10/22/2002 11:00PM

Cup makes for biggest day of the year


LAS VEGAS - Seminars. Giveaways. Special proposition wagers. Drawings. Parties, parties, parties.

If there was any question whether Breeders' Cup Day has surpassed the Kentucky Derby as the biggest day in horse racing, a look at the events and betting opportunities this weekend in the race books of Nevada should remove all doubts. The Derby is the biggest race of the year, but it's blown away by Saturday's full menu of eight championship races.


The festivities begin Friday night with seminars in Las Vegas and one up north in Reno.

The biggest will be in the Concorde Room at the Paris Las Vegas hotel from 7-9 p.m. Ralph Siraco, Richard Eng, Lauren Stich, Brad Free, and I will be there in person, and there will be live calls from Steve Crist, Andrew Beyer, Mike Watchmaker, Alan Shuback, and jockeys Jerry Bailey and Kent Desormeaux. The program can also be heard locally on KSHP-AM-1400 and on the Internet at kshp.com and drf.com.

On the east side of town, Sam's Town will host a seminar from 6-8 p.m. with Gordon Jones and his "Track Talk" radio team of Patrick McQuiggan, Bruce Finkelstein, Joanne Jones and Vic Video. To the south, Jerry Jacovitz will hold a 7-9 p.m. seminar at the Sunset Station in suburban Henderson.

Way up north in Reno, the Hilton has a 6:30-8:30 p.m. seminar hosted by Steve Fierro and Jon Lindo. After they preview each race, a drawing will be held for $100 in parimutuel wagers on that race. Winners must bet the whole amount on the race they won on, and get to keep anything they cash.

Parties and Promotions

The celebration really begins Saturday as every race book in Nevada will be standing room only. Many hotels set up separate showrooms with movie-size screens and betting windows to accommodate the masses.

The biggest of these public parties - the private ones, which are usually hosted by Strip properties, require an invitation - are held at the Coast Casinos. The Orleans will use its Mardi Gras Ballroom. If you haven't received tickets in the mail (which include free food and refreshments), they can be obtained in the race book for a $20 wager. The Suncoast will have a big party in its grand ballroom, and the Gold Coast will also open its showroom. Breeders' Cup T-shirts will also be available with a $20 wager.

Station Casinos will also hold a party in its Jazz Club with food and drink specials. All Stations will offer a special $10,000 twin quinella wager in which players have to have the one-two finishers in one Cup race (to be determined) and then the one-two finishers in the Classic. Tickets are based on $2 per betting combination. All Stations also will give away BC T-shirts for a $20 bet.

The Rio is having a promotion in which raffle tickets will be given for each $20 wager, with prizes being $100 vouchers for the next Cup race.

The Imperial Palace has the biggest money-making promotion. Their weekly handicapping contest - the only one in town currently held on a Saturday - will have an entry fee of $20 and have payouts of $1,600 for first, $800 for second and $400 for third. There is also a "halftime" prize for the leader at the halfway point. This is usually called the "sprint" bonus, but they changed it because of the race of the same name.

But the big money is in the weekly progressive jackpot, which has grown to $8,770, and there is a mandatory payout this Saturday. Based on an expected 250 entries, that could result in a windfall of $13,800 to the contest's winner.

The IP will also have drawings throughout the day in which bettors put their losing tickets in a drum. That is open to everyone, even those who don't enter the contest.

Head-to-head matchups

The most popular proposition wagers on big racing days are head-to-head matchups. This year, the Breeders' Cup is offering parimutuel matchups as part of the betting menu. The race books in Nevada welcome the competition.

"It's good for the industry," said John Avello, director of race and sports at Bally's and Paris. "Not every property has matchups, so this will allow everyone to get involved."

Avello's matchups - there will be two in each race and three in the Classic - will be available at all Park Place Entertainment casinos (Bally's, Paris, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas Hilton, Flamingo, and properties in Laughlin and the Reno-Tahoe area). The Coast Casinos (Orleans, Gold Coast, Barbary Coast, Suncoast) will also have at least two per race, plus some other interesting props from oddsmaker Frank Minervini. And Hugh Citron, race book supervisor at Mandalay Bay, promises high limits on their head-to-head matchups.

Among the different props that Minervini was working on Wednesday after the post position draw were Rock of Gibraltar vs. the field in the Mile (which means you can bet against the favorite without having to pick the exact winner) and a fillies, mares, and geldings vs. colts and horses prop in the Sprint.

"These are a lot of fun," Minervini said. "The problem with the parimutuel bets they've done before is that they flash them up on the screen for 10 seconds and that's it. And our customers like the fixed odds here, because they know what they're getting when they go to the window."