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It is strangely funny how a thing could be taken for granted — overlooked just after it’s gone away. Now that the Breeders’ Cup is over with, where on earth are the Kentucky Derby futures wagers?
I acknowledge it. I’m writing this feeling like a caffeine addict who cannot satisfy his morning-cuppa jones using the instant decaf that is from the cabinet. I am shaking like I’ve been conquered by the DTs (look that one up, kids). I have this overwhelming urge to jump in my car and drive off for countless miles till I run into the closest ADW — the likes of which are hypocritically barred here in Nevada. (Don’t get me started on this )
Something tells me that I am not alone. Fewer than six months prior to the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby, something is lost. And we are not talking about just any old Derby chances.
I had a market on Twitter with somebody who wanted to know why the Westgate hadn’t put up Derby futures yet. The Westgate? Come on. It has a racebook, but is not the horse store. It was the Wynn that used to be the haven for horseplayers — the location that had the actual Derby futures. Could this Tweep have mixed up his dubyas?
No, he insisted. He explained he had lost money on a Derby bet in the Westgate last winter. In my addled state, I summoned the area to avoid pointing out that the Westgate appears to other bellwether markets to set its Derby lines following the first of this year. And I stopped short of posting a snarky Tweet to remind one and that it isn’t winter yet. I saved that burst of pith with this column.
That brings us to the kernel of the withdrawal. In a normal year we’d have experienced Johnny Avello’s list of 300 or so Derby candidates to chew on. Like clockwork for 13 decades, Avello cranked those sheets out complete with appealing chances and myriad possibilities to throw a historical Hail Mary — or five — at the Derby.
Sucker bet? Of course it is. But how much are we talking about investing? Ask the couple who threw some cash last February in Justify at odds of 300-1 to win the Derby, chances which were posted even before his very first race. Can they look like suckers?
Is it a ROI play? Hell, no. It’s far better than the Powerball, but not by much. Nonetheless, it is fun. And Avello’s sheets were a must grab from the Wynn Las Vegas every September.
But right around the time that summer turned to fall this season, Avello announced he was leaving the Wynn for a new gig at DraftKings, which has branched out from daily fantasy sports to jump onto a particular May 14 Supreme Court choice to enter the sports-wagering small business.
Naturally, I asked Johnny if he would be transferring his Derby futures to DraftKings. He said yes, however, there were details to be worked out.
Now we have attained the Ides of November, and there are still no Johnny Avello futures.
There was a glimmer of hope that they would be submitted this weekend at Mississippi, where DraftKings is opening its first bricks-and-mortar sportsbook at the brand new Scarlet Point Casino hotel in d’Iberville, just north of Biloxi — along with a mere 678 miles south west of Churchill Downs. But one of those worker bees — let’s say a spokeswoman — in DraftKings’ corporate offices at Boston assured me Wednesday that they were not in the horse industry. Yet.
Not long after that, I got a text from Johnny stating that his stocks were on hold.
It is not like I cannot find down a bet. William Hill has published a record of 73 horses for its small Derby futures. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Game Winner is your favorite — in 6-1.
Seriously? 6-1? In November? Fourteen months ago when Bolt d’Oro was the favored from the Avello futures at the Wynn, he’d just been bet down from 40-1 to 30-1.
Even if one concludes that the William Hill stocks are far much better than nothing, there’s an alternative coming next week. Churchill Downs will open the first nationwide Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool from Thanksgiving Day until the following Sunday, and it’ll be accessible through every ADW in the country. (Did I mention that ADWs aren’t allowed with a Nevada legislature that’s practicing bald-faced hypocrisy? I could not recall )
By now we would have the Avello chances to be our North Star. They would be a guide for William Hill, the Westgate as well as Johnny’s old friends in the Wynn to place inactive odds. They’d also be an impact for Mike Battaglia at Churchill Downs to decide on a legitimate morning lineup for its KDFW and its own pari-mutuel betting.
Eventually the red tape will be cleared, and Avello will have the ability to publish his odds someplace. He did inform me Game Winner would be his favorite, but he did not disclose the chances.
Let us get real. No one worth her or his horseplaying salt should take a plunge on Game Winner at this time. This time of year should be about taking a chance on a colt that Bob Baffert isn’t a Chad Brown colt that is not racing on turf or a 200-1 shot that fired a bullet work that everyone else overlooked.
This is all about talking to Johnny about Coliseum, the 2-year-old that is rushing for the first time this weekend. He is a 2-1 morning-line favorite to win a maiden race which starts the Saturday card at Del Mar.. Coliseum has been sent to Baffert by Godolphin, which paid $300,000 for the colt. This is the exact same Godolphin that’s owned by the United Arab Emirates’ Sheikh Mohammed, who is desperate to win a Kentucky Derby for the first time.
Once I told this story, Avello explained that he’d subsequently include Coliseum in his early Derby futures. But this was before things got complicated this week.
There is not any additional bookmaker here in Las Vegas or perhaps anywhere who’ll take requests like this. Johnny did, after all, take huge bets until he left the Wynn on Instagrand and Roadster to win the Derby. In August he opened Roadster in 25-1 and Instagrand at 30-1. At William Hill today, Instagrand is 10-1 and Roadster 50-1. And are for the second from training.
No, it isn’t the exact same this autumn. We don’t have Johnny’s countless horses to choose from. At William Hill we have heaps — and we are grateful. As soon as the KDFW opens Thursday, we’ll have 23 options plus»others.» (By»we,» I do not mean Nevada. I have said that .)
Here’s hoping that the rigmarole that is holding up Avello’s futures contract is dispensed with sooner than later. Until then, I cannot be held accountable for the actions stemming from my withdrawal. God forbid, I might actually bet a lot of money rather in an overnight race out of Moe, Australia.
Oh, where is Mr. Avello when we really need him?

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