11/12/2009 1:00AM

After a race like that, who cares about a bet?


LAS VEGAS - Just like every other place where people gathered to watch the Breeders' Cup Classic last Saturday, the talk of the town here was Zenyatta's last-to-first rally to stay undefeated.

I was at a BC viewing party at the Wynn Las Vegas, and even though I bet against her, I was cheering and clapping along with everyone else in the room after she left the boys in her dust, or whatever it is that gets kicked in the air in Pro-Ride races. Horseplayers and race book managers told of a similar scene all over town last week. It was a moment that transcended the betting aspect of racing, which is hard to do.

I had taken a stand against Zenyatta because I felt this year's Classic field was superior to any she had faced before and that 5-2 was well short of her true odds to win the race. She proved me wrong, at least on this day, and I was happy to consider my losing tickets as the price of admission to see a historic performance.

Some clairvoyant bettors out there were holding tickets on Zenyatta at 18-1 to win the race. That was her opening price in the BC Classic future book at Wynn Las Vegas last winter. Of course, taking that bet meant accepting the risk that Zenyatta would have just run in the Ladies Classic to defend her title. As the year went on and it was looking more and more possible that she would take on the boys, her odds dropped and were 4-1 the week before the final decision was made. Those who bet on her as the favorite to win the Ladies Classic throughout the summer and fall were left with worthless pieces of paper.

There were other future-book tickets that weren't as lucrative as you might think. Dancing in Silks opened at 15-1 when the Sprint book opened this summer, and it closed at the same price; he paid $52.60 on race day. Furthest Land opened at 20-1 in the Dirt Mile and closed at 15-1; he returned $44.60 on race day.

Overall, the race books in Nevada were thrilled with how things went, and handle was $6,875,000 on the BC races this year compared to $6,735,300 last year, an increase of 2.1 percent, according to Vinny Magliulo of Las Vegas Dissemination Company, the wagering hub for the state's books. Magliulo said the improving economy helped and also said he thought having the event at the same place for the second straight year helped some people feel more comfortable with their handicapping.

Back to the football betting board

I went 3-0 in this space last week, as well as 5-0 in the Hilton SuperContest (to improve to just 25-20, so don't get too excited) and 8-0 on my Web site. It's always great to do that well, but the key is to not get overconfident and just keep handicapping the same way. After all, underdogs went 10-3 against the spread last week so something would have to be seriously wrong with me if I didn't have a good week.

Bengals +7 vs. Steelers

The Bengals are 6-2, yet still don't seem to be getting the respect from oddsmakers and the betting public. They already beat the Steelers once this year, 23-20, Sept. 17. Of course, I know that was in Cincinnati, and this is in Pittsburgh, and the Terrible Towels, and yada, yada, yada. But the Bengals have also twice beaten the Ravens, a team that is a mirror image of the Steelers on both sides of the ball. So, they shown they can beat this team and a similar team on three occasions - but we're still getting a seven-point head-start? I'll take the points but will also have some on the money line to win straight up at juicy odds of around 5-2.

PLAY: Bengals for 2 units.

Bucs +10 at Dolphins

The Buccaneers are awful. You have to plug your nose to play this game, but the Bucs showed quite a bit in upsetting the Packers last week, 38-28, and rookie quarterback Josh Freeman was much better than I expected. This is also a bet against the Dolphins, who are a fine team and better than their 3-5 record indicates since they're playing a much tougher schedule than they did last year, but they shouldn't be asked to cover a double-digit spread against anyone.

PLAY: Bucs for 1 unit.

Patriots +3 vs. Colts

This is the marquee game of the week, to be played Sunday night. You know I have to like the dog here. Injuries to the Indianapolis secondary, primarily to safety Bob Sanders, plays right into Tom Brady's hands. And draw plays should be successful, as well. Besides, the Colts' offense hasn't been itself the last two weeks, and Peyton Manning has always struggled to figure out Bill Belichick's defensive schemes. This could be a tight game, so make sure to grab the +3 if you can get it, but I believe the Patriots will win outright. Even if the Pats fall behind, the back door cover (or at least push) should be open.

PLAY: Patriots for 1 unit.

Last week: 3-0 for a net profit of 3 units. Season record: 15-14, including 1-1 on 2-unit plays, for a net loss of 0.4 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1 unit).