Pick a favorite, any favorite

February, 15, 2013
02/15/13
5:51
PM ET
If you're searching for the horse that will win this year's Kentucky Derby, there's one thing that can be said with near certainty: He, or she, has already raced.

Where and when did that race or races take place? Your guess is about as good as anyone else's.

Last week's first round of Kentucky Derby future wagering rather clearly illustrated how murky the waters are and that we are presently staring at one of the most wide-open editions of the Run for the Roses in recent memory.

The fact that the field was an 8-5 choice in the wagering was hardly shocking. The field is now 14-for-14 as the Pool 1 favorite, largely because of numbers that would make Gen. George S. Patton waive a white flag. Twenty-three separate betting interests vs. 346 field horses three months removed from the race is not exactly a fair fight.

Especially this year when the betting public could not find a standout among the 23 separate entries.

Most telling was that in the aftermath of 2-year-old champ Shanghai Bobby going down to defeat last month in the Holy Bull, the public's choice among the individual runners was Verrazano who was priced at an inflated 11-1 -- and he's yet to even race in a stakes.

Just a year ago, Union Rags was the Pool 1 leader among the separate runners at a rather typical price of 7-1. Even that was a far cry from Uncle Mo's miniscule price of 7-2 in 2011. Yet In terms of the wager's history, the price on the Pletcher-trained Verrazano was the highest for a Pool 1 individual favorite since someone named Eurosilver was sent off at 11-1 in 2004.

Reflective of bettors' interest in spreading their options was the way a number of the leading favorites among the chosen 23 drifted upwards. Early in the three-day wagering period there were five horses at odds between 7-1 and 9-1. They were Verrazano and Revolutionary (both at 7-1), Violence and Shanghai Bobby at 8-1 and Goldencents at 9-1.

In the end, there were seven horses lumped at between 11-1 and 15-1, practically a buffet table of possibilities. In that grouping were Verrazano (11-1); Flashback (12-1); Itsmyluckyday, who beat Shanghai Bobby in the Holy Bull, Revolutionary, and Violence (all 13-1); Shanghai Bobby (14-1) and Normandy Invasion (15-1). Goldencents shot up to 20-1.

Putting it all together, it's apparent that we're still two and a half months (not men) away from the first Saturday in May and that in time a couple of horses will probably separate themselves from the field while some of the better known horses at the moment fall by the wayside.

Learning who those horses are and seeing which one from a total pool of nearly 370 3-year-olds will actually win the Derby is the perplexing and fun part of the equation.

Keep in mind that at this time of year in 2012, eventual Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another was coming off a 43-1 upset win in the Robert B. Lewis and a disbelieving wagering public sent him off at a juicy 29-1 in Pool 1.

And on Feb. 15, 2009, Mine That Bird had yet to even race as a 3-year-old, his most recent start being a 12th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He paid $5.80 in the Pool 1 wagering since he was part of the field. At the track, he returned $103.20 for his improbable victory in the Run for the Roses.

Given the odds in this year's Pool 1 of the future wager, it could be wise to keep that bird in hand as we move closer to a certain Saturday in May.

• Bob Ehalt grew up a few furlongs from Belmont Park and has followed horse racing as a fan, turf writer or owner since 1971.
• Has won three Associated Press Sports Editors awards and was the recipient of the '09 Breeders' Cup media award for outstanding social media.

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