03/21/2007 12:00AM

Derby future refund offered


LAS VEGAS - The Kentucky Derby is just over six weeks away and a lot of people are trying to come up with their Derby horses.

Churchill Downs has conducted two parimutuel pools with another one to come three weeks from now, April 12-15, and the race books here in Las Vegas have fixed-odds futures where you can lock in your price.

In talking to racing fans, the most common reason they give for not making a future bet on the Derby is they're afraid that their horse won't make it to the starting gate on the first Saturday in May and it will be just like throwing money away.

Well, Mark Dufty, race and sports book director at Jerry's Nugget in North Las Vegas, has a way to take a little bit of the sting out of that possibility. Starting this past Wednesday, Dufty put up his future book with a 25 percent refund if the horse on your ticket doesn't run in the race.

"The worst feeling is when you have a ticket on a horse that doesn't even get to the starting gate, so this lets you get part of your bet back," said Dufty. Noting that the New Frontier had a similar policy on Derby future wagers in the mid-1990's, Dufty said, "I thought it was overdue to bring it back."

Dufty said the refund will apply even if a horse is a gate scratch. He said all refunds, even those of horses declared before the running of the race, will not be paid until the race is declared official.

"We just want this to be as clean as possible," he said. "Sometimes the connections of a horse might say a horse isn't running and then change their money, so all payouts will be after the race."

Mark Marion was behind that promotion at the New Frontier, and he is also the creator and proprietor of the Marion Card - in which horse players can bet head-to-head matchups on a parlay card just like they do sports games - which is also offered exclusively at Jerry's Nugget on Saturdays.

"People love to bet matchups, and being able to parlay them is an added bonus," Dufty said.

The Nugget had a soft opening on the cards a few weeks back for its regular customers, but Dufty said he was going to start advertising it now. He is also trying to get the word out on the rest of the things his place offers.

"We're really trying to get horseplayers a reason to come by and see our book," he said. "It's not always easy to get people to come here from the Strip or downtown, but we make it worth the trip. We have the highest comp rate anywhere, as you get $1 in comps for every $25 in parimutuel wagers. We want to be known as a place where you get a good shake for your dollar."

Jerry's Nugget can be reached by either taking Main Street or Las Vegas Boulevard north of downtown.

The sports book also has the highest off-the-board parlay odds in town, offering 13 1/2-5 on two-team parlays, 6 1/2-1 on three-teamers, 13-1 on four-teamers, 26-1 on five, 47-1 on six, 92-1 on seven, and 180-1 on eight. The race and sports book has been upgraded if you haven't been there in a while, and Dufty said more renovations are planned before the Derby.

Baseball action heating up

According to the calendar, spring officially started Tuesday, but baseball's spring training has been going on for a month. Bettors have been paying more attention to the action with opening day a little more than a week away.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants still has the Yankees as the 4-1 favorite to win the World Series, followed by the Mets at 11-2, the White Sox, Tigers and Dodgers all at 10-1, the Red Sox at 12-1, the defending champion Cardinals at 14-1, and the Angels and Twins both at 15-1.

The Palms has odds up on the player to hit the most home runs and the pitcher to have the most wins.

Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols is the favorite to be the home run king at 6-1 and defending champ Ryan Howard of the Phillies is at 7-1. David Ortiz of the Red Sox and Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs are next at 10-1, with Travis Hafner of the Indians at 11-1, and Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees at 14-1. If you think none of the 48 players listed will win the title, a field is offered at 20-1. For pitching wins, the Twins' Johan Santana is the 9-1 favorite, with the Tigers' Justin Verlander, the Yankees' Chien-Ming Wang and the Blue Jays' Roy Halladay all at 12-1.

In both props, payoffs are divided by the number of first-place finishers in the case of a tie.

Johnson 11-1 for Nascar three-peat

Last week in the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson won his second straight Nextel Cup race as the 6-1 favorite. This week the circuit moves to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500, and Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch are the 6-1 co-favorites at Station Casinos, followed by Tony Stewart at 7-1, Matt Kenseth at 9-1, and the trio of Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, and Kyle Busch all at 10-1.

If you think Johnson can pull off a three-peat, he's 11-1. Mark Martin is the overall points leader through the first four races of the year, but he's sticking to his plan of only riding a partial schedule, and he's part of the "field of all others" at 18-1 to win the season-long title (that might be worth a shot if you think he might change his mind). Stewart is the 4-1 favorite to win the points title, with Johnson and Gordon at 5-1 and Harvick at 6-1.