They are led by Essential Quality at 10-1 and Life Is Good at 12-1. They include four fillies and 11 unraced 2-year-olds. Some 173 horses are listed in the 2021 Kentucky Derby futures book opened Wednesday afternoon by Circa Sports in Las Vegas.
Whether those prices last through the end of the week might be worth a side bet.
“The first bet we took was on Essential Quality,” Circa risk supervisor Paul Zilm said. “The second was on Life Is Good.”
Those are two of the 56 horses for which Circa offers a better price than William Hill Nevada, the rival that got a five-week head start on the 2021 Derby. In its second year offering these futures, Circa listed 38 horses that are not posted at William Hill.
“We wanted to put up all the top horses that have run, even those who have run and run poorly,” Zilm said.
Borrowing a page from the futures book that the Wynn Las Vegas retired two years ago, sportsbook director Matt Metcalf and Zilm listed horses that have yet to make their debuts. They include Alexander Valley (100-1), American Admiral (100-1), Hopkins (200-1), Lidstrom (100-1), Baafeed (200-1), Prime Factor (200-1), Find New Roads (200-1), Ghazaaly (200-1), Lamutanaatty (200-1), Rosenquist (200-1) and Shaftesbury (200-1).
“I tried to add unraced horses that may appear suddenly down the road and offer them at a much more attractive price than they would have if we posted them after a big romp,” Zilm said. “Finding those horses is tricky. I tried to pick the brains of some that are far better at it than me.”
The whole list, though, pivots on Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Essential Quality, the consensus favorite in fixed-odds futures, and the impressive Bob Baffert debutant Life Is Good, the more than 5-1 (+540) individual favorite in last weekend’s national pari-mutuel wager that was run by Churchill Downs.
“Originally, I had Life Is Good as almost a co-favorite,” Zilm said. “I don’t pretend to know who will end up being better, but I do know they both will be popular runners throughout.”
Even though a female has not started in the Derby going on 11 years, Circa listed four of the top five from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies – the winner Vequist (300-1), runner-up Dayoutoftheoffice (400-1), third-place Girl Daddy (400-1) and fifth-place Princess Noor (500-1), the longest shot on the board.
“I would love to see one of them want to pursue it,” Zilm said. “I’m just not sure any of them will.”
As was the case for this year’s Derby, Circa will eventually offer the option to bet against some of the shorter-priced horses once the early steam comes and goes.
“We intend to open yes-no betting likely the first of the year or shortly thereafter,” Zilm said. “It will be for horses 20-1 or less. Once we do that there will be higher limits on those horses.”
The standard limit is $200 per bet, although Circa management may raise it on a case-by-case basis if asked by known customers or for bets on shorter-priced horses.
Circa offers its Derby futures to bettors who establish their presence in Nevada one of three ways. They may make in-person wagers at The D or at the Golden Gate casinos in downtown Las Vegas. They may use the Circa Sports app after downloading it and showing ID at The D, the Golden Gate or the new Circa hotel. Players who are out of state are allowed to have proxy agents bet on their behalf after they have first applied and been approved in person together in Nevada.
Because it offers pari-mutuel betting on horses and greyhounds, the race and sportsbook at the Circa hotel that opened in downtown Las Vegas in October is not allowed to take Derby futures bets.