08/01/2004 11:00PM

All the (sports) news fit to print

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The race and sports books here in Nevada stop for no one. Take two weeks off for vacation and you'll spend an additional weekend diving through a pile of news clips and sorting through the e-mails (spam, be damned) trying to catch up.

In the British Open, most of the big names in golf - Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson - were in contention on the final day, but when the fescue settled it was unsung Todd Hamilton beating Els in a four-hole playoff to win the Claret Jug and the Open Championship.

Prior to the tournament, British oddsmakers had Hamilton as high as 750-1. Here in Vegas, he was not listed as an individual betting interest because he was such an outsider, being offered in the field at 4-1. That made it the second straight year, after Ben Curtis's equally shocking win last year, that a field golfer won the British Open, which works out well for Nevada sports books because most bettors like to cheer for an individual golfer and aren't enticed into cheering for a bunch of golfers they've never heard of, especially with such relatively low odds on the field.

Staying on the other side of the pond, the field was a losing bet for anyone foolish enough to bet against Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France. Most books had Armstrong as an odds-on favorite, though the Las Vegas Hilton did offer him at +110.

Sporting news stateside

Long gone are the days when Mike Tyson was a sure bet a la Lance. Last Friday night in Louisville, Ky., Tyson was knocked out by the Britain's Danny Williams in the fourth round. Tyson was between an -800 and -950 favorite around town with Williams backers getting between +550 and +650 for their money. Some bettors who figured Tyson would make short work of his supposed tomato-can opponent got lucky when their bets that the fight would go under four rounds wound up winning anyway. Now, it's pretty much assumed that Tyson will have to take his act overseas to continue his boxing career and bankruptcy-settlement plan.

The Miami Heat made a nice playoff run last season, but were still 20-1 to win the 2005 NBA title earlier last month. But then they traded for Shaquille O'Neal and are now among the favorites, at between 5-1 and 7-1 at local sports books. The Spurs have taken over favoritism at 7-2 at most books, with the Lakers dropping to 5-1 along with the Kings and Timberwolvers.

The Shaq-Kobe rivalry has prompted several books to offer proposition wagers. Caesars Entertainment properties have the Heat favored to win 4 1/2 more games than the Lakers, while Station Casinos has the line at 5 1/2. Station has Kobe favored to have a higher scoring average between the two superstars by 3 points, while Caesars has props in which you can try and predict a range (within 2 points) of what each player will average per game.

The Shaq deal had a much bigger impact on NBA odds than the recent retirement of Ricky Williams from the Dolphins did on NFL odds. However, there were some adjustments to be made. At the Las Vegas Hilton, the Dolphins' odds to win the Super Bowl were raised from 20-1 to 30-1, their odds to win the AFC East were raised from 3-1 to 4-1, the over/under on team wins was lowered from 9 1/2 to 8, and they were lowered from a 3-point favorite in their season opener vs. the Titans to -1 (though it has since been bet up to 1 1/2).

There were no such adjustments made to World Series futures after the slew of deals made before last Saturday's trade deadline. The Yankees, who wouldn't have been made much lower even if they had acquired Randy Johnson, are still the favorites at 2-1 or less at most books, with the red-hot Cardinals at 4-1, the Red Sox at 9-2, the Dodgers (who didn't seem to help themselves with their moves) at 7-1, the Braves at 8-1 and the Cubs at 9-1.

Race book notes

Tom Noone of Redondo Beach, Calif., captured the $123,680 first-place prize in the Gold Coast Summer Classic horse handicapping tournament by compiling 35,946 points in the win-and-place format over the three-day event, July 15-17.

Noone also picked up an additional $2,000 for having the high score on the second day of the tournament. Another Californian, Tom Cotler, took second with 32,946 points. Cotler won the Championship at The Orleans in October 2002 with partners Ray Moriarity and Joe Cragg.

After attracting 506 entries in last year's inaugural Summer Classic, organizers were expecting about 550 and were prepared to give berths in the $1 Million Horseplayers World Series to the top 35 finishers. When the field exploded to 723, the Coast Casinos gave free World Series entries to the top 40 finishers.

The next big tournament at the Coast Casinos is The Orleans Fall Classic on Oct. 14-16. The early-bird deadline is Sept. 15.

The Coast Casinos' free pick five contests, which run Wednesdays through Fridays on the first five races at Del Mar, hasn't had a contestant go a perfect 5 for 5 yet, so the progressive jackpot is up to $7,000 for this Wednesday's contest.

The free Bally's Pick 6 Club meets any time there's a pick six carryover of $100,000 or more at either Saratoga or Del Mar. Del Mar didn't have any carryovers in its first six days of the meet, but then there were carryovers last Saturday and Sunday, with Bally's putting up $1,008 in group tickets ($864 in the pick six and $144 on a smaller pick four ticket) on each day for those members who signed in each day.

There were no carryovers heading into Monday's action, but the club will meet Wednesday for approximately 90 minutes before the first pick six race if a carryover exists. Go to ballysraceandsports.com for details or inquire at the race book.