How to play Pool 3 of the 2023 Kentucky Derby Future Wager

January 19th, 2023

Much has changed, and yet little has changed with the betting options for Pool 3 of the 2023 Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which opens for betting noon ET on Friday.

Despite 17 horses being swapped out between Pool 2, run in late November, and Pool 3, we still have the same individual morning-line favorite in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner #13 Forte (at similar odds to what he closed in Pool 2), and #40 “all other colts and geldings” remains the dominant favorite overall at morning-line odds of 6-5 — again, similar to Pool 2.

So in terms of betting strategies, does much change?

With this year’s total number of options expanding from 24 to 40, there were bound to be large numbers of changes between pools this year, and that has happened in a big way here. And with 38 individually named horses, there’s a greater chance the Derby winner is listed than with the 22 from last year.

However, of the 17 new entries, the most fancied according to morning-line odds are Remsen (G2) winner #10 Dubyuhnell and Dec. 17 Aqueduct maiden winner #33 Tapit Trice, and they are both at 30-1. It’s not as if the previously known candidates are dominating either, though — the only horses with lower morning-line odds were the aforementioned Forte and three others at 20-1: #6 Corona Bolt, #12 Extra Anejo, and #22 Loggins.

In other words, the Derby picture is as murky as could be.

Given this, there’s still a solid (though reduced) chance that the Derby winner isn’t among the named options. If you are confident of that, the strategy suggested for Pool 2 — taking an exacta with “all other colts and geldings” as a banker for first and every other option to finish second — is still valid. It may even provide a greater return if it comes in than for Pool 2, given the greater chance that the Derby winner is among the named options this time.

Looking back, many of the recent Derby winners hadn’t shown up in recognized Derby preps by mid-January, among them Rich Strike, Country House, Justify, Always Dreaming, California Chrome, Orb, Animal Kingdom, and Big Brown. Given this, the exacta strategy is still appealing if you’re prepared to spend $76, albeit a little more risky.

The one thing I’d suggest doing differently from Pool 2 is taking note of the prep race that is being run during Pool 3.

Last time, it was the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2), which doesn’t have a good record as a guide to the Derby. This time, the prep race is the Lecomte S. (G3) at Fair Grounds, a circuit of Derby preps that has become a good guide in recent years.

The Lecomte itself isn’t always the best of the Fair Grounds guides, but it is a good one. The last seven editions have included 2021 promoted Derby winner Mandaloun (third in the Lecomte), 2019 Preakness winner War of Will (won), 2022 Derby runner-up and Travers (G1) winner Epicenter (second), 2021 Preakness (G1) runner-up Midnight Bourbon (won), 2022 Haskell winner Cyberknife (6th), and 2016 Belmont (G1) runner-up Destin (fourth).

As can be seen, it’s not always the winner of the Lecomte that becomes the horse to follow out of the race. But what you could do is find the horse that impresses you most as a potential Classic horse and then take it to win or in exactas.

One other option I’d suggest is to follow the market to see if any of trainer Brad Cox’s runners shortens up significantly during the betting — especially if it’s a horse that’s not running in the Lecomte.

Of the 38 named options, Cox prepares a staggering 11 of them. Two — #18 Instant Coffee and #34 Tapit’s Conquest — are due to contest the Lecomte; the latter horse is also nominated for an allowance at Fair Grounds, as is another Pool 3 option in #32 Tapit Shoes. If any of these three perform well, their odds are likely to reduce.

But if any of the other Cox options — Corona Belt, Loggins, #1 Angel of Empire, #14 Giant Mischief, #17 Hit Show, #19 Jace’s Road, #36 Verifying, or #37 Victory Formation — shortens considerably more than their stable companions, they could be worth a play.

Ultimately the most fun in the Future Wager is the chance to get better odds on a favored horse now than you’ll get on the day, so if there’s anything you particularly like now, it’s worth a thought.

Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 3 Wagers

  • $2 exacta: #40 with all ($76)
  • $2 win: The horse that impresses you most in the Lecomte (G3) ($2)
  • $2 win: Any Brad Cox-trained runner not running this weekend that has its odds shorten significantly ($2)