09/12/2013 4:07PM

Dave Tuley: Vegas oddsmaker set to release Kentucky Derby futures


LAS VEGAS – I really respect when an oddsmaker puts out the first numbers before anyone else (and the bettors that match wits with him).

Most modern-day sports books wait until they see the lines at other books in Las Vegas and offshore and then put up a “safe” number, hoping for two-way action. You could do that part of the job without knowing a single player on any of the teams and how they’re playing or who is injured.

But the originators don’t have that luxury. They do all the grunt work for all the followers and take bets against the lines they generate; sometimes they win, sometimes they lose, sometimes they don’t get enough bets to make it worth their while. There’s been far too many times I’ve seen a sports book take the initiative to post the numbers before anyone else and then see bettors sitting around waiting for their partners to give them a call with numbers from other books so they can decide if there’s sufficient value to make a bet.

Give me the bettors who fire away with their own opinion derived from their own power ratings and don’t need another bookmaker to confirm their opinion that a line is too low or too high.

Now, John Avello has been posting the first NCAA football numbers at 3 p.m. Pacific on Sundays the last few years. This year, some offshore books have been beating him to the punch to try and get some publicity, but he still puts up his own numbers. The LVH puts up its own NFL “openers” at 4:30 p.m. on Sundays. This is in addition to the advance lines put out by the LVH 12 days before the Sunday games.

But back to Avello. While I’m impressed that Avello stuck out his neck with the 46 NCAA games he posted last Sunday at the Wynn, that’s nothing compared to what he was busy preparing to release this Friday at 9 a.m. with more than 150 betting interests: the 2014 Kentucky Derby future book.

It’s not like he can just glance at an odds screen and crib off someone else’s notes. There is no one else that puts out his odds this early, so Avello has to do all the research on how the horses have performed in their 2-year-old races and whether they are being considered for the Derby. He also looks at their pedigrees and many other factors, and then has to settle on a price that’s high enough to attract interest but not too high that he gets hammered.

And let’s not forget that he’s doing this as football season is getting under way, any bookmaker’s busiest time of year with very little time for other sports, let alone the biggest future book of all.

On Thursday, as he was finalizing his odds, Avello said he had three colts at the top of his list in the 40-1 to 50-1 range (odds are subject to change as Avello fine-tunes his future book): Strong Mandate, Grand Arrival, and Honor Code. Strong Mandate is coming off an impressive 9 3/4-length win in the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Honor Code (trained by Shug McGaughey) and Grand Arrival (Nick Zito) each won a maiden race Aug. 31 at Saratoga.

And once Avello posts his opinion, horseplayers will be firing away as the road to the 2014 Derby is now officially under way.

Back to the betting board

Last week, I lost with both my college football plays, on South Carolina and Western Kentucky, to go 0-2 and drop to 2-2 here on the young season. I’m also at .500 in the NFL as I won with the Bills +10 versus the Patriots as they nearly pulled the outright upset in a 23-21 loss, but then lost with the Falcons +3 versus the Saints as they came up just short on their last drive. Let’s try to get back on the winning side of the ledger with a spot play each from Saturday and Sunday.

Boston College +14 vs. USC

USC suffered a stunning 10-7 loss to Washington State last week as a 15-point favorite. Now, USC wasn’t a top contender for the national title (around 50-1 before that game), but it’s usually a good spot to go against teams the week after their dreams of a perfect season have been dashed. USC coach Lane Kiffin is on the hot seat and the two-headed QB rotation of Cody Kessler/Max Wittek isn’t making anyone forget about Matt Barkley, Matt Leinart, or Carson Palmer. Heck, the fans would probably love it if Mark Sanchez had eligibility remaining. The Trojans’ strength is their defense, but I think the BC offense with running back Andre Williams (204 yards last week, albeit against Wake Forest) and the unheralded combo of QB Chase Rettig to WR Alex Amidon can generate enough points to keep the Eagles within two touchdowns.

PLAY: Boston College for 1 unit.

Redskins +7.5 at Packers

Both teams had tough opening matchups. While I certainly don’t downgrade the Packers for losing on the road to the 49ers, I don’t see why this game, which had an advance line of Packers –6 last week, is now over a touchdown. Take away the first half against the Eagles and Robert Griffin III and the Redskins as a whole looked like a much better team. In fact, I think they’ll benefit from playing the fast-paced Philly attack as it’ll look like the Packers are moving in slow motion by comparison. And RG3 poses the same problems for the Green Bay defense that Colin Kaepernick did. I’ll take the inflated points.

PLAY: Redskins for 1 unit.

NCAA record: 2-2 for net loss of 0.2 units (based on risking 1.1 to win 1). NFL record: 1-1 for a net loss of 0.1 units.