09/04/2002 12:00AM

Bailey's backers unseated in prop bet


When the Saratoga meet opened six weeks ago, the conventional wisdom was that Jerry Bailey would capture the jockey title for most wins. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

The New Frontier created a pool in which Bailey was the 2-3 favorite, but those low odds didn't deter a lot of people. Bettors obviously must have thought race and sports book director Rob Terch was giving away money (and the potential return on investment was still better than people can get from a bank or the stock market) because they pounded Bailey down to 1-5, and still kept betting him.

John Velazquez had opened as the second choice at 5-1, and the first big bet was on him, so Terch lowered Velazquez to 4-1. As more money came in on Bailey, Terch raised the odds on most of other riders as they fell further and further behind Bailey, but there weren't many takers. Meanwhile, Edgar Prado, who was the third betting choice at 8-1, remained at those odds throughout the betting.

"Bailey got off to a really hot start and looked like he would run away with the title," Terch said, "so we closed the betting a week later."

To everyone's surprise, Prado made up the ground on Bailey and overtook him, pulling off to win by 10 winning rides, 54 to 44 for Bailey. That was a good result for the New Frontier, as it held onto a lot of bets on Bailey and had to pay off relatively few on Prado, despite those being at higher odds.

It was a different story with the Del Mar jockey prop. Alex Solis opened as the 3-1 favorite with Patrick Valenzuela, fresh off the Hollywood jockey title, at 7-2. With the expectation of a much more balanced jockey race, the New Frontier kept the prop open for several weeks, well into the month of August. Terch said the biggest bets he took were on Solis and Valenzuela.

"It was close until a couple of weeks ago, and Valenzuela has really taken over," Terch said.

Going into this Wednesday's card - with closing day next Wednesday - Valenzuela had 39 winners and a comfortable lead over the next two in the standings, Laffit Pincay Jr. (28) and Victor Espinoza (24).

"We're happy with how these wagers went, and we're looking to do more," Terch said, hinting that the New Frontier might do something tied to the Arc D'Triomphe on Oct. 6.

Books pocket Street Cry future bets

Speaking of races in the future, the Breeders' Cup Classic future wagers were greatly affected by the retirement of Street Cry, who had been the 5-1 favorite at both Coast Casinos and Park Place Entertainment casinos.

Both race books were able to lock up all the money bet on Street Cry and send it to the bank.

"It's unfortunate, but that's part of racing," said John Avello, director of race and sports at Bally's and Paris, which are both part of the Park Place chain. "That's why we put up early odd and give a fair price, because there's that risk that the horse won't make it to the race."

Frank Minervini, oddsmaker for the Coast Casinos, said he had some liability on Street Cry, but not as much as people might think.

"He would have been a minimal loss, but I always liked him so the odds were never too high on Street Cry," Minervini said.

Avello said War Emblem and Repent are two of the horses he has the most liability on, while Minervini points to War Emblem, Came Home, Lido Palace, and Harlan's Holiday.

There was value to be found in last weekend's Breeders' Cup pari-mutuel pools.

In the Classic alone, Came Home closed at 12-1 (he's 6-1 at Coast Casinos), Medaglia d'Oro at 13-1 (he's now the Coast favorite at 5-1), and Harlan's Holiday at 35-1 (he's another steam horse and has been bet all the way down to 7-1 at Coast).

Four out of six isn't bad

A rumor was going around earlier this week that a group at Sam's Town, led by Gordon Jones had taken down the $220,000 pick six on Sunday at Del Mar.

Jones does the "Track Talk" radio show Wednesdays through Sundays at 7:30 a.m. on KLAV AM-1230 (samstownlv.com) and posts his picks every day in the back of the race book. When he's in town, he also puts together pick six tickets - and more recently pick fours - with customers, and the race book reaches a fever pitch when they're going for a big score.

Alas, the Sam's Town group didn't have the pick six, but the rumor wasn't without some merit. The winning ticket in question was for the pick four.

Jones and his group had used the favorite, Espy ($4 to win), in the sixth race and then On the Big Screen ($13) in the seventh and Delta Form ($43.60) in the eighth race, the Del Mar Handicap.

In the ninth race, the group had the 7-5 morning-line favorite, Unchain the Stars, and the 9-2 third choice, Oceans of Love, on two live tickets. But it was an alternate ticket with 20-1 longshot Phone in the Zone that they were pulling for the most.

Phone in the Zone came through, taking the lead in the stretch and holding off Unchain the Stars, who had been bet down to 4-5. Phone in the Zone paid $40 to win and capped a pick four that paid a healthy $7,307.

Not as lucrative as the pick six, but nothing to shake a whip at.