Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager opened at noon (EST) on Friday, and you can choose to back any of 23 individual betting interests, plus an additional catch-all option of “all other three-year-olds,” until closing time 6 p.m. (EST) Sunday evening.
My Derby Top 10 is well represented among the 23 individuals in Pool 2, but I have two horses ranked much higher than their Future Wager odds would indicate.
Instilled Regard, currently third on my list, struck me as the best value at 30-1. Everybody else thought so too, since he’s getting bet down to 12-1 as of 1 p.m. (You can see the Pool 2 odds updated in real time here.) Still, he’ll remain a better price than a few other elite contenders. And for that price, you’ll get an attractive combination of pedigree, connections, and performance with the promise of more to come.
By Arch – the sire of champion Blame, who famously upended Zenyatta in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) – Instilled Regard is bred to improve with distance and maturity. He gets a dash of speed from broodmare sire Forestry, grafted on to a deep female line cultivated by one of the grand families of American racing, the Phipps Stable. The Phippses were co-breeders of 2013 Derby winner Orb, and they sold the dam of Super Saver when she was carrying that hero of the 2010 Derby. They also sold the dam of Instilled Regard, who descends from a different maternal line, with his second dam (granddam) being champion Heavenly Prize.
A $1,050,000 purchase as a two-year-old in training at OBS March, Instilled Regard blitzed a quarter-mile in :20 4/5 at the under tack show prior to the sale. So he’s no one-paced grinder.
Instilled Regard ran well in his first two starts sprinting, closing for a sharp second in his debut and finishing third after arguing a fast pace next time. But he’s excelled since stretching out to two turns, going two-for-three over a route of ground. After breaking his maiden in a romp at Santa Anita, he took on Bob Baffert’s big bears Solomini and McKinzie in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1), and more than held his own when beaten less than a length.
I think that Instilled Regard learned plenty from that battle, and he has the scope to keep improving. He scored handsomely next time out in the January 13 Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds, with a return trip to New Orleans on tap for the February 17 Risen Star (G2). The still-developing colt is on a path to maximize his Derby points total and ensure himself a spot in the starting gate.
Finally, there’s the matter of his connections. Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer deserves a change of fortune in the Derby after enduring rancid luck with his top prospects in the past. The most recent example is Shared Belief, the champion two-year-old male of 2013 who missed the next spring’s classics due to foot problems, and came back sensationally later in the season. What better story line than Hollendorfer getting another chance, this time with an owner new to the sport, Larry Best’s OXO Stables?
In the first hour of Pool 2 betting, it’s a surprise that Solomini, owned by Zayat Stables of American Pharoah fame, has drifted up to 36-1. Remember that he was 22-1 in Pool 1 of the Future Wager. Sure, the Baffert pupil spiked a fever and missed last Saturday’s Bob Lewis (G3), but he’s back working and the hiccup shouldn’t mean much for a colt with experience under his belt.
First past the post but controversially disqualified in the Los Al Futurity, the son of Curlin (from the family of Frosted and champion Midshipman) is entitled to progress further. For that reason, his runner-up efforts in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) (to Good Magic) and FrontRunner (G1) (to Bolt d’Oro) may not be the final word as to his merit in this crop.
If you’re looking for a bigger swing at the fences, Copper Bullet is a lofty 50-1 for a horse of his caliber. That price reflects the myriad of questions around him at this point – not only his effectiveness at a distance, but his lengthy layoff since last summer. He needs Derby points, and it’s unclear when he’ll be back in a scoring race.
Yet Copper Bullet was one of the most brilliant two-year-olds seen last year, with a proven affinity for Churchill Downs. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen – whose previous stable stars include Hall of Famers Curlin and Rachel Alexandra and newly crowned Horse of the Year Gun Runner – Copper Bullet crushed the field by eight lengths in his Churchill maiden victory. He arguably should have won the Bashford Manor (G3), if not for a checkered passage on the far turn, when he backed up, steadied, and looked out of it. Then he regrouped to finish a strong second.
There was no mistake next time in the Saratoga Special (G2). Chasing a torrid pace, Copper Bullet simply put them away and opened up by four lengths from another useful prospect in Hollywood Star. That dominant performance left us wanting more, but he hasn’t been seen since.
Back on the worktab in early January, Copper Bullet can resume the points chase if he has no further setbacks on the way. Despite his blistering speed, his pedigree offers hope that he’ll be able to stretch out. His internationally successful sire, More Than Ready, can get a classic winner if the mare provides sufficient stamina, and Copper Bullet’s dam fills the bill: she’s by Unbridled’s Song from a terrific French family.
If the Saratoga Special winner has appeal at 50-1, why not the Hopeful (G1) winner at the same price? Indeed, you can make a case for Sporting Chance, who’s in a similar situation to Copper Bullet but posting a series of stronger works for Hall of Famer and four-time Derby winner Wayne Lukas. And he’s already penciled in for a points race, the February 19 Southwest (G3). My only hang-up about Sporting Chance is a vague parallel with 2013 Hopeful winner Strong Mandate. Hailing from the same connections, and even the same sire in Tiznow, Strong Mandate didn’t progress as hoped and never won again.
Obviously it’s not fair to judge Sporting Chance by the case of Strong Mandate. He’s a different individual who could turn out to have a much better trajectory, and I’d never talk you off him. But I’d prefer to see him in action this season just to make sure he’s not Strong Mandate 2.0.
Also expected in the Southwest is my Derby sleeper, Zulfikhar. A smashing debut winner for Baffert last summer, this son of 2012 Derby runner-up Bodemeister could be anything. I’ve taken a stab to put him in my top 10 as a speculative prospect, but he’s not in Pool 2. Nor is the final horse in my top 10, Hollywood Star, who has real potential for Dale Romans – and may begin to fulfill it in Saturday’s Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. They’re just two among the many intriguing prospects in the “all others” category.
For more details on the 23 individual interests, and a good sampling of “all others,” check out the free past performances for KDFW Pool 2, courtesy of Brisnet.