Kentucky Derby Future Wager 2023: Betting Strategies for Pool 5

March 10th, 2023

Historically, the March Kentucky Derby Future Wagers are about when you can start to expect the eventual Derby winner to be a named individual option.

This year, that’s even more likely, given there are 39 named options for Pool 5, compared to 23 last year. There’s also more certainty about Derby-bound runners because of the Feb. 28 deadline in place in 2023 for a horse to be in a non-suspended trainer’s stable.

This means March 2023 Future Wager players have the option of betting on horses like Arabian Knight, National Treasure, and Reincarnate, whereas last year Messier and Taiba weren’t individual options until April.

So there are plenty of things to think about when deciding what to play in the Future Wager Pool 5. Here are some thoughts about how to approach it.

1. Don’t bet until Sunday

Morning-line prices are, of course, only a guide to what the final odds will be. You’ll get a better idea of what the actual returns will be by Sunday, by which time many punters will have already made their bets, and the odds implications from the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) will be evident. At that point, you’ll get a better idea of where value might lie.

2. Avoid the “all others” option unless the price balloons

In recent years, most Derby winners were individually-named options in the Future Wagers by March. Last year was an exception, when Rich Strike wasn’t an option at any point. But you have to go back a while to find another horse that wasn’t available in March — though, 2019 elevated winner Country House was only a March option, and not available in April. Regardless, the moral here is to only take “all others” if it’s a really good price, and the morning line of 6-1 looks a bit skinny.

3. Be careful about over-reacting to the Tampa Bay Derby

The only Kentucky Derby prep this weekend is the Tampa Bay Derby, a race that doesn’t have a great history of producing Kentucky Derby winners. In addition, the field this year doesn’t look strong. Usually, the market odds of the winning horse in a Derby prep held during a Future Wager window go down, to a level probably below its true value. So unless you really like something out of the Tampa Bay Derby, and like its odds, maybe look elsewhere.

4. Value is the greatest betting advantage in a Future Wager

There’s a saying that any price about a winner is a good one, and I'd have to agree. But with a Future Wager, you’re not only betting two months out that a horse will win, but also that it’s even going to make the starting gates. Injury and other misfortunes can beset a horse, so do you really want to take single-figure odds on a horse when its price may be longer on the day, or it might not even be there at all? Best find a horse you really like that’s at odds you believe are much longer than it will be on the day.

Using these principles, what are the best betting options?

Personally, I’m a #14 Forte fan, and I was mighty impressed with his Fountain of Youth (G2) victory. But if he ends up at his morning line odds of 4-1, I’m not interested.

As far as other horses go, I’d rather see horses like #27 Practical Move and #34 Tapit Trice at longer odds than their respective morning-line prices of 8-1 and 15-1 before I support them. However, if #19 Instant Coffee stays anywhere near the 30-1 morning line mark he’s assessed at, I’m in. Given his performances to date, I’d take anything higher than 20-1 on him.

The other favored runner I’m inclined to look at is #2 Arabian Knight. I don’t know that I trust his form just yet, but if he wins his final prep as well as he won the Southwest (G3), he will be at lower odds on Derby day than his 10-1 morning line. I don’t know that I would touch him at less than 8-1, however.

Among the longer shots, I’d consider #20 Kingsbarns (50-1) and #10 Congruent (80-1), if they stay near their morning line odds.