonel John, Majestic Warrior, Into Mischief, Monba.

• O’GORMAN RETIRES — Race book supervisor Billy O’Gorman will retire Saturday after 23 years at Palace Station. Even if you never met O’Gorman, he felt like your friend because of his daily twin quinella reports, in a thick Irish brogue, on the Raceday Las Vegas radio show.

“We’re going to miss him,” said Art Manteris, vice president of race and sports for Station Casinos. “Billy’s the type of person you can’t replace.”

• GOLD COAST — Jockeys Tyler Baze and Aaron Gryder will appear in a meet-and-greet session Tuesday in the Gold Coast race book. There also will be a free $1,000 handicapping contest on the first five races at Tampa Bay Downs.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com.

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