05/02/2013 12:26PM

Dave Tuley: Vegas books hoping for longshot in Kentucky Derby


LAS VEGAS – For the past dozen years or so, there have been two questions I’ve been asked far and away the most during Derby Week.

No. 1: Who do you like?

No. 2: Where’s the best place to watch the race?

For the first, I’ll answer that at the bottom of the column. For the second, I’ll give my stock answer that it’s still the Orleans and South Point that throw the biggest and best parties open to the public, with big-screen TVs, food and drink specials. and plenty of betting windows. If you’re coming to town and looking for other alternatives, the suggestion is to grab the Las Vegas Review-Journal when you get off the plane and see who is advertising viewing parties (this goes for Breeders’ Cup as well, or just about any major event).

But this year I have a clear No. 3 question: “What horse would hurt the future books the most?”

This is a direct result of last year’s result when I’ll Have Another won at 15-1. In last year’s Derby Day column in this space, I passed on the quote from Dan Shapiro of the Lucky’s Race & Sports Books (now owned by William Hill): “We got hit at 200-1 on I’ll Have Another well before he even won the Robert B. Lewis,” Shapiro said. “Someone in Southern California knew something.”

As we later found it, it was in fact trainer Doug O’Neill and his stable that had pounded their horse and gave Lucky’s its first Derby future-book loss in its four years since the company began.

So it’s natural that people want to know which trainers or owners (as was the case of Team Funny Cide in 2003) have the confidence to back their own horses. Well, as usual, we don’t have any proof ahead of time – and let’s not be naive enough to think that there haven’t been waaaaaaaay more losing bets over the years from Derby-bound connections with dollar signs in their eyes.

“Again, we’re going to be cheering against Doug O’Neill as Goldencents is one of the Derby entrants that we would lose overall if they won the race,” Shapiro said, though he emphasized that it wasn’t any comparable big bets to one the O’Neill barn hit last year. “Goldencents has been pretty well known for a while, so we only opened him at 50-1 last fall, and he has taken action throughout, including a big bet at 30-1 before his Santa Anita Derby victory.”

Shapiro said that Verrazano, winner of the Wood Memorial is actually William Hill’s biggest liability, with Orb and Revolutionary also posing small losses.

John Avello of Wynn Las Vegas, which put up the first 2013 Derby futures in town back in September, said Orb is his worst-case scenario.

“He opened at 200-1, and he’s had a lot of support,” Avello said, “and that’s not just from long ago. I took some pretty good-sized bets on him at 6-1 a few weeks ago and even at 4-1 last week.”

Just like at William Hill, Avello said a longshot would be much better for his future book.

“When you have a lot of the top contenders sticking around for a long time, you’re going to accumulate a lot of tickets on them since people know they’re going to make the race,” Avello said.

Don’t try to sell Bob Baffert on the thought that there haven’t been too many defections in this Derby class as he is without a starter for the first time since 2008. In fact, Avello had a prop at the Wynn that pitted Baffert vs. Todd Pletcher and asked whose horse would have the best finish. Note to Baffert backers: If you made that wager, you have a refund coming as the rules stated that each trainer must have at least one Derby starter. For those who backed Pletcher, you also get a refund and are excused if you feel you had a bad beat.

Like any other big sporting event, there is no shortage of proposition bets available in addition to head-to-head matchups. After Wednesday’s draw, Avello adjusted the prop on whether the winner’s saddlecloth number would be odd or even. Before the draw it was –110 each way, but after most of the top contenders drew even post positions (Revolutionary and Normandy Invasion are the only lower-priced horses that are odd) Avello made even –260.

Also before the draw, the grouping of posts Nos. 16-20 was the longest shot on the board at 7-2, but after Orb drew No. 16 that caused Avello to make it the 2-1 favorite. Nos. 1-5 is 5-2, No. 11-15 is 13-5, and No. 6-10 is 3-1.

The over/under for the winning time is 2:01.80. The over has been bet from –110 to –130, mostly with early bettors taking a shot that it might rain and have the track come up slower. The over/under on the winning mutuel price is $19.50, with the under at –125 (that group is expected to only include Orb, Verrazano, Goldencents, and possibly Revolutionary).

William Hill posted its odds to win the Triple Crown this week. Orb and Verrazano are offered at 15-1 apiece (not as a pair!). At the Wynn, Orb has received the most support as he’s been bet down to 10-1.

And now back to that first question:

Tuley the Tout’s picks: 1. It’smyluckyday. 2, Goldencents. 3. Orb. Longshot: Black Onyx.