07/21/2002 11:00PM

Ciao, dog days. Hello, Spa and Del Mar


The resort meetings begin Wednesday at Saratoga and Del Mar, injecting excitement into the dog days of summer at the race and sports books in Las Vegas.

Most books tie their handicapping contests and promotions to the afternoon cards at Del Mar, but Rob Terch, race and sports book director at The New Frontier, tries to give Saratoga equal billing. Terch is again offering odds on the top jockey at each of the premier meets.

Terch has made Jerry Bailey a 2-3 favorite to win the Saratoga jockey title, followed by John Velazquez (5-1), Edgar Prado (8-1), Pat Day (10-1), Jose Santos (12-1), Jorge Chavez (15-1), Richard Migliore (20-1), and the field at 30-1.

Alex Solis is a 3-1 favorite at Del Mar, followed by Hollywood Park champ Pat Valenzuela (7-2), Laffit Pincay Jr. (4-1), Victor Espinoza (9-2), Kent Desormeaux (6-1), David Flores (8-1), Mike Smith (12-1), Corey Nakatani (15-1), Gary Stevens (20-1), and the field at 25-1.

Terch said he will keep the odds up for at least a week, adjusting them as wagers are made.

Other promotions and contests tied to the start of the Del Mar meet:

* The Palms will have drawings after Del Mar's 3rd, 5th, and 8th races on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. The first ticket drawn after those races will win a $200 comp at the Nine Steakhouse. A second winner will receive a Palms polo shirt. Horseplayers earn drawing tickets based on their play at the windows (two tickets for a minimum of $16 in bets, up to 10 tickets for $100 wagered).

* Texas Station has mailed coupons to its horse club members, offering a free hot dog and soda for Wednesday's opening-day card. Coupons are also available for drawing tickets (with a $2 race wager) and for free Daily Racing Forms in July and August.

* Station Casinos will continue its seven-property contest (Palace, Boulder, Sunset, Green Valley, Texas, Santa Fe, Fiesta) on Wednesdays, as well as the separate Texas Station contest on Wednesday and the Friday contest at Sunset.

* The Union Plaza is moving its free weekly contest from Thursday to Friday, using the final five races on Del Mar's twilight card. There is a $500 prize for picking the most winners, and another $500 for the highest combined winning mutuels.

Turf odds now up

John Avello, who sets the horse racing odds for the Park Place Entertainment properties (Bally's, Paris, Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Las Vegas Hilton), added the Breeders' Cup Turf last week and now has odds up on six of the eight Cup races to be contested Oct. 26 at Arlington Park.

Beat Hollow, Hawk Wing, and Grandera all opened at 12-1 in the Turf, followed by the trio of Sakhee, Denon, and Super Quercus at 15-1.

The two juvenile races will be added as the top 2-year-old races come up at Saratoga and Del Mar.

* Coast Casinos already has its 2003 Kentucky Derby futures available, and now is the time to bet if you want to find a budding superstar at huge odds among the two dozen 2-year-olds on the list.

Coast oddsmaker Frank Minervini has made Lone Star Sky the 80-1 favorite. Yes, that's the odds on the favorite. Of course, you're taking a big risk since the race is more than nine months away. Inamorato, Kafwain and Run Production are co-second choices at 90-1 and every other hopeful is in triple digits.

Els and the books

Ernie Els won the British Open as the third choice at 15-1. Els had to survive a playoff with three players - Stuart Appleby, Steve Elkington, and Thomas Levet - who were all part of the field wager ranging between 4-1 and 9-1 at Vegas sports books. The Palms has made Woods a 2-1 favorite to win the PGA Championship, to be held Aug. 15-18 at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn. With so many sports books taking bets on Woods to win a certain number of majors, don't be surprised to see higher odds on him in the PGA compared with other recent majors.

* Dan Quinn, a former Pittsburgh Penguin, defended his title as the 2-1 second choice and won $100,000 in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. Quinn said he would give $10,000 to the families of New York firefighters who died on Sept. 11.

Industry wants restrictions eased

The Nevada horse racing industry will get a chance to state its case to the Nevada Gaming Commission at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Grant Sawyer Building, at Las Vegas Boulevard and Washington Avenue, just north of downtown Las Vegas. The hearing was set up to ask regulators to ease some restrictions that have put Nevada's race books, which once paved the way for nationwide full-card simulcasting, behind the times.

Tony Cabot, a gaming lawyer from the firm of Lionel, Sawyer, and Collins, will present an overview of the industry. He will be followed to the podium by Avello, who will discuss the history of horse wagering in the state; John Sullivan, of Las Vegas Dissemination Company, on the decline of horse wagering in Nevada; and Tony Fontaine, vice president of interactive gaming for Station Casinos, on technology and its impact on the future of horse betting and how Nevada needs to keep pace.

The Commission will ask questions of the speakers, and there will also be a period for public comment.