Churchill Downs now offers you the chance to bet the Kentucky Derby very early. Kind of like betting on which immature green fruit will ripen perfectly months from now. Futures Pool #1 lists 23 two-year-old prospects, many of whom have yet to race around two turns. Quite a risky venture.

One aspect of this pool raises it above games of chance: the potential for value. Most bettors mistakenly prefer come-from-the-clouds closers. That preference creates attractive odds on other, more worthy, contenders. Numbers on a roulette wheel or in a lottery drawing offer no discounts or distinctions, not even such ill-defined ones as Pool #1.

Relying on strategies outlined in my book, The Lazy Bettor’s Guide to the Kentucky Derby (for purchase here), I offer the following opinions on the 23 listed entrants. The prevailing theme here is this: you can sometimes teach a fast horse to slow down, but you can’t teach a slow horse to run fast.

I post my opinions with the following warning: “This is a high-risk proposition! Bet small and bet long odds only!”

When you bet this pool, you assume several large risks. First, your horse might not improve as the competition gets tougher. Second, the horse you bet on might get injured. Third, early maturity rather than superior talent might be the primary asset on display in this list. That’s just a few examples.

With that in mind, demand at least 50-1 on contenders who’ve demonstrated top talent so far. Accept nothing less than 75-1 for horses yet to win top stakes races. Look for 100-1 on lightly raced horses flashing exceptional ability in sprint races or against low-level competition.

1. Almost Famous: A Keen-To-Lead (KTL) type so far. Late fractions spell “Fade.”
2. Bobby’s Kitten: Patience in Pilgrim Stakes a big positive. Play at 50-1 or better.
3. Bond Holder: Struggles vs. weaklings. Not a junk-bond holder, but not AAA either. Stay away.
4. Cairo Prince: Like his Nashua effort. Play at 50-1 or better.
5. Cleburne: Too slow early. No play.
6. Commissioner: Too slow early. No play.
7. Coup de Grace: Brilliant debut. Play at 100-1 or better.
8. Financial Mogul: Too slow early. Fades late if pushed early. No play.
9. Havana: No sign of patience yet. A KTL type so far. Late fractions spell “Fade.”
10. Honor Code: Too slow early. No play.
11. In Trouble: Lightly raced. Must learn to ration brilliant speed. Play at 75-1 or better.
12. Kobe’s Back: Too slow early. Fades when pushed.
13. Mexikoma: Too slow early. No play.
14. Misconnect: Improved in 2nd start. Poor late frax. KTL type? Need 100-1 to consider.
15. New Year’s Day: Slow early. BC Juvie slower than fillies. No play.
16. Noble Moon: Ran through trouble in Nashua. Play at 50-1 or better.
17. Pablo Del Monte: Blistering win at KEE. Lightly raced. Can he ration speed? A play at 75-1.
18. Ride On Curlin: Accomplished little in 5 races. No thanks.
19. Rise Up: A Derby winner from Mountaineer? Unratable speed. No chance.
20. Shared Belief: Impressive sprints, but on poly. Look for 75-1 or better.
21. Strong Mandate: No signs of patience after five tries. No play.
22. Tamarando: Too slow early. No play.
23. Tap It Rich: Rushed into BC Juvie off debut win. Failed despite slow final time. No play.
24. All Other: Even money would be a great deal! Below that, though, I’ll stay away.

As of Friday night the horses qualifying for a play according to my analysis are #16 Noble Moon (68-1) and #24 All Others (1-1). Most betting action takes place on Saturday, so expect huge changes in odds.

—Roger LeBlanc

For eye-opening stats about Kentucky Derby winners and a full explanation of my approach, check out The Lazy Bettor’s Guide to the Kentucky Derby (click here).