07/29/2004 11:00PM

Coming soon: Juvenile futures


Since John Avello is the race and sports director for the Caesars Entertainment-owned Bally's and Paris Las Vegas casinos, you would think he might be preoccupied with the proposed buyout of Caesars by Harrah's Entertainment.

Instead, Avello is busy opening the new card room at Bally's and overseeing race book promotions during the Del Mar and Saratoga meets. He's also monitoring Thoroughbreds around the world and adjusting odds on his Breeders' Cup future book, for which he has hung odds on six of the eight races that will be run at Lone Star Park Oct. 30.

Avello has been doing this for years - more than he would like to admit. But, for race players around the country who come here looking for a betting bargain, Avello's efforts are appreciated.

On Thursday, Avello was sharpening his pencil for the final pair of Breeders' Cup future-book races - the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies.

Making the opening numbers for the juveniles is a much tougher job than for the other divisions, Avello said, because not much information is available on the 2-year-olds.

"In the other races, you have horses who have already performed in stakes, and their PP's," he said.

Avello goes by the standards that most handicappers apply when betting on the babies: "Breeding, the connections, and publications like the Daily Racing Form Players Guides are all resources that help me make the opening odds."

The next few weeks of racing at Del Mar and Saratoga will have a major impact on the odds of those juveniles heading for Texas.

When it comes to predicting which juveniles will take to the two turns of the Breeders' Cup races - or, later, older horses in the 1 1/4 miles of the Kentucky Derby - Avello has learned to keep an open mind.

"In recent years, breeding is not as an important barometer as in the past," he said. "Take Smarty Jones. On pedigree alone he didn't stand a chance. Next thing you know, he's an undefeated Derby winner. The mainstay connections, like Todd Pletcher, Nick Zito and, of course, Bob Baffert on the West Coast, are the ones to watch. They always have the promising babies and know what to do with the talent.

"This year, because the event will be held at Lone Star Park, you have to pay special attention to the Steve Asmussen angle, with his 2-year-olds."

Avello is disappointed that Breeders' Cup is not holding its parimutuel future book this year.

"Yeah, I liked the parimutuel future book offering, and so did the customers," he said. "On those weekends when the future-book wagering overlapped each other, customers shopped for the best odds on their picks. And, sometimes it was the parimutuel pool that offered the better price."

Avello offered both future books at his casinos. He said the competition from the parimutuel book didn't affect his future book's bottom line.

On Aug. 16, Avello will open both future books on the Breeders' Cup juvenile races. So, who will be the favorites? Well, Avello hasn't finalized those spots, although he is leaning toward Chandtrue for the Juvenile and Classic Elegance for the Juvenile Fillies.

Ralph Siraco is turf editor for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the Race Day Las Vegas radio show.