06/26/2003 11:00PM

Bejarano, Kuntzweiler bettors' best friends

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - According to the jockey standings, the traditional way of judging success at a race meet, Cornelio Velasquez and Pat Day have been the dominant jockeys at Churchill, with Robby Albarado, John McKee, Mark Guidry, Shane Sellers, and Calvin Borel occupying the next five slots. They deserve plenty of respect for their success. Their goal was to climb aboard as many low-odds contenders as possible, and to win as many races as they could with those well-chosen mounts.

But success for them, and success for bettors are usually two different things. Through June 25, leading jockey Cornelio Velasquez had produced a return of just $1.54 for every $2 bet on all of his mounts. Pat Day fans fared only a few cents better at $1.60. Robby Albarado yielded only $1.41. The modest returns continued with Shane Sellers at $1.64, and Calvin Borel at $1.59.

There is another jockey list that bettors should pay attention to as they prepare their betting strategies for other race meets this year: the unsung heroes who got more run out of their horses than was expected by the betting public. If you made money at this Churchill Downs meeting by tabbing an occasional longshot to win, or by making a score in the exotics, there is a pretty good chance that you have one, or more of them to thank.

Bettors who searched for bargains among the riders who won the most races at this meet probably fared best while playing Mark Guidry, who squeezed out a small profit at a ROI of $2.05 for $2, and John McKee, who was just a bit below break-even ROI at $1.92.

The numbers are more attractive if you sort through the jockeys in the middle of the pack in the win standings. Among riders with at least 10 victories, it was Rafael Bejarano who deserves the most praise. The average win payoff on his winners was $27.13, for a return of $2.60. Greta Kuntzweiler's $23.71 average produced a return of $2.43. One of her winners was Iron General, who provided a welcome boost to my betting bankroll in my analysis column last week at $21.80, a payoff that was right in line with her average. Thanks, Greta. It couldn't have come at a better time.

The trends among the trainers show a different pattern. Some of the top trainers in the standings have also produced solid returns on investment for bettors. Meet leader Dale Romans has been more productive than most who topped the standings in recent years. His $9.69 average win payoff has been high enough to enable bettors to break nearly even on him at $1.97. The same goes for Tom Amoss, who is battling for second place. Although his average win price is lower at $7.94, his 24 percent win rate has generated a $1.96 return. Bernie Flint has been especially productive with an average win price of $16.46 on his 13 winners, for a healthy $2.28 ROI. Tony Reinstedler has been very fortunate to have compiled a record of 11 wins, one second, and one third from 31 starts, for a large profit. But those numbers aren't likely to hold up at that same sky-high rate at future race meetings this year, because they are too strongly slanted toward an uncharacteristically high ratio of wins versus second and third-place finishes.

Among the other leading trainers, Steve Asmussen and Elliott Walden have managed to show returns of $1.70 and $1.74, respectively, which is not much better than the losses that are to be expected from the parimutuel takeout.

D. Wayne Lukas hasn't fared nearly as well with a $1.02 return. The reason? His average win payoff of $7.27 is a little lower than Asmussen's $7.47, and nearly a dollar higher than Walden's $6.38. But his win percentage is 14 percent compared with Asmussen's 22 percent, and Walden's 27 percent. You will need a good reason to like his horses, and a good price to go along with it, if you bet him.