In profiling the sole Kentucky Oaks Future Wager pool, I repeat the same variables as I used in last year’s version: dosage (lowest differential in chef-de-race numbers between 2016 Churchill Downs winners and these 23 contenders), combined AWD numbers, longest distance won, overall pace, fastest CD speed figure, positive 2YO progress, and best class won. I took the top 7 in each category and kept all ties. Ultimately 2 horses proved to be much the best, and I had to split a 3 way tie for the 3rd position.
The benchmarks created by the 23 horses were these:
Top 7 in dosage; combined AWD of at least 14.7, at least one Grade 2 victory, any races at CD, any 2YO progress, 8.5 furlong win, overall pace with projected 91 speed rating or better.
I’ll start with the horses in the tiebreak and who I rank, worst to best:
5th overall is MISS SKY WARRIOR. 4th in her maiden debut at Belmont in September with 88 Brisnet. Won last 3 races, including maiden win at Parx with 91, then the Grade 3 Tempted and the Grade 2 Demoiselle, both at Aqueduct and with similar scores. Dosage is in the top 7 (First Samurai/Sky Minister, out of Conquistador Cielo). Only filly here with a 9-furlong win.
4th is CHAMPAGNE ROOM. 2nd in maiden debut, winner of the Grade 1 Sorrento, 3rd in the Del Mar Debutante, 4th in the Chandelier, winner of the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies, and 3rd last out in the Las Virgiennes. Last 2 races presented a forged new pair of lifetime bests of 94, the latter race coming out of a 3 month layoff and debut at 3. The BC win gives her strong creedence. Positive 2YO pace, improving on her pre Labor-Day best with 94, plus the distance of 8.5 furlongs make her a strong candidate.
3rd is the highly regarded UNIQUE BELLA. 2nd in maiden debut, winner at 2nd try with 99 BRIS. Winner of the Grade 2 Santa Ynez and Las Virgiennes, both at Santa Anita. Good AWD numbers (Tapit/Unrivaled Belle, out of Unbridled’s Song). Thanks to the 106 score last out, she’s got the best overall pace of the field. Positive 2YO pace progress between her maiden races. Not my top pick despite her success and odds-on favorite status.
In my top 2:
DADDYS LIL DARLING won maiden race in 2nd try at Ellis Park last July. Won the Grade 2 Pocahontas at CD (exceeded past pre-Labor Day score of 81 with 84), then 2nd in the Alcibiad, 4th in the BC Juvenile Fillies, 2nd in the Golden Rod back at CD. All 4 races at the 8.5 furlong distance. Dosage is in top 7 (Scat Daddy/Miss Hot Salsa, out of Houston).
Top pick in the Future Wager pick is ABEL TASMAN. 5th in maiden debut, won 2nd effort, then won a 59k allowance race, and the Grade 1 Starlet in December (8.5 furlongs). Last 2 races over 90 Brisnet. Top 7 AWD numbers (Quality Road/Vargas Girl by Deputy Minister). Top 7 in overall pace. Positive 2YO pace progress (moved from 70 to 79)
The plan for wagering:
Win bets on my top 3 here if the odds are worse than 5-1. 4th and 5th horses get priority if a horse is at 5-1 or better.
Exacta bets between my top 3, plus over and under the ‘field’ selection.
Two races this weekend undoubtedly will change how the odds will appear for Sunday. That would be the Rachel Alexandra Stakes and Aqu Stakes on 2/25. If need be, I’ll provide an update. I am working on 2/26, so my wager might take place early Sunday. The one issue I do not know is whether the Future is simply open throughout the weekend or if it closes daily on each day.
As with Pool 2 on the Derby, I use the same categories to determine who is best in each. I kept the top 7, breaking ties as seen fit.
My scheme for wagering will be this:
Win bets on my top 3 horses, excluding those that I’ve been on in prior pools. If I have a prior bet on them that is possibly paying out $10 more than in a prior pool, then I can make a 2nd wager. Otherwise, I go down the line to others.
I will use exactas between my top 3, plus above/below field selection. If in the event I repeat an exacta from a prior pool, the payout must be higher than in prior; if lower, I will ignore.
Here are the benchmarks created by my top 23:
Dosage: Top 7
AWD: Combined 14.6
Class: At least a Grade 2 victory
CD: Any CD runs
Pace: 96 or better in the last 3 races.
2YO pace progress
Longest distance. 8.5 furlongs is ideal.
Now for the top 6:
Ranked 6th is GORMLEY. Won his maiden debut at 60k level at Del Mar in September. Won the Grade 1 Front Runner at Santa Anita after that (route debut, 8.5 furlongs) with a strong 97. 7th in the Breeders Cup Juvenile. Won the Grade 3 Sham with new small top of 102, starting his 3YO campaign. Top 7 Dosage profile (Malibu Moon/Race To Urga, out of Bernstein. Top 7 in pace. 15-1 ML. His next race is the San Felipe on 3/11.
Ranked 5th is EL AREEB. Winner of last 4 including the Jerome, the Withers and the JF Lewis. Top AWD numbers (Exchange Rate/Feathered Diamond, out of AP Indy). High ranking pace numbers; last 3: 99, 102, 100. Positive pace progression. The Withers win was at 8.5 furlongs. 20-1 at ML. I already have him in exactas with Guest Strike, McCraken and the Pool 2 field, plus win at 32-1. Probably no win bet here if his odds remain at 20-1. Not sure when he races next.
Ranked 4th is IRISH WAR CRY. Undefeated in 3, with pace scores of 99, 100, 102, plus wins in the Marylander and the Grade 2 Holy Bull at 8.5 furlongs. Top 7 in AWD (Curlin/Irish Sovereign, out of Polish Numbers). ML is 12/1, hopefully around this number to use as a win, maybe even in exactas. He will be in the Fountain Of Youth, 3/4.
Ranked 3rd is MCCRAKEN. Undefeated in 4, with wins in the Street Sense, the KY Jockey Club (Grade 2), and the Sam F Davis (Grade 3), the latter 2 at 8.5 furlongs. 3 races at Churchill, best run was 94. Top 7 in dosage (Ghostzapper/Ivory Empress, out of Seeking The Gold). I have him as 12-1 from Pool 1, and exactas with Hemsworth and Mo Town, Guest Suite and El Areeb, and under/over field selections in the prior pools. It will be interesting to see how he fares in exacta pools. I do not expect to wager win bets on him here considering the 12-1 standard. Next for him is the Tampa Bay Derby on 3/11.
Ranked 2nd is MO TOWN: Winner of the 9 furlong, Grade 2 Remsen Stakes, this after his 2nd maiden race. Top 7 AWD numbers (Uncle Mo/Grazile Mille, out of Bernardini). Remsen score was 101, an improvement over his 89 debut. Only other horse to win at 9 furlongs. 15/1 at ML. I have him at 12-1. Might be wagering win on him…definite for exactas. Next race is coming up Saturday in the Risen Star. A lot will hinge on that race.
Top rank is CLASSIC EMPIRE. Winner of the Bashford Manor, the Breeders Futurity and the BC Juvenile. Unfinished in the Hopeful, 3rd in the Holy Bull, bouncing from 108 to 92. Debuted his career with 2 races at CD, 94 his best effort. Positive pace progress. Last 2 wins came at 8.5 furlongs. ML odds are 8-1. I have him at 6-1 from Pool 1. If he somehow takes less money, maybe 12-1 or worse, I will place another win bet. Definite for exactas. Either races in the San Felipe or Tampa Bay Derby.