11/07/2013 3:05PM

Dave Tuley: Nevada race and sports books handle $7.26 million on Breeders' Cup


LAS VEGAS – The death of horse racing has been greatly exaggerated – at least here for the big events.

While the Super Bowl and March Madness are seen as the kingpins of Las Vegas tourism, horse racing held its own again this past weekend with all those who chose to take in the Breeders’ Cup festivities here as opposed to going to Santa Anita just a state (and a one-hour flight or four-hour drive) away.

Vinny Magliulo of the Las Vegas Dissemination Company, which serves as the wagering hub for the state’s race books, said handle on the 14 Breeders’ Cup races last Friday and Saturday was $7.26 million, up $631,000 over last year. However, Magliulo pointed out that the Kentucky Derby handled $5.86 million this past May, so that’s still the single biggest race of the year by far, but the Breeders’ Cup helped spur overall horse racing handle of $9.86 million over the two days, up $420,000 from last year.

All that is parimutuel, so the books were very happy with their percentage.

John Avello of the Wynn Las Vegas also said he was very happy with the overall handle, though he didn’t fare as well with the results of his future books (which he books himself, so he doesn’t have a guaranteed profit as with parimutuel wagering).

Mucho Macho Man’s win in the Classic was a small loss for the Wynn, said Avello, who offered futures on eight of the BC races. He said the Juvenile (New Year’s Day) and Sprint (Secret Circle) were good for the house and that he also avoided what would have been a big loss had the Turf (Magician) been won by The Fugue. Avello said he lost on the Dirt Mile (Goldencents), Distaff (Beholder), Filly and Mare Turf (Dank), and Mile (Wise Dan).

“I took a pretty big bet on Wise Dan at 9-5 six weeks ago and was never able to make up for that,” Avello said. “We did pretty good on the head-to-head matchups, so overall no complaints.”

Avello posts his odds for the Eclipse Award winners, but they’re for entertainment purposes only and usually have prohibitive favorites in most of the categories anyway.

With the Breeders’ Cup behind us, the attention now turns to Kentucky Derby futures. Honor Code, whose trainer, Shug McGaughey, and owners chose to bypass the Breeders’ Cup, is still the 10-1 favorite at the Wynn.

New Year’s Day, who Avello said was bet down from 65-1 to 30-1 last week prior to his Juvenile win, is now the 15-1 second choice. Havana, the Juvenile runner-up, is 20-1, along with Tap It Rich, who Avello said is his biggest liability at the moment as bettors keep pounding him anytime his odds are raised.

Avello said the other horse seeing significant future-book action is Ria Antonia, who was put up via disqualification as the 32-1 winner of the Juvenile Fillies. Avello posted her at 300-1 this past Monday, but she has been bet down to 125-1.

Back to the betting board

Last week, my NCAA pick won easily, with Minnesota not only covering the +9.5 but beating Indiana outright in overtime. The NFL picks didn’t fare so well, as it looked like both the Falcons and Bills would hold on to cover against the Panthers and Chiefs, but both got run over late.

Houston +10.5 vs. Cent. Florida

Central Florida is a deserving favorite with its 6-1 record and signature 38-35 upset win over Louisville, but Houston is 7-1 and this is for the top spot in the American Athletic Conference. I don’t feel there’s that much difference between these two teams. If the line was closer to a field goal, I would definitely pass, and maybe even if it was around a touchdown. But double digits is too much to resist in a game that should be a back-and-forth shootout that could very well come down to who has the last possession.

PLAY: Houston for 1 unit.

Raiders +7 vs. Giants

The Giants won their last two games before their bye, but I still don’t think they’ve been consistent enough this year to warrant being a touchdown favorite against a Raiders team that has been mostly competitive (and I don’t expect the Giants to be able to rack up seven TDs like the Eagles did last week). This looks more like a field-goal-type game.

PLAY: Raiders for 1 unit.

Chargers +7 vs. Broncos

The Chargers have shown they can play with anyone (beat the Cowboys, who nearly knocked off the Broncos) but also have shown they sometimes play down to the level of their competition, like in their loss to the Redskins last week. But that shouldn’t be an issue this week in a key game as both teams are chasing the Chiefs in the AFC West.

PLAY: Chargers for 1 unit.

NCAA record: 4-5 for net loss of 1.5 units (based on risking 1.1 to win 1). NFL record: 6-10 for a net loss of 5 units.