10/26/2004 11:00PM

Cup action spills out all over town


LAS VEGAS - With Lone Star selling only 51,000 seats for this Saturday's Breeders' Cup, Las Vegas is definitely BC West, as about that many people will attend the race books and parties here.

Hundreds of horseplayers arrived early for the Coast to Coast Breeders' Cup Shootout at the Gold Coast and Suncoast on Wednesday and Thursday and the Pick the Ponies Invitational at the Las Vegas Hilton on Wednesday through Friday, and now they will be joined by thousands of fans coming into town for the Breeders' Cup itself.

After poring over the past performances, it doesn't hurt to listen to how other handicappers view the races, so Bally's is again hosting the Breeders' Cup Handicapping Seminar in the Grand Ballroom from 7-9 p.m. Pacific. The program will air live locally on KSHP AM-1400 and will be streamed live on the Internet at drf.com.

Ralph Siraco, host of the "Raceday Las Vegas" radio show and turf editor of the Las Vegas Sun, will be the master of ceremonies. He will be joined onstage by me as well as the Las Vegas Review-Journal's turf editor, Richard Eng, also a contributor to Daily Racing Form; Daily Racing Form's pedigree handicapping columnist, Lauren Stich; and special guest Laffit Pincay Jr.

Attendees will be able to discuss the races with the panel afterward, so the main focus of the program will be live call-ins from Lone Star Park with jockey John Velazquez, the Racing Form's publisher, Steven Crist, the Form's national handicapper, Mike Watchmaker, and DRF's Southern California handicapper, Brad Free.

In addition, famed equine artist Fred Stone will adding culture to the event with a showing of his work.

* With Sam's Town not doing its Friday night seminar this year, the only other offering is at the Stratopshere at 6 p.m. with race book host Jay Kessler and Jerry Jacovitz of "Jerry J's Power Page."

* In Saturday's editions, I'll take a look at some parties around town and special Vegas-only wagers available on the Breeders' Cup card.

Football handicapping help, too

Following the Breeders' Cup Seminar at 9 p.m. Friday, the Stardust Invitational football handicapping tournament will take place on the other end of the radio dial at KDWN AM-720 (and at kdwn.com). Professional handicappers Ted Sevransky and Al McMordie will face off in the final first-round matchup of the 16-player single-elimination tournament. Both will give out their seven top plays of the week, with a best bet to be used as a tiebreaker.

Last week, radio host "Papa" Joe Chevalier advanced with a victory over Mark Franco. Both went 4-3 but Chevalier won his best bet on the Chiefs -4 while Franco lost on the Jets-Patriots over 43 1/2. The contest went down to Monday night's game, as Chevalier had the Bengals while Franco had the Broncos.

* The sports-book-friendly results of last weekend's NFL schedule took its toll on a lot of leaders in the Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest as many of them came back to the pack, but a contestant using the alias of "4U2NV" navigated the minefield for a 3-2 week to take over the lead with a record of 24-10-1. "TMW" leapfrogged past a lot of players with a 4-1 week to move into second place at 24-11.

* In the Station Casinos' Gambler's Challenge, "Colts" went 4-1 to take over the lead at 24-10-1. The name "Colts" is actually an acronym for the saying "Count on losing this Sunday," according to the handicapper, who hasn't been doing that in recent weeks. "The Huntsville Moo" is a game back at 23-11-1.

Busch leads Nascar standings

Heading into Sunday's Bass Pro Shops 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the final four races of the Nascar Nextel Cup season schedule, Kurt Busch leads the point standings by 96 over Jeff Gordon and 125 over Dale Earnhardt Jr. Station Casinos now has Busch as the 5-7 favorite to win the driver's title after he opened as the co-ninth choice at 9-1 when the final top 10 drivers to be eligible for the title was determined last month.

In the Sept. 17 issues of DRF, I wrote, "the live longshot could be Busch . . ."

His chances are much better now, but Gordon also does well at the remaining tracks and is a strong second choice at 10-11 with Earnhardt Jr. at 11-5.

Jimmie Johnson has the next-lowest odds at 15-1, and he is the co-favorite with Junior at 7-1 for Sunday's race. Gordon and Tony Stewart are next at 8-1, with Ryan Newman at 9-1 and Busch at 10-1.

Pro basketball tips off Tuesday

After this weekend, Breeders' Cup will be behind us, the baseball season will be over, and the hockey season will have never begun. But that doesn't mean football will have our undecided attention because the NBA season begins Tuesday night.

For the first time since 1998 (which coincided with Michael Jordan's second retirement from the Bulls), the Lakers are not the favorite. Las Vegas Sports Consultants actually opened the Lakers as the 9-5 when releasing future-book odds during last season's playoffs, but the trade that sent Shaquille O'Neal to Miami and the second retirement of coach Phil Jackson has left the defending champion Pistons as a lukewarm 3-1 favorite heading into the season.

The Spurs are the second choice at 7-2, followed by the Timberwolves at 4-1, the Pacers at 9-2, the Kings and Heat at 7-1 and the Lakers and Rockets at 8-1.

Those odds are just a recommendation by LVSC (which doesn't actually accept bets), so a tour of Vegas sports books this past week showed that the highest odds available on the Pistons was 6-1 at the Las Vegas Hilton. Other top odds on top contenders were the Timberwolves at 6-1 at the Terrible's Hotel-Casino on Flamingo Road, the Pacers at 10-1 at Caesars Palace and its networked books, the Kings at 8-1 at Terrible's, the Heat at 9-1 at the Hilton, the Rockets at 12-1 at the Hilton and the Lakers at a whopping 20-1 at the Hilton, which easily has the lowest takeout in its NBA futures.

In the Hilton's regular season over/under win totals, the Spurs have the highest total at 56 1/2, followed by the Timberwolves at 56, with the Pistons at 55 1/2, the Pacers at 54 1/2, the Kings and Heat at 50 1/2, and the Rockets at 50. The Lakers have been bet down from 46 1/2 to 45 1/2. The lowest number is on the expansion Charlotte Bobcats at 16 1/2.