What is a Kentucky Derby 2022 futures bettor to do? Is
it worth the risk that Bob Baffert will not win a reversal of his two-year ban
by Churchill Downs just to bet that one of his horses might win on May 7? Is it
worth ignoring the Baffert horses because that ban might stick?
Paul Bach considered those questions from the
other side of the betting counter. As a senior trader for William Hill Nevada,
he has spent 10 years writing Derby futures for 114 bricks-and-mortar outlets
and a statewide betting app.
RELATED: Eligible or not, Baffert has 10 horses in Derby futures
Would he include Baffert 2-year-olds in this week’s
opening futures? Or would he wait to see how the wheels of justice creaked in
the dispute over whether Baffert should be punished after Derby winner Medina Spirit
failed a drug test?
Eventually, Bach got back to basics and listed 10
Baffert horses, including the favorite Corniche (15-1), among the 127 choices
William Hill offered futures bettors on the 2022 Derby.
“I did not take into consideration that they might
not be able to race,” Bach said in an email response to questions about the
opening odds. “If the horse is talented enough, I’m sure the connections will
transfer training duties to another trainer.”
Starlight Racing’s Jack Wolf all but said that
last week on the VSiN racing podcast, reinforcing the point that these early
preps are not as important as they will be in the late winter and early spring,
when they will have many more points on offer.
“The last two preps to the Derby are worth 50
points for the winner and 100 points for the winner,” said Wolf, whose
2-year-old colt Rockefeller (75-1), is one of the 10 Bafferts in the futures.
“If the horse is good enough to go on and is a contender for the Derby, then we
would have to go to plan B.”
Baffert has three horses among the five
shortest-priced choices in the William Hill pool. In addition to Corniche,
whose 98 Beyer Speed Figure is the best of any 2-year-old in 2021, he has Del Mar Futurity victor Pinehurst (25-1) and maiden winner Winning Map
“I try to include Baffert horses because I
always get calls to add them,” Bach said. “I’m just saving myself aggravation.”
Yet to be seen is how Churchill Downs will handle
Baffert horses in its first Kentucky Derby Future Wager next month. That will
be the first of five weekends when pari-mutuel wagers may be placed on 24
betting interests for the race. If Baffert horses are not included
individually, KDFW bettors may still put their money on them by choosing the
“all other 3-year-olds” option, which covers horses not among the individual
choices. They might even backdoor the process via the Kentucky Derby Sire
Future Wager, which presumably will not have a Baffert asterisk.
Churchill is expected to start its futures
around Thanksgiving, but William Hill got an early start on the campaign. It
usually launches during Breeders’ Cup week. As Bach put it, “I went early because I had 125 horses on my list. Usually by the middle of October, I have
80 or so. So I decided to go with it.”
Following his usual routine, Bach said he
prepared for months to take Derby wagers.
“Beginning in the spring when the 2-year-olds
start running, I identify the 2-year-old maiden special-weight races,” he said.
“I watch the race, and if I think the horse has some talent and upside, I put
them in my stable. When the horse runs back, I adjust the odds or toss,
depending on performances and the types of races and horses the connections are
running him against.
“If the horse shows talent, especially if he does
it impressively, he’s on the list. If he runs back poorly, the odds will
Since Caesars Entertainment completed its $4
billion takeover of William Hill in April, this is the first full Derby futures
trail that will be under new management. That means Bach’s old boss and racing
cohort Joe Asher is no longer a part of the process. But Bach said the futures
are and always have been his baby.
“This has always been a team of one,” he said. “I
decide who’s in, what the odds are and where they move.”