Home » Ky. Derby: Vegas oddsmakers ponder Pletcher vs. field

Ky. Derby: Vegas oddsmakers ponder Pletcher vs. field

Todd Pletcher has not the one but the two horses to beat in
Kentucky Derby 2023. At least that is true in the prism of Las Vegas futures.

The Hall of Fame trainer and two-time Derby winner actually
has three of the top six betting choices. At one point this month, with their
combined 2023 record of 8-for-8, Forte, Tapit Trice and Kingsbarns were the
consensus top three in the futures market.

What if there were a prop bet offering those three Pletchers
vs. the field?

Kentucky Derby odds: Forte shortens in Nevada futures market.

“I would make the three Pletchers plus 145 and the field
minus 165,” said Johnny Avello, the horse-playing dean of Las Vegas bookmakers.

For now this is mythical, since the DraftKings Sportsbook he
directs still is expanding its nascent racing operation and getting states’
approval for such bets. For now his operation takes action of this sort in
other sports and even non-sports, like the Academy Awards.

“I’ve done this all the time,” Avello said. “For years.”

Another active Nevada oddsmaker who responded anonymously to
the Horse Racing Nation question went the other direction, saying he
would make the Pletcher trio minus 135 and the field plus 115.

“I imagine the Pletchers would take the first couple bets,
so I could see it moving higher,” he said.

Yet another Las Vegas bookmaker agreed, saying, “I would
think the (Pletcher colts) would be minus, but I don’t know what the public
would be willing to lay.”

Each of these sportsbook veterans was asked the question
without knowing what the others said. In reality, though, Las Vegas casinos do
not operate in isolated bubbles. If Avello really offered better than 7-5 to
take the Pletchers, and his rivals put up plus odds to bet the field, players
would devour them quickly in an effort to middle the market and guarantee themselves
profits. Something would have to give. And fast.

One might think the oddsmakers would have to mind their own
stores even more carefully to make sure there was not some lopsided value
betting the Pletchers individually or collectively.

“We thought about it, but it’s really just a derivative of
the individual horses,” a former horse booker said. Then he thought about the
years Bob Baffert brought well-backed strings to the Derby. “I was just
imagining what kind of odds Baffert would be carrying. His last name might be a
seven-letter word for underlay.”

Avello, who has a reputation for being fearless about taking
bets, was not swayed by the correlation argument. To his way of thinking, the
win pool for Derby futures would not be the same as the prop pool.

“They’re just separate entities,” he said. “You mentioned
just Pletcher here. I could do the same with (Brad) Cox. I could do the same
with (Tim) Yakteen. You could do this with a few different trainers.”

Avello, though, understood why the Pletcher stable this
spring could drive a him-or-them betting market.

“Things could change on race day,” he said. “I think Tapit
Trice is going to be roughly 5-1 or 6-1. Kingsbarns, 8-1, 10-1, somewhere in
that area. Forte? I’m not really sure where he lands. Is he 5-2? Is he 3-1? Is
he higher? If he’s 3-1, 7-2, then that price I just gave you, the wise guys
would lay the field, because there would be more value there.”