10/27/2003 1:00AM

Dead heat has Avello paying double


LAS VEGAS - John Avello, race and sports book director at Bally's Las Vegas, didn't care who won the photo finish in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Either one was fine by him. He just didn't want the first dead heat in the 20-year history of the Breeders' Cup.

But that's what he got. As a result, Avello is now paying bettors who took High Chaparral (the defending Turf champ was as high as 10-1 and a popular choice) and Johar (opened at 25-1 and closed at 10-1).

"We're paying both sides," Avello said. "It's like getting middled [on a football game]. We might have to change that rule."

Avello looked like he was joking, but we'll keep you posted.

Despite that setback and also losing on Six Perfections and Halfbridled, Avello said the house did "pretty well" on the future books. Bally's and its sister Park Place Entertainment properties are the only Nevada race books to offer future books on all eight Breeders' Cup races.

Avello said the house won on Adoration (mainly because losing bets on Azeri, Sightseek, and other contenders more than made up for any payouts as high as 75-1 on Adoration), Cajun Heat (a late addition at 20-1), Islington (low odds through the betting), Action This Day (another overlooked horse), and Pleasantly Perfect (relatively low odds at 25-1, plus all the banked money on the early defections of Candy Ride, Mineshaft, and Empire Maker).

"I wish every [future book] write was like the Classic," Avello said. "Money is spread out all year and it's hard to get hurt by any one horse. With Halfbridled and a future book like the Juvenile Fillies that doesn't go up until August, there's no way to get the money back on the other horses."

Avello had two to three head-to-head matchups on each race in addition to the parimutuel offerings, but they didn't get much action. He said he wound up losing money on those. The biggest losses were Six Perfections, who was bet from a +120 underdog to a -150 favorite vs. Oasis Dream, and Dynever, who was bet from -105 to -170 vs. Funny Cide. Johar again cost the house by being bet from a +120 dog vs. The Tin Man to a -145 favorite.

More Breeders' Cup betting

All of the above bets, as well as house quinellas, are booked separately and are not part of the nationwide parimutuel handle record of $120 million that was set Saturday in the Breeders' Cup. Of that figure, bettors in Nevada casinos contributed $4.67 million, down 4.1 percent from last year's handle of $4.87 million on the BC card at Arlington.

Betting on the full Santa Anita card was $5.34 million, up 2.3 percent from last year at Arlington. Statewide handle on all races last Saturday was $7.13 million, down 4.7 percent.

Partners pick Ponies

It's common in handicapping tournaments for players to pool their money with partners and buy multiple entries. The top three finishers in last week's Pick the Ponies event at the Las Vegas Hilton were splitting the wealth.

Rachel Leccesse of Las Vegas won the $39,000 first-place prize with partner Javier Jamarillo, who also won this event during Breeders' Cup week in 2000. Leccesse also had an entry that finished ninth, worth an additional $2,000, and added $1,000 for having the third-highest score Thursday.

Longtime friends Steve Koennel of Hightsville, Md., and Tom Dowse of Napa, Calif., decided to meet in Vegas for the BC and play in this tournament. They won $19,000 using a computer-handicapping program developed by Steve Meyer, who was the first-day leader and finished 11th.

The third-place finishers - Alan Hasher of Del Mar, Calif.; Mel Sitkoff of Boca Raton, Fla.; and Donnie Chambers of Orange, Ala. - meet at the Hilton twice a year for the Pick the Ponies tournaments and watch the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup. The trio split $9,000, plus $1,500 for the second-highest score on Thursday.

* Another Las Vegas local who won big was Steve Garofolo. Garofolo won $20,300 in the Imperial Palace's Super Saturday Contest, which drew a record 360 entries. Garofolo was in the middle of the pack until he had Pleasantly Perfect in the Classic, good for 50 contest points (30 for the $30.40 win mutuel, plus a 20-point bonus for the win) and a contest total of 137 on the final six Breeders' Cup races.

* No one was able to hit the $10,000 twin quinella at Station Casinos on Saturday (Cajun Heat and Bluesthestandard in the Sprint with Islington and L'Ancresse in the Filly and Mare Turf), so the jackpot carried over to Sunday, when six people won $2,359 apiece.