• I always believed in futures

    POSTED Feb 8, 2012
    The first future wager I can remember making was on Elloluv to win the 2003 Kentucky Oaks.

    As far as I know, Las Vegas race books have abandoned the practice of offering a future wager on the Oaks, but back then prices were available as early as January, and I somehow got the daughter of Gilded Time at 50-to-1 even after she upset Composure in the Hollywood. Subsequent wins in the Santa Ynez and Ashland Stakes sandwiched around runner-up finishes in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes and Santa Anita Oaks had me feeling pretty good about my position going into the first Friday of May, and although Elloluv finished a nonthreatening fourth in the Kentucky Oaks that year, I felt that I more than got my money's worth for three-plus months of entertainment.

    Admittedly, entertainment is about all I have to show for most of my future wagers. I had I Want Revenge at 50-to-1 for the 2009 Derby, the same year I had Regal Ransom at 90-to-1. Neither panned out, of course, but again, entertainment.

    That entertainment angle is something Las Vegas has sold very well on social media. When the Cardinals and Giants won the World Series and Super Bowl, respectively, lots twitpics began appearing and were retweeted celebrating big (sometimes life-changing) scores people made by betting on those outcomes when things seemed at their worst for both teams.

    Vegas loves these stories because it makes it seem as if the common bettor stuck it to the backs--that sports betting is a beatable game and that the big score is always only a bet away. Racing offers this same promise, of course, but does a worse job selling it.

    Someone somewhere is likely to have this year's Derby winner at 300- or 400-to-1. Those prices never last long, but $50 to win $15,000-$20,000 would turn some heads. I'm hoping Wharton gets it done so a friend and I can show off our $40 to win $8,000 ticket acquired last week. For whatever reason, stuff like that plays way better than "I hit the tri" or "I just hit a four-team teaser."

    A common lament is that future wagers never offer any value, and this is just not true. A current three-year-old in training has some chance of winning this year's Kentucky Derby. In the vast majority of cases, that chance is infinitesimal and would not offer value even at 10,000-to-1. But in some cases, a horse I to have a 5% chance of winning America's most famous horse race will go off 40- or 50-to-1 in Churchill Downs' pari-mutuel future wager.

    Because of the vagaries of variance, I don't see these as prime win bet opportunities. Tying my capital up for 12 weeks on a bet that I figure has a 5% chance of cashing is not a long-term strategy because the opportunities don't present themselves enough to A) make up for the times I'm wrong, and B) make up for the times I'm right but still lose (95% of the time!).

    But it IS fun to have a horse in the gate at high(er) odds and to brag to friends, colleagues, Roman, countrymen, etc. "I got him at 40-to-1."

    Click here for free Brisnet.com Ultimate Past Performances for Pool 1 of the 2012 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands Future Wager.

    The wagering is always interesting because of the gamesmanship that occurs with the heavy betting on the mutuel field, but I typically only look to play horses who are 40-to-1 or better. If Creative Cause gets ignored and is somehow 20-to-1 I'd probably plunge on him but otherwise I'm looking for > 40-to-1 on Dullahan, Junebugred, Longview Drive, Midnight Transfer, or Take Charge Indy.

    The field always feels like value to me, but again, getting 2-to-1 after tying my money up for 12 weeks isn't really that much fun. Of course, this is a big reason why the field does offer value. People looking for action on the Derby are far more likely to play individual horses rather than the field. Still, 2-to-1 would be awfully tough to pass up this year.

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