An exacta strategy for Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager

November 24th, 2022

There are two strategies that look to be worth using for Pool 2 of the 2023 Kentucky Derby Future Wager.

Strategy one: watch the Kentucky Jockey Club G2) at Churchill Downs Saturday, and then back something else, unless the winner was ridiculously impressive.

Strategy two: consider an exacta using the “all other colts and geldings” option as a banker, even with 39 other betting options.

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 2 Investments:

  • $2 exacta: #40 (all other colts and geldings from the 2020 foal crop) with all ($74)

Editor's note: With the scratch of #17 Frank's Honor, there are now 37 individual betting interests remaining in Pool 2, thereby reducing the cost from an original $76 to $74. 

Avoid the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes winner

The Kentucky Jockey Club is nearly always held during the four-day stretch that a Future Wager pool is offered. In previous years it’s been Pool 1, but this year it’s Pool 2 after it was decided to offer Pool 1 in the first three days of November.

What often happens is that the winner of this race is the subject of a lot of betting. Last year, for example, Smile Happy was rated a 50-1 morning line chance before the pool opened, but he was punted down to 8-1 after his Kentucky Jockey Club victory.

Come the first Saturday in May, Smile Happy was at 14-1 and finished eighth.

There was a similar, if not so dramatic, plunge on Signalman in 2018 from 50-1 to 30-1. He didn’t make it to the start of the Derby.

A few years after its 1920 inauguration, the Kentucky Jockey Club looked like the guide to end all guides. Three of the four winners of the race between 1927 and 1930 – Reigh Count, Clyde Van Dusen, and Twenty Grand – won the Derby the next spring.

But in the intervening 90 years, only two horses have completed the double: Cannonade in 1973-74, and Super Saver in 2009-10. The latter won the Kentucky Jockey Club by five lengths, and it might pay to watch for a similar effort before contemplating a bet on the winner. Even then, the odds will probably be shorter than they should be.

In the nine years since the Future Wager was first offered in late November (in 2013 for the 2014 Derby), only three named horses have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby: American Pharoah, Nyquist, and Authentic.

Six out of nine wins for the "mutuel field" option – i.e. “all others” in the years up to the 2019 Derby Future Wager, and “all other colts and geldings” since then – makes it clearly the most likely to get a return; your question is whether a likely payout of around even money is good enough for you.

Unless you strongly fancy one of the named options to win, I'd suggest looking for a horse at odds of 20-1 or more. It's a long way out to be backing favorites.

A proven exacta strategy – but with a new warning

The exacta, however, is a much different option. The key is that there is no “all other colts and geldings-all other colts and geldings” option available if the first two horses home in the Derby are not among the named options in the Future Wager pool. Instead, if an “all other colts and geldings” option wins the Derby, the exacta is paid out on that option first with the best-placed horse that was a named option second.

My suggestion is taking the “all other colts and geldings” option to win with all other betting options to finish second, guaranteeing you a payout if a horse in the “all other colts and geldings” option wins the race, and any individual interest in Pool 2 finishes.

This bet would have been successful six times in the past nine years, and it would have been profitable. If you’d followed this strategy every year since 2013, you’d have invested $414 and got $767.20 back – a nice profit.

In four of those six years, a named option (Lookin At Lee, Good Magic, Code of Honor, and Epicenter) finished second.

However, on two occasions, the exacta has been paid out on horses that finished further back than second. Two years ago, raceday runner-up Mandaloun wasn’t a named option, so the Future Wager instead paid on the "all other colts and geldings" option with third-place finisher Hot Rod Charlie. Even more extreme, in 2014, the closest a named option came to winning was Ride On Curlin in seventh. The mutuel field-Ride On Curlin exacta paid $203.

So, what is the warning that the heading above alludes to? Well, the downside from this year is that the number of betting options has increased from 24 to 40.

This means the cost of an “all colts and geldings” exacta with every other individual option has gone up from $46. Also, with 38 (now 37) named options instead of 22 or 23, there’s a better chance the Derby winner is one of the named options.

However, if you’re up for spending $74 on this, it could be worth a try. The only time that an exacta with an “all others” horse winning the Derby has paid less than that was 2018, when Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Good Magic finished second. All other payouts were more than $100.

Good luck!