05/19/2011 8:19AM

Animal Kingdom's Derby win an upset, but not a shocker


LAS VEGAS – Animal Kingdom won the Kentucky Derby on May 7 at 20-1, but it didn’t have the same feel as other recent longshots.

When Giacomo won the 2005 Run for the Roses and Mine That Bird won in 2009, there was a shocked silence in the race books where I watched those races. There was also a shortage of people lining up at the windows to cash winning tickets as those wins were seen as flukes in excess of the 50-1 odds both returned.

Animal Kingdom was seen right away as a worthy winner – his convincing stretch run helped with that – that was peaking at the right time and whose main question coming in was if he could transfer his form from non-dirt prep races.

He obviously could, and while there were certainly more torn up tickets at the Aliante Station race book where I watched this year’s race, there were plenty of happy faces of those who took a chance on the Team Valor horse.

Horseplayers also were checking their head-to-head matchups and proposition wagers that are offered in Vegas race books in addition to the pari-mutuel wagering. Animal Kingdom won in a time of 2:02.04, cashing the “under 2:02.20” posted at Wynn Las Vegas. His winning mutuel of $43.80 more than doubled the over/under of $20.10.

One prop bet had a big change in price. The “Will the winning horse’s number be odd or even?” had “even” as the –125 favorite (risk $1.25 for every $1 you want to profit, or odds of 4-5) after the top two choices, Dialed In and Uncle Mo drew even-numbered posts that Wednesday, but after Uncle Mo was scratched on Friday, “odd” went off as the –140 favorite since it was 10 horses vs. 9. Of course, No. 16 Animal Kingdom came through for those that stuck with “even.”

In addition to the winning bettors being happy, the bookmakers that run Derby future books also were cheering (in a dignified, reserved manner) as none of them listed Animal Kingdom as one of their liabilities. He was ignored at 100-1 after finishing second on turf at Gulfstream on March 3 in an optional claiming race and only lowered to 35-1 after winning the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on March 26.

Triple Crown odds update

All spring, Uncle Mo was seen as the 3-year-old most likely to end the 32-year Triple Crown drought. Before the Derby, Animal Kingdom was listed at 125-1 at the Wynn to sweep the series. After his Derby victory, the Wynn made Animal Kingdom 6-1 to go on to win the Preakness and Belmont with a price of –800 (risk $8 to win $1) that he won’t do it. Lucky’s race and sports books went with the same prices.

When I posted that news on my ViewFromVegas.com website and on Twitter, there were a bunch of people who thought that price was too short, since they felt Animal Kingdom would be around 5-1 in the Preakness. With Animal Kingdom made the 2-1 morning-line favorite this Saturday, the price looks just about right.

Vegas winners before/after Derby

The annual Derby festivities here in Vegas start every year with the Pick the Ponies Invitational at the Las Vegas on the Wednesday through Friday before the big race. With big horseplayers coming here from around the country, this version (there’s also a PTP in August and another on the Wednesday through Friday of Breeders’ Cup Week) always attracts a full field of 200 at a listed entry fee of $500. This year, all of them signed up before the early-bird deadline that only costs $400, with the Hilton throwing in the extra $100 apiece for a $100,000 prize pool.

Entrants make 10 mythical $100 across-the-board wagers each day over the three-day tournament, and Mel Sitkoff of Boca Raton, Fla., ran away with the contest with a score of 16,760 points to win the $38,000 first-place prize. Ben Coppola of Manahawkin, N.J., was a distant second with 14,590 points to take home $19,000, and Fred Kanter of Cleveland, Ohio, was third with 14,260 to earn $9,000.

For those looking for a cheaper alternative, or just a weekly contest whenever they visit, the Hilton has its Super Saturdays contest running through the summer (it usually goes on hiatus during football season). The entry fee is $30, with the Hilton paying back 100 percent of entry fees plus seeding the pot with $500.

◗ The Station Casinos offered a special $20,000 Twin Quinella on Derby Day. In this wager (it’s actually classified as a booked wager as opposed to a contest), players pay for the combinations of the horses they want to use in the two designated races (in this case, it was the Derby plus Churchill’s race 12 that day) times the $2 base wager. If you want to play it cold with two horses (one combination) in the first leg and two horses in the second leg, it would cost just $2 (1x1x2). If you want to box four horses (six combinations) in each leg, it would cost you $72 (6x6x2).

On Derby Day, no one had the winning combo, so that resulted in a carryover with a jackpot of $27,489.60 on Sunday, May 8. Belmont race 10 and Hollywood race 9 were used on that day, and just one winning ticket was sold. The anonymous winner used an $18 ticket to win.

On regular racing days (defined as when Southern California tracks are running, since those attract the most handle in Vegas race books), Station Casinos offer a daily $5,000 Twin Quinella.

Tuley’s Preakness picks

1. Mucho Macho Man: Made a nice run to finish third in the Derby and should be similarly positioned in the Preakness.

2. Dialed In: I’m not as enamored with his Derby as trainer Nick Zito, but he certainly could turn the tables with a cleaner trip.

3. Animal Kingdom: Derby winners often hold their form in the Preakness, so he should be right there, but might face more traffic in smaller field as all 14 could be within five lengths turning for home.

Longshot – Sway Away: My pick from the new shooters as he has the right to improve off his Arkansas Derby race; would have been an intriguing Derby longshot, if he had enough graded stakes earnings.