05/23/2005 12:00AM

Big field trumps Smarty in Preakness


Last Saturday, Nevada set Preakness Day records across the board, with $2,423,166 wagered on the race and a total daily handle of $5,449,611, according to James Milkowski, assistant controller for the Las Vegas Dissemination Company, which acts as the wagering hub for the state.

Those figures are a 13-percent increase over last year's Preakness handle of $2.14 million and a 17-percent increase over last year's all-day total of $4.66 million.

Last year's figures were also records at the time, and the conventional wisdom was that the betting last year could be attributed to the popularity of Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones. With Bellamy Road's bandwagon dismantled in the Derby following Giacomo's 50-1 upset, this year's Preakness didn't have that dynamic. What it did have was a full field of 14 horses for the first time in 13 years. That led to more combinations for multi-horse wagers, such as the exacta, trifecta, and superfecta, as well multi-race wagers leading into the Preakness, such as doubles, pick threes, and pick fours.

Station Twin Q paid out Sunday

One bet that didn't contribute to the Preakness totals was the twin quinella at Station Casinos, which was canceled Saturday. As it often does on big race days, Station offered a $10,000 twin quinella on the Preakness and the 13th race at Pimlico. House rules state, however, that eight horses must start in each leg, so when the 13th race scratched down from 14 horses to seven, all bets were refunded.

Instead of pulling back the bonus money, Stations rewarded its regular players with a $10,000 twin quinella on Sunday's sixth and ninth races from Hollywood Park. General Antonio, the 2-1 favorite, beat 32-1 longshot Ice Cole in the sixth, leaving just 25 bettors alive. When Aeblus, who was bet down from a morning line of 20-1 to the fourth choice at 5-1, won the ninth over 2-1 favorite Nucaya, only four people had the winning combination and collected $2,500 apiece.

Station resumes its regular $5,000 twin quinella promotion on Wednesday.

Other Preakness notes

The all-day handle Saturday was boosted by Afleet Alex winning as the 3-1 favorite. The cashiers that were lonely on Derby Day, when only a few lucky bettors cashed in on the Giacomo-Closing Argument payoffs, were much busier after the Preakness, with bettors churning their winnings in later races instead of clearing out of the race books like they did on Derby Day.

* Giacomo's loss was a gain for the race books that took odds on whether there would be a Triple Crown winner this year. Bets on all individual horses were obviously losers once again - and with 27 years since the last Triple Crown winner, it's arguable that this is the most profitable future wager for bet-takers, maybe second only to those who book futures bets on a Cubs World Series win.

Of course, those who laid 1-10 odds before the Derby that no horse would sweep the Triple Crown, or the 1-20 odds after Giacomo's Derby win, also were winners, but books are happy to pay off those wagers in exchange for all the money they bank on those who bet it will happen.

* Afleet Alex's winning time of 1:55 was below the over/under of 1:55.70 posted at Caesars Entertainment properties, which was very impressive considering he clipped heels with Scrappy T at the top of the stretch, stumbled, and had to regain his momentum.

Sports book notes

Lamon Brewster successfully defended his WBO heavyweight title in Chicago after knocking out Andrew Golota in 53 seconds. That's not a record for shortest fight, but it has to be the shortest one with three knockdowns. Brewster was as high as a 5-2 underdog at some books despite being the titleholder, but was bet down to 9-5 before the fight.

* Did you hear last week's news out of Italy that some racehorses had tested positive for Viagra? In another Viagra-aided victory, Mark Martin, who drives the Viagra-sponsored car, won the Nextel Cup All-Star Challenge last Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He was the co-sixth choice at 10-1.

* Kenny Perry romped to a seven-stroke victory Sunday in the PGA Tour's stop at The Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas. The Las Vegas Hilton had Perry as a 25-1 longshot. This week, he is the 10-1 second choice in the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., behind David Toms at 7-1.

* The NBA's conference finals began Sunday with the Spurs upsetting the Suns, 121-114, in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. The Suns had been bet from a 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-point favorite. Although the Suns have home-court advantage and would likely be favored in the majority of the games, Vegas sports books had the Spurs as a -140 favorite to win the series. The Suns were installed as a 4-point favorite for Tuesday's Game 2. The Miami Heat, the No. 1 seed in the East, was also a 4-point choice over the Detroit Pistons in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday, with Game 2 set for Wednesday.