03/03/2006 12:00AM

Derby future wagers a booming business


Players who visit the race books have an excellent opportunity to shop for price in Kentucky Derby future wagers. Between the traditional fixed-odds propositions from selected Las Vegas race books and the relatively newer Kentucky Derby Future Wager, a nationwide parimutuel bet offered by Churchill Downs since 1999, customers have the opportunity to shop around for the best bang for their buck.

Competition for Derby future bets hasn't hurt Churchill Downs or the Las Vegas race books. In fact, it seems to be a win-win situation.

Jay Kornegay, race and sports book director for the Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook, said his property has experienced no drop in Derby futures play. His customers like the idea of the two bets, he said.

"Overall, it has been a good thing," Kornegay said.

Kornegay, who advertises his race and sports book on the Santa Anita simulcast signal and a derby futures contest with the Letitride.com web site, thinks more wagering options results in good business. One need look only at his hundreds of proposition bets each year for the Super Bowl to understand this opinion.

John Avello, who made the Bally's Las Vegas derby future book a household name among horse players, also believes the more the merrier.

Now the race and sports book director at the new Wynn Las Vegas, Avello continues the future book tradition that became a hallmark of his tenure at Bally's. Avello, who has more than 300 horses in this year's Derby future book, said the Churchill parimutuel pools create action for his book.

"Obviously, there are some striking differences between the parimutuel odds and our fixed ones, just because of the limited amount of horses allowed in the parimutuel offerings versus our individual runners," Avello said.

Customers don't hesitate to take the parimutuel option when the price is right, he said.

He also said that offering derby futures at a single location, such as Wynn Las Vegas, attracts bigger bets than when his future book was offered at Bally's and multiple sister properties at the same time.

A new player for Kentucky Derby futures action on the Strip is the Aladdin Hotel Casino, soon to be Planet Hollywood, where race and sports book director Brad Bryant offers more than 250 horses for Derby consideration. Like Avello and Kornegay, Bryant believes that the Churchill Downs parimutuel pools are good for the Derby future wagering business.

"Players love to shop prices during the weekends of the pools, and because the Churchill Downs pool is national, it brings much more interest to the bet," he said.

It seems, in this case, competition is good for the race books.

Ralph Siraco is turf editor for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the Race Day Las Vegas radio show.