Future Bets in horse racing can be great fun. Trying to find the Kentucky Derby winner in March, or the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner in August, can be challenging and rewarding.
There are two types of Kentucky Derby Future bets. One is the three pools conducted by Churchill Downs with 23 betting interests. The wagering starts on a Thursday and runs through Sunday of that weekend. The prices close on Sunday and you don’t know your final odds until the wagering closes. It is basically a pari-mutuel futures wagering pool.
It can be tricky to find real value with just 24 betting interests (23 individual horses and the 24th is the field or remaining horses). But Barbaro did pay handsomely last year. Those backing the colt in the first pool received a $40.20 payoff for a $2 wager. In Pool 2 he paid $32.20, and in Pool 3 he returned $20.80.
On Derby Day the colt returned $14.20.
The better way to play horse racing futures is either going offshore or heading to Las Vegas to the sportsbook. Instead of having just 24 betting interests, some racebooks have hundreds of three-year-olds listed. You can shop around between the books for the best price, and once you punch your ticket your price is locked in.
Futures for the Breeders’ Cup start popping up in late summer and once again if you shop around for the best prices you can usually find value in just about every race.
The one downside to betting on the futures is that a portion of your wagering bankroll is tied up for weeks or months.
And there are no guarantees your horse even makes it to the starting gate. The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters and you can see your futures horse not make it to the starting gate due to an injury or just a lack of graded stakes winnings. Or a lack of talent.
There are no refunds. If your horse does not make the race, you can rip up your ticket before the gate opens.
When playing the Futures, make sure you look for value. There really is no reason to tie up your betting dollars unless you can uncover a promising runner that you can get at very attractive odds.