07/16/2006 11:00PM

Books can hardly wait for Del Mar


Wednesday is a day that horseplayers and race book managers in Vegas have long awaited.

After the Triple Crown, things tend to slow down during the summer. But then opening day at Del Mar provides a jump-start and the players come back.

It's also a good thing for players, because the books tend to loosen the purse strings a little and offer more wagering options to attract their share of the anticipated increase in the handle.

The most aggressive marketing blitz has been put into motion by the Station Casinos family (Red Rock, Palace, Sunset, Boulder, Texas, Green Valley Ranch, Santa Fe, and the Fiesta Rancho), which has been running its Jumbo Race Jackpot promotion that randomly awarded customers just for playing, with prizes ranging from $5,000 to $15,000.

Starting Wednesday, Station is tweaking the promotion, guaranteeing daily jackpots throughout the Del Mar meeting.

To participate in the promotion, you need to sign up for a Boarding Pass player's card, and you'll be able to enter every time you make a bet. (There's a 10-minute waiting period between eligible wagers, which will keep people from making continuous $2 show bets to try to steal the pool.) The prize will start at $500 and will have to be hit by the time it goes to $1,000. When a prize is claimed, the clock will start again with another chance to win. Sunset Station race and sports book manager Micah Roberts said there could be up to three winners in a day.

* The Gold Coast Summer Classic, with a $400 entry fee, is this Thursday through Saturday, so the Coast Casinos won't be holding their weekly handicapping contests this week. They will resume next Wednesday and Thursday and run through the Del Mar meet.

* The Imperial Palace is continuing its "Win a Day at the Races" promotion. Customers put losing wagers of $20 or more into a drum, and on July 29 the winner of an Aug. 5 trip to Del Mar will be drawn.

* In calling around town, the only special Del Mar wager is being offered at the New Frontier. Race and sports book director Tony Nevill has created two teams of jockeys, and the bet is to figure out which foursome will have the most wins at Del Mar. Team A is Patrick Valenzuela, Martin Garcia, Corey Nakatani, and Jon Court. Team B is Victor Espinoza, Alex Solis, Tyler Baze, and Juan Ochoa.

"I looked back at last year's Del Mar stats, plus the closing stats at Santa Anita and how they're winding down at Hollywood, and I tried to get it as fair and balanced as possible," Nevill said.

Both bets are -115 (risk $1.15 for every $1 you want to profit), and the price will be adjusted as the results come in. Nevill said he'll keep it up for at least the first two weeks and then see where it stands.

"It's pretty volatile," he said. "One group can sweep the card and make up eight wins or so in one day. I'll keep it up as long as it's competitive. Last year, it went down to the final day, but one time a team got up by 10-12 wins and never looked back."

Weekend sports book notes

Leading up to their fight Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, there were a lot of signs that Sugar Shane Mosley wouldn't have too much trouble with Fernando Vargas. Despite Vargas's comments to the contrary, Mosley dominated their first fight, and most experts expected him to do it again. Even the name given to the bout - "The Rematch" - wasn't too inspiring.

The biggest pre-fight drama was whether Vargas would be able to have Gatorade in his corner instead of water. The Nevada Athletic Commission granted him permission on Wednesday, but then Friday it was overturned on appeal when Mosley's camp protested.

Despite all the signs that Mosley was the better fighter and more focused, money poured in on Vargas in the hours before the fight, and he went from +170 to +150.

The crowd of 9,722 at the MGM was more in favor of Vargas in the pre-fight introductions and early in the bout, until Mosley clearly took over the action. He won every round on every judge's scorecard leading up to the sixth round, when he landed a vicious left hook that sent Vargas to the mat with about a minute remaining. Vargas landed on his back and stumbled twice while trying to get up. Referee Tony Weeks allowed him to continue, but Mosley jumped on Vargas right away, landing three or four solid blows, and Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the 2:38 mark.

* Las Vegas native Kyle Busch won Sunday's Lennox Industrial Tools 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway as the 12-1 co-seventh choice at Station Casinos.

* Actor Jack Wagner, best known for roles on "General Hospital" and "Melrose Place" won the 17th annual American Century Championship, the top celebrity golf event, at Edgewood Golf Club in South Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

Wagner, whom Caesars Palace had at 8-1 as the co-fourth betting choice, made a 14-foot birdie putt on the final hole to become the first non-professional athlete to win the ACC.

Preview of British Open

This weekend's British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England, won't be lacking for story lines, with Tiger Woods still dealing with the death of his father as well as missing his first cut as a pro in a major, plus Phil Mickelson answering all the questions about his collapse in the U.S. Open.

The Las Vegas Hilton has Woods as the 9-2 favorite and Mickelson as the second choice at 11-1. The rest of the "big five" are Ernie Els and Vijay Singh at 14-1 and Retief Goosen at 18-1.

Head-to-head matchups were available on Monday morning (Woods is -190 vs. Mickelson, Singh is -120 vs. Els, for example) but proposition wagers weren't to be released until later Monday or Tuesday, depending on several factors, including the ever-changing weather forecasts.