05/09/2005 12:00AM

Bettor turns $32 into $164,168


After Giacomo's shocking 50-1 upset in Saturday's Kentucky Derby, the cashier windows were not too busy in this city's race books. The crowds dispersed quickly.

As exciting as the most exciting two minutes in sports was, it wasn't a very popular result. Except, of course, for the few who were cashing tickets. Everyone cashing an exotic ticket had an IRS form awaiting him or her, but no one was complaining.

One of the lucky ones was Dean St. John of Burbank, Calif. At Bally's, he hit the pick four capped by Giacomo's win, for $164,168.60. His ticket cost a mere $32.

"I had a favorite and a longshot in each race, and only one favorite won," St. John said. "I come here every year with friends, and I just got lucky."

He was sharing his story with Morty Turndorf of Los Angeles, who used a $48 ticket to hit the Derby trifecta for $133,134.80. Turndorf boxed Noble Causeway, Giacomo, Closing Argument, and Afleet Alex.

"I've owned trotters for 25 years but I really don't know anything about Thoroughbreds," Turndorf said. "This is a fluke - but I'll take it."

It's better to be lucky than good.

Turndorf said the only other bet he made was for his son, who wanted $20 on Don't Get Mad. Turndorf didn't get mad when told that he could have had the superfecta if he had added Don't Get Mad to his other horses. The super paid $864,253.50 for a $1 bet to seven lucky winners.

While Turndorf hit the trifecta with a four-horse box, a regular at the Fiesta Rancho racebook (who wished to remain anonymous) hit the tri with a three-horse box, according to Vinny Sanzare, the race and sports book manager at the Fiesta.

The Station casinos had a secret promotion for Derby Day, and it turned out to be a $20,000 twin quinella, double the amount offered in the past. They used the Derby and race 12 at Churchill, but after the Derby, Palace Station sports book director Micah Roberts was already calling media outlets to let them know there was a carryover of $28,680 for Sunday's sixth and ninth races at Hollywood.

On Sunday, there were 29 winning tickets worth $989 apiece.

The Stratosphere's $3,000 twin quinella also was not hit Saturday - and also had no live tickets after the Giacomo-Closing Argument finish - and was claimed by a single player on Sunday for $3,500.

Closing the books on 131st Derby

All in all, it was a great Derby for Vegas race books. Giacomo was a good result for the casinos that had future books.

Most books have had Giacomo between 15-1 and 50-1. There were some tickets out there at 100-1 or so, but they were more than made up for by the tons of torn-up tickets on Bellamy Road, Bandini, Afleet Alex, High Fly, Sun King, and others, as well as colts that fell out on the way to the Derby, such as Declan's Moon, Roman Ruler, and Fusaichi Samurai.

"[Giacomo] was one of the contenders last fall, so his odds were never too high," said Hugh Citron, race and sports book supervisor at Mandalay Bay. "He kept finishing in the money, so you knew he would have the earnings to get in the Derby, so his odds were never raised too much."

In other Derby propositions:

* Despite fast fractions set on the front end by Spanish Chestnut, the final time of 2:02.75 went over the betting number of 2:02.20 posted at Bally's. Avello opened it at -115 each way, and with the expected fast pace and a favorable weather forecast, bettors pounded the under to -270.

* In prop bets at the Plaza downtown, the 20 starters went over the earlier posted total of 18, and the winning mutuel of $102.60 was well over the total of $19.60. The prop on whether a Nick Zito-trained horse would win came in as a "no" as the -140 favorite, and margin of victory was under 2 1/4 lengths. In a different prop, anyone nailing the margin of victory at a half-length collected at 5-1.

So what are the chances of Giacomo winning the Triple Crown? Before the Derby, Bally's oddsmaker John Avello opened him at 150-1 and he was bet down to 100-1 before the race. On Monday, Avello said he was planning to put up revised odds of 13-1 on Giacomo adding the Preakness and Belmont to his resum?. For those wanting to bet against him pulling off the feat, they'll have to lay -1700, risking $17 for every $1 they want to win.

Gorman hits another home run

The Derby festivities here in Vegas started with the Pick the Ponies Invitational handicapping tournament at the Las Vegas Hilton, which ran Wednesday through Friday.

Giacomo and his connections were the weekend's biggest winners from California, and St. John and Turndorf, cited above, did great, too. But Patrick Gorman, from Ontario, Calif., started the Californians' Derby Week success by winning the top prize of $38,000 in the Pick the Ponies.

Gorman won the Hilton contest in 1996 in his very first tournament try. He hadn't been back to the winner's circle since, but he often was seen on the leaderboard, including finishing both second and fourth at the Hilton two years ago.

"In baseball terms, I've hit for the cycle, as I was second in Reno, third at the MGM Grand, and fourth at Cal Neva," said the 58-year-old real estate professional.

Players make 10 mythical $200 across-the-board bets each day, and Gorman was sitting in second place after Thursday with 11,130 points, behind John Ferraro of Clifton Park, N.Y., who had 11,200.

But just like Giacomo leaving the Eastern and Midwestern hopefuls in his wake, Gorman finished with 17,105 points, well ahead of Ferraro at 15,575 and John Steinmetz of Granger, Ind., with 15,015. Ferraro won $19,000, Steinmetz $9,000.

Gorman's big winners on Friday were Chantilly Light ($20) in the fifth race at Calder, Midwatch ($31.60) in the eighth race at Pimlico, and Silver Strings ($14.20) in the sixth race at Belmont. All were on the turf.

"I didn't do anything different," said Gorman. "I just went with my strongest plays, and I put them in 30 minutes before the race. I've found that when I've waited to read the tote board, for every one time it helped me there were six or seven times it hurt me."

Jay Kornegay, director of race and sports at the Hilton, said he is working on possibly adding another tournament in August, perhaps a National Handicapping Championship qualifier in addition to the Pick the Ponies tournament on Oct. 26-28, the three days before the Breeders' Cup.