07/20/2003 11:00PM

Bailey, Valenzuela favored in riding title propositions

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When Rob Terch was running the race and sports book at the Desert Inn in 1999, he wanted to do something special for the Del Mar and Saratoga meets.

He put up props on which jockeys would win the the riding title at the two prestigious meets. After the Desert Inn closed and he moved across the street to the New Frontier (after a short stint at Terrible's Casino on Flamingo Road), Terch offered the odds there the past two years.

He now runs the sports book at the Casino MonteLago in Lake Las Vegas. He doesn't have a race book, but since the jockey prop isn't a parimutuel bet and instead is booked by the house, he is able to offer it like any sports future book.

It's no surprise that Jerry Bailey is the 9-5 favorite to win the Saratoga jockey title. John Velazquez is a close second choice at 2-1, with defending champion Edgar Prado at 8-1, Jorge Chavez at 10-1, Jose Santos at 12-1, and Pat Day at 20-1. A "field" bet of all other jockeys is at 25-1.

The Del Mar jockey race is seen as a little more wide open. Terch has last year's winner Patrick Valenzuela as the 5-2 favorite, followed by Alex Solis (4-1), Victor Espinoza (9-2), Tyler Baze (10-1), Corey Nakatani (15-1), David Flores (18-1), Mike Smith (20-1), Julie Krone (30-1), and the field at 20-1.

Just because Terch is no longer at the New Frontier doesn't mean it has dropped the bet - but it has been tweaked. New Frontier race and sports book director Tony Nevill has put jockeys into teams of four and bettors wager on which group of riders will have the most combined wins.

At Saratoga, Team A is Prado, Santos, Chavez, and Richard Migliore; Team B is Bailey, Velazquez, Day, and Eibar Coa. Team A was made a -120 favorite, with Team B at even money.

At Del Mar, Team A is Valenzuela, Baze, Smith, and Kent Desormeaux; Team B is Solis, Espinoza, Nakatani, and Flores. Team B is a -115 favorite with Team A at -105.

The Palms has also entered the jockey betting fray this year with odds on who will win the most races at Del Mar. Fifteen riders are offered at the Palms with no field bet. Valenzuela is the 2-1 favorite with Solis at 5-2.

"We made [Valenzuela] the favorite because he should get a few more mounts, plus he's the favorite rider for a lot of people," said Bill Abernathy, Palms race-book shift supervisor.

The rest of the Palms' odds are similar to those at the MonteLago (with the exception of Krone being offered at 1,000-1 instead of 30-1). But the Palms also lists longshots Desormeaux (8-1), actor-rider Gary Stevens (18-1), Martin Pedroza (50-1), Omar Berrio (175-1), Jose Valdivia (175-1), Iggy Puglisi (200-1) and Matt Garcia (750-1).

Abernathy said the Palms will give a free Del Mar hat (emblazoned with the "Where the Surf Meets the Turf" slogan) to anyone making a jockey challenge wager of $25 or more, as long as supplies last.

Both the Palms and the MonteLago plan to keep their future books open at least half of the respective meets (adjusting the odds on a daily basis), or until a rider builds an insurmountable lead.

Longshot wins British Open

You might say that some of those jockeys have no chance of winning such prestigious meets, but if one of them does pull off that feat it would pale in comparison to Ben Curtis's win last weekend in the British Open at Royal St. George's Golf Club in Sandwich, Kent, England. Curtis, from Kent, Ohio, USA, joked that he felt right at home.

The PGA Tour rookie, playing in his first major, was such an outsider that no Las Vegas sports book had him listed (though British and offshore bookmakers had him between 500-1 and 1,000-1). In Vegas books, he was lumped in the field, which ranged from 3-1 to 6-1 around town.

"Any time a field player wins a major, it is a good result for the house," said Jeff Sherman, sports book supervisor at the Palms, adding "props and matchups all went well, and the handle exceeded the U.S. Open."

In the final major of the year, the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., on Aug. 14-17, Tiger Woods is the 5-2 favorite at the Palms. The Imperial Palace has him at 3-1. Curtis? He's 100-1 at both books.

Golf, golf, and more golf

After the British Open telecast, ABC showed the Michael Douglas & Friends golf tournament. There was no wagering on the tournament, which actually took place in May, but it gave major sponsor Caesars Palace the opportunity to plug its Cascata Golf Club, which is available only to casino guests at a Caesars Entertainment (formerly called Park Place Entertainment) property.

Heavily favored Rhoden wins No. 6

Wagering was available last weekend at Caesars Tahoe on the NBC-televised American Century Championship for athletes and entertainers with a USGA-registered handicap of 10 or less.

Rick Rhoden, former pitcher for the Dodgers and Yankees, was the 7-5 favorite and won the event, held at the Edgewood Tahoe course in Lake Tahoe, for the sixth time. Rhoden collected $100,000 of the $434,478 purse and is eyeing a shot at the Champions Tour after turning 50 in May. Nakatani finished 24th in the 76-player field and earned $4,906.

Woman vs. men pro golfers II

When Annika Sorenstam accepted an invitation to play in the Colonial earlier this year, a lot of people speculated that she was doing it to take the focus off club pro Suzy Whaley, who had qualified for the Greater Hartford Open. If that was the case, she certainly succeeded.

We all saw the attention Sorenstam received, and you can compare that to the relative quiet leading up to Whaley's appearance at Hartford this weekend. And while Sorenstam had a bunch of betting props tied to her, the Palms only has Whaley listed at 10,000-1 to win the Hartford and not included in any head-to-head matchups. Kenny Perry is the 8-1 favorite.