by Greg Melikov - 01/24/2006
The futures for the Run to the Roses is at hand. Is a bit too early? I say Y-E-S.
That's because horses that ran well at age 2 may not start out so good at age 3. For example, most experts ranked Stevie Wonderboy as the 2006 Kentucky Derby futures odds favorite off last year's victory in the one-turn Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Belmont. Then came the San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 14.
Stevie wasn't so wonderful, trailing Brother Derek throughout the two-turn mile covered in 1:36, losing by 1 ½ lengths in a four-horse field to the son of Benchmark that ran a distant fourth in the BC contest.
2006 Kentucky Derby futures odds from the service I'm going to rely on had Stevie Wonderboy 9-1 and Brother Derek 15-1 on Jan. 2. The son of Steven Got Even went lower to 8-1 on Jan. 19 while Brother Derek dropped from 15-1 to 9-1.
That doesn't mean Stevie won't perform better because it's not surprising the BC Juvenile winner lost his first start as a 3-year-old. Only Favorite Trick since 1992 debuted successfully as a sophomore, taking Gulfstream's Swale Stakes in '98. More ominous is what BC Juvenile champions have accomplished in the Kentucky Derby - zero for 22.
Many early Derby contenders will race in February. First Samurai, who captured the Hopeful and Champagne at New York travks before finishing third in the '05 BC Juvenile, likely will in the Hitcheson Stakes on February after working quite well at Gulfstream during January. The Gian't Causeway colt is 12-1.
Bluegrass Cat, also 12-1, who won his second straight stakes last year taking the Remsen at Aqueduct may run in the Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 17.
Private Vow, last November's winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs, only recently resumed training. The son of Broken Vow, 10-1, will either run in the Hutchinson or the Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 6.
Placing a futures bet in January or February doesn't often pay off in May. The odds are against you. There are exceptions.
When I saw Funny Cide finish fifth in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 18, 2003, I had no idea he had a shot at Churchill Downs, but there was something about him that caught my eye.
The son of Distorted Humor broke from post 13, encountered trouble along the way and traveled wide the entire 1 1/16 miles run in 1:43. The time equaled the fastest for the distance since '94 Derby winner Go For Gin triumphed in 1:41 3/5.
In the Louisiana Derby in early March, Funny Cide stayed close to the pace, rallied in the stretch only to drop back and then made a late charge at the rail to finish third while chasing Peace Rules. He was placed second when Kafwain was disqualified.
It was a game effort. So on March 16, I placed a Derby futures wager on him at 59-1. The first Saturday in May proved a very lucky afternoon.
I also collected another win bet of $27.60 for $2 and a humongous trifecta after keying him on top of Empire Maker, Peace Rules and Atswhatimtalknabout, which finished behind him in that order.
But remember the lyrics from Frank Sinatra's classic song:
That's life, that's what people say.
You're riding high in April,
Shot down in May.