Kentucky Derby Futures: Fair Grounds, Oaklawn in the Spotlight

Eclipse Sportswire

The prep season for the 145thKentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winds on through mid-January, with new contenders emerging in key races such as last weekend’s Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds as well as allowance and maiden races at several tracks. As usual, the road to the Derby will take plenty of unexpected twists and turns as contenders rise and fall with each passing race.

Forecasting the 20-horse field – and even taking an early stand on a potential winner backed by a future wager – is an annual highlight of Derby season, and the bookmakers at William Hill are keeping tabs on the major contenders for Derby 145.

This Friday, Oaklawn Park unveils its popular race meet in Arkansas with the Smarty Jones Stakes, the first of four Kentucky Derby preps at the track. The Smarty Jones offers qualifying Derby points to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 scale.

Below is our latest look at William Hill’s future-book odds for the Kentucky Derby, highlighting some key horses that have recently raced.

Jan. 20 William Hill Odds Leaders to Win the Kentucky Derby:

1) Game Winner (5-1)

2) Improbable (7-1)

2) Coliseum (8-1)

4) Instagrand (10-1)

5) Gunmetal Gray (12-1)

Five to Watch:

War of Will (Eclipse Sportswire)

War of Will: Based on this colt’s powerful win in the Lecomte Stakes, where he pulled away to score by four lengths and earned 10 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, he is one of the biggest overlays on William Hill’s latest futures sheet sitting at 75-1 odds. After making his first four starts on turf, where he was runner-up in a Grade 1 in Canada and ran a close fourth and then fifth in two other graded stakes, he improved to 2-for-2 on dirt with his win at Fair Grounds. After the Lecomte, trainer Mark Casse could barely contain his excitement about “WOW,” as he’s called around the barn, and it’s easy to see why. He has a very good pedigree for turf, but he just may be one of those versatile types who actually prefers the main track. Mike Curry digs deeper into this talented colt’s Derby credentials in his latest Making the Grade profile for ABR.

Country House: This son of champion Lookin At Lucky dropped to 80-1 odds on William Hill’s sheet, reflecting solid support after he turned more than a few heads at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 17. Making his third career start in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race, he veered in after the start and spotted the field several lengths early but recovered and caught up in the backstretch, made a sweeping move for the lead on the far turn, and drew clear in the stretch to win by 3 ½ lengths. That was his first start since Dec. 1 at Aqueduct, where he finished a close second at long odds in his first career start on dirt after an unplaced debut on turf. This colt could be one of those 3-year-olds that seems to blossom after the calendar turns and when they return following a break – several come along every year. He has the perfect trainer for such a patient approach, too, in Hall of Famer Bill Mott. His dam was a sprinter on the racetrack, but his extended family includes recent handicap horse Breaking Lucky, who won a Canadian Triple Crown race at 1 3/16 miles and twice finished in the money in Grade 1 routes at Churchill Downs. Mott said following Country House’s win that the Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 2 at Gulfstream is a possible target for the colt’s next start.

Gum Tree Lane: This ridgling sits at 90-1 odds in William Hill’s book as he trains in preparation for his 3-year-old debut. He graduated in his second career start on Dec. 16 at Los Alamitos, winning a one-mile maiden race by 2 ½ lengths for owner Michael House and trainer Phil D’Amato. Gum Tree Lane enjoyed a good trip under Flavien Prat through the backstretch and into the far turn before engaging stablemate Mo Reserve in midstretch. He battled with that foe for several strides before drawing clear under a steady drive, earning a 92 Equibase Speed Figure. That win followed a third-place finish in a 6 ½-furlong maiden race at Del Mar back in September. He’s had a solid string of maintenance workouts at Santa Anita Park over the past month and is a solid bet to show up in one of their Derby preps in the coming weeks. Gum Tree Lane is from the first crop of young sire He’s Had Enough, a son of Tapit who finished second by a head in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. His pedigree on his dam’s side does not jump off the page in terms of Grade 1-caliber class, but he is related to several stakes winners at distances from seven furlongs to 1 1/8 miles.

Owendale: This Brad Cox-trained son of top sire Into Mischief took a one-mile and 70-yard allowance race at Fair Grounds on Jan. 17 to pick up his second career win in six starts and first since breaking his maiden back in September. He took command at the top of the stretch and was not threatened late in a 1 ½-length score over longshot Frolic More and highly-regarded Gun It, who was profiled in the last edition of this blog. Owendale won his third career start at Indiana Grand going one mile on Sept. 22 and then finished fourth in a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claiming race at Churchill in October and second by a neck in a Dec. 22 Fair Grounds allowance at one mile and 70 yards before his recent win. He debuts on William Hill’s book at 125-1 odds and has an interesting pedigree with champion filly Stellar Wind, Grade 1 winner Great Hunter, and top-class miler Mor Spirit among several other stakes winners on his dam’s side. “He's a big horse that's just really improved. He needed a little time,” trainer Cox told Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersh after the win, adding that Owendale could target the Feb. 16 Risen Star Stakes for his next start.

Win Win Win (SV Photography)

Win Win Win: Another debut contender on William Hill’s book at 125-1 odds, this Hat Trick colt improved to 3-for-4 lifetime with a blowout, 7 ¼-length win in the seven-furlong Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 19, setting a track record (1:20.89) for the distance. That was his second consecutive stakes try, following a runner-up effort in a seven-furlong stakes at Laurel Park, where he is based and won his first two starts for Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation and trainer Michael Trombetta. He earned an eye-catching 113 Equibase Speed Figure in the Pasco, and although Trombetta was noncommittal about pointing him to Tampa’s Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 9, perhaps due to the quick turnaround, this colt’s raw talent should ensure he shows up somewhere soon on the Derby trail for at least one try at two turns. Sire Hat Trick was a champion turf miler in his native Japan, and Win Win Win’s female family tree going back two generations is tilted more toward sprinter-miler types as well, with a couple of exceptions.

Upcoming Prep Race: The $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes on Jan. 25 at Oaklawn Park drew a competitive nine-horse field. Click here for more information on the one-mile race. William Hill Derby Jan. 20 future odds for the contenders are listed below.

1) Long Range Toddy (100-1)

2) Sleepy Eyes Todd (not offered)

3) Super Steed (35-1)

4) Six Shooter (not offered)

5) Boldor (125-1)

6) Forloveofcountry (125-1)

7) Bankit (75-1)

8) Gray Attempt (60-1)

9) Jack Van Berg (not offered)

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