11/13/2002 12:00AM

Desormeaux on hot seat for good cause


Some horseplayers complain that they have burned a lot of tickets on jockey Kent Desormeaux over the years, so it was only fair that he was roasted Tuesday night at The Orleans.

But it was all for a good cause as part of a fund-raising drive by the Shoemaker Foundation, which helps riders with debilitating illness or injuries. Nearly $40,000 was raised as part of a two-day event that included a $250-a-head golf outing on Wednesday.

A total of 392 tickets to the dinner/roast were sold at $45 apiece to raise $17,640. The Orleans also pledged $20 per attendee, so when 340 showed up it presented Rod Pitts, the foundation's executive director, with a check for an additional $6,800. Another $3,500 was raised in a silent auction of photos, painting and other racing items. The top piece - a Fred Stone painting called "Off and Running," which was signed by a dozen jockeys - went for $720 to Lyn Brown, the bingo manager at Suncoast.

But it was the racing stars who were the stars of the show.

Desormeaux was kidded about easing horses before the finish line. Bob Ike, a Southern California syndicated handicapper, said, "In a two-year study, Desormeaux eased more horses than all other jockeys combined."

Danny Sorenson, a fellow jockey who hasn't had nearly the success of Desormeaux, said, "Kent, I'll gladly take the horses you don't want to finish with."

Emcee John Perry talked about the upcoming movie "Seabiscuit," and added, "If you want to see an Academy Award-winning performance, watch Kent Desormeaux at a stewards hearing."

Holding up his hands as if to plead innocence, Perry said, "Who, me? I gave that other horse eight full inches on the rail."

Perry also said that when Desormeaux first arrived in Southern California, all he could talk was Cajun, but that now he speaks pretty well. Jockey David Flores, from Tijuana, Mexico, said, "I've got to work on my English. I can learn a lot from Kent."

Trainer Craig Lewis said, "When he first arrived in Southern California, we had heard he was a smooth rider like Shoe, but he had a different style. I couldn't tell if he was trying to ride or throw a saddle."

Desormeaux's agent, Tom Knust, said his client is always gracious with signing autographs . . . except for one time.

Knust said a fan approached with a picture to sign but Desormeaux refused to sign it. When the guy asked why not, Desormeaux said, "You should have Victor Espinoza sign his own picture."

Celebrities on hand at Palms

The celebrity sightings won't end with The Orleans event. The Erik Morales-Paulie Ayala fight on Saturday night at Mandalay Bay will attract the stars, but the biggest celebrity-filled events will be at the Palms, which is marking its one-year anniversary Friday with a weekend-long celebration.

Free cake will be served Friday from 1 to 4 p.m. in the main ballroom, and VIP parties will be going on all weekend at the hotel's nightclubs, Rain and Ghostbar.

The Palms has earned a reputation as one of the hippest places to be, garnering gossip-column mentions on a regular basis with celebrity sightings and mega-parties thrown by Playboy and Stuff magazines.

"We wanted to market to the locals but also to tourists and the celebrity and athlete crowd," owner George Maloof, who is also part-owner of the NBA's Sacramento Kings, said Tuesday night while watching an episode of MTV's "The Real World," which was filmed at the Palms.

"The Real World," which is shown on big screens each Tuesday night in the Palapa Lounge, reaches a young adult audience. It's like a half-hour advertisement for the Palms, and the hotel-casino has certainly benefited from the exposure. The suite - including a pool table and a Jacuzzi - that was used by the cast is rented out for $7,500 per weekend night, less on weekdays.

Actors Leonardo DiCaprio ("Titanic") and Tobey Maguire ("Spiderman") rented the suite earlier this week and are staying around for the festivities, along with the likes of Lara Flynn Boyle, Tara Reid, Gena Lee Nolin, Carmen Electra, David Spade, the Wayans brothers, Matthew McConaughey, and Mark Wahlberg to name a few.

"We've exceeded all our expectations, especially since we opened at the worst time for a casino in Las Vegas history," Maloof said, referring to the city's economic trouble after Sept. 11, 2001. "I'm most proud of the fact we put 2,400 people back to work at that time."

Sports book notes

Erik Morales is between a -330 (bet $330 to win $100) to -360 favorite over Paulie Ayala for the WBC featherweight belt, with the buy-back on the underdog ranging from +250 to +280. Morales is 41-1-1 with 31 knockouts, while Ayala is 34-1 with 12 KOs.

* The college basketball season was set to tip off Thursday night with the AT&T Wireless Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden. If the odds from Las Vegas Sports Consultants are to be believed, you should see several of those teams in the Sweet 16 next March. Five of the eight teams that are playing are among the top 16 in NCAA future book odds by LVSC: Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Georgia and Marquette. Arizona is the 4-1 favorite, followed by Kansas (9-2), Oklahoma (7-1), Duke (7-1), Michigan St. (10-1), Texas (10-1), Kentucky (12-1), Pittsburgh (15-1), Alabama (15-1), Connecticut (20-1), Florida (20-1), UCLA (20-1), Maryland (22-1), Georgia (25-1), and Marquette (30-1).

* "Papa" Joe Chevalier, a host on Sporting News Radio, faces Karol Lucan of Olympic Sports in a quarterfinal round match in the Stardust Invitational Friday night. At 9 p.m. in the sports book (and aired live on KDWN AM-720 in nine western states), they will give their seven plays against the spread. This should be an entertaining battle of the sexes. On his show, Chevalier sometimes gets in trouble for comments that critics call chauvinistic. Chevalier says he's "not anti-woman, I'm pro-man." Lucan is only the second woman to participate in the Stardust Invitational. The first one, Cathy Creevy, was eliminated by Chevalier in the 2000 tourney. Andy Iskoe went 4-3 to defeat Jimmy Vaccaro (3-4) in last week's first quarterfinal match in the $10,000 single-elimination, winner-take-all tournament.