12/21/2002 1:00AM

Bally's new tourney is pricey

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LAS VEGAS - Bally's Las Vegas is raising the bar on high-end handicapping tournaments.

John Avello, race and sports book director at Bally's, the host of next month's Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship, announced Friday that Bally's Moolah on April 18-19 will have an entry fee of $5,000 and be limited to 30 players.

Contestants will make 15 plays a day - six on mandatory races and nine on races of their own choosing from Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Pimlico, Keeneland, and Santa Anita. Points will be based on mythical $2 win and place wagers (capped at 25-1 to win and 12-1 to place), plus a 5-point bonus for each first-place finisher.

First place will be worth $70,000, with $20,000 for second, and $10,000 for third. There are also daily prizes of $12,500 for first place, $7,500 for second, and $5,000 for third.

The winner will also earn a berth in the 2004 DRF/NTRA finals.

Bally's will continue to host its other tournament, Summer Stakes III, on Aug. 1-2. That one has an entry fee of $1,000, with the top three finishers also qualifying for the DRF/NTRA tournament.