by DICK POWELL

Pool 1 for the 2018 Kentucky Derby Future Wager closed on November 26, 2017. As usual for the first pool, the Mutuel Field (All Others) was the 6-5 favorite and paid $4.40 to win since nobody other than Bob Baffert had heard about JUSTIFY at that point. The exacta with Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner GOOD MAGIC paid $52.40.
 
If the only bet you made was the Mutuel Field, you doubled your money but the exacta was less than what it paid last Saturday -- $69.60.
 
Of the 23 individual horses that were available in Pool 1, 10 made it to the starting gate on the first Saturday in May.
 
Pool 2 closed on February 11 and the favorite in the Win pool was still the Mutuel Field, but they were now 5-2. Justify was a week away from making his career debut so he was not listed and was part of the Field. In Pool 2, it paid $7, just below what he paid last Saturday.
 
The Exacta in Pool 2 paid $69.60, 20 cents less that what it paid on Saturday. Even as late as February 11, only 10 of the prospective starters available in Pool 2 made it to the starting gate.
 
Pool 3 closed on March 11 and Justify showed up here. He broke his maiden on February 18 then came back on March 11 at Santa Anita. The race was early enough in the day so he was available for all to see and he went off as the second-betting choice at 6.2-1 behind the Mutuel Field at 4-1.
 
With only two career starts at that point and no Kentucky Derby eligibility points, there was still some uncertainty about him since after all, how could someone not race at two, make their career debut on February 18, win an allowance race over a muddy track on March 11 and even if he were to run first or second in his next start, go on to win the Kentucky Derby?
 
The real juice in the Future Wagers was the exacta over Good Magic. That paid $245.80, way above the $69.80 it paid on Saturday. So the win price on Justify was just over twice the Derby price and the Exacta was well over three times as much. Considering there was only eight weeks to go before the Derby, this is where the value was. Sixteen of the 23 prospective starters in Pool 3 made it to the starting gate.
 
Pool 4 closed on April 8. The combined Win and Exacta betting totals were the highest of the four, even though it was four weeks before the Derby. Justify was the strong 3.2-1 favorite based on his stunning win in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). So you would have received $8.40 instead of waiting four weeks and getting $7.80.
 
The exacta with Good Magic paid $81. In retrospect, with four weeks to go, post position draw and track condition, favorites did not represent enough value to pull the trigger early. Eighteen of the 22 prospective starters made it to the starting gate.
 
The right horse(s) at the right time came in pool three when Justify paid $14.40 to win and the exacta over the very logical Good Magic was a strong $245.80. Good Magic turned out to be the constant as he was the consistent second choice in the Exactas in all pools. Justify was the variable but the time to bet him was before his first stakes try.
 
Justify was the winner of all four pools since he was in the Mutuel Field the first two times and listed individually the last two. In three of the four, he was part of being the betting favorite. Like any trend, the Justify bandwagon was worth getting on early.

(Harold Roth/Horsephotos.com)