07/27/2006 12:00AM

Early look at Breeders' Cup odds


The Breeders' Cup, scheduled for Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs, is still more than three months away, but sharp bettors are already firing in their wagers.

"With Del Mar and Saratoga running and with the big stakes in the fall meets at Belmont and Keeneland, this is when people really start looking forward to the Breeders' Cup and the races really start taking shape," said John Avello, director of race and sports at Wynn Las Vegas. "If you see a horse you really like, this is the best time to bet them and get a good price."

While it's common for race books here to have odds up already for the Classic, Avello is the only one who puts up early odds on all eight BC races. The Classic has been up since December at Wynn, the Distaff and Sprint have been up for a few months, followed by the Filly and Mare Turf. The Mile was going up on Thursday with the Turf to be posted by the weekend. Avello said the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies will be up in August.

Flower Alley and Lava Man are the co-favorites in the Classic at 6-1, with David Junior and Invasor closely behind at 8-1.

When Avello first opened the futures, Flower Alley was 10-1 off his second-place finish in last year's Classic while Lava Man was 60-1. David Junior and Invasor weren't on the opening list but had been added in the past six to eight weeks at 50-1 and 20-1, respectively, before being bet down.

"Lava Man ended up last season on a down note, and I didn't have high expectations," Avello said. "But he's come back strong. They'll probably go this route, but he's shown turf is no problem for him either.

"David Junior was impressive in his last race [the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown in England] and the bettors jumped all over him. That number didn't move on air at all - it's all bets. And Invasor is the horse that we've had more people come in and talk about than any other."

Bernardini, running for the first time since his Preakness triumph in this Saturday's Jim Dandy at Saratoga, was 15-1 as of Thursday, though Avello said that's likely to get bet down prior to the Jim Dandy on the assumption that he hasn't shown his best yet and 15-1 could be a bargain if he continues to move forward.

Avello said all the talk in the Distaff has been about Fleet Indian, who opened at 12-1 but is now a heavy favorite at 3-1.

"This horse has been absolutely pounded," Avello said of the daughter of Indian Charlie who has won six straight starts. "It's been all Fleet Indian in this future book and I don't need any more money on her, but if there's no interest at 3-1 then I'll raise her."

Another big money move has come in the Sprint with Henny Hughes. He opened at 20-1 and is now down to 5-1 favoritism, with defending champ Silver Train at 6-1. Lost in the Fog, who was upset by Silver Train in last year's BC Sprint, opened as the 5-1 favorite but is now at 12-1 after finishing ninth in the Smile Sprint at Calder and with speculation about him being retired.

"This distance is what suits Henny Hughes best," Avello said. "I think we knew that early in his career and he really showed it in his last race [the Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup Stakes at Monmouth]. I'll continue to raise Lost in the Fog or take him off the list if they officially retire him."

A rough draft of the Mile future book list had Aragorn at 20-1, but after the Neil Drysdale trainee won the Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar in course-record time last Sunday, it was amended to make him the 8-1 favorite. Artie Schiller is the second choice at 10-1.

"That last race for Aragorn was phenomenal," Avello said. "If Artie Schiller makes the race, he'll definitely be lower than 10-1."

Ouija Board, despite losing her last race to David Junior, is the solid 5-1 favorite in the Filly and Mare Turf. No other female is in single-digit odds, but Avello called Honey Ryder, at 10-1, the best American turf filly at this time and Alexandrova, at 12-1, a major threat to Ouija Board.

As for the Turf, Avello was still making his list and checking it twice as of Thursday morning, but he said defending champ Shirocco would probably be the opening favorite at around 10-1 with Hurricane Run, English Channel, and Cacique among other top contenders.

Avello said he expects to be busy updating these future books during the summer and fall meets.

"Bettors love to see in post-race interviews or read in publications that a horse is definitely aiming for a race," he said. "When I hear or see that, I know the bettors will be coming in."