08/05/2001 11:00PM

Exotics player shops and scores

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Some people will probably call it "beginner's luck" when they hear that Michael Bedol entered his first handicapping tournament - the Bally's Summer Stakes II this past weekend - and won the top prize of $30,375.

But Bedol isn't a novice. He lives in Orange County, Calif., and plays the races every chance he gets. In addition, he visits his parents often in Las Vegas and usually plays at the Paris race book. It's just that he hadn't found a contest that suited his handicapping style.

"Every contest seems to be win, place, and show, and I usually play triples," Bedol said Sunday morning while waiting to collect his prize money. "When I saw this contest offering exacta wagering, I decided to give it a shot. I just had to adjust my betting to fit the format."

In the Summer Stakes, players made 15 mythical win-place-show wagers of $48 each (any dollar combination) on Friday. Then, on Saturday, they made 15 exacta wagers of $24 each (straight exacta, wheeling, boxing, or however else they decided to construct their ticket).

Len Shaw of Las Vegas was the first-day leader, building his $720 win-place-show wagers into more than $1,600. Bedol was sitting in 11th place after the first day, but he felt he should have done better.

"I had my $892.40 total with eight bets left, but couldn't get anything else to come in," Bedol said. "I liked where I was in the standings, but I felt I should have won a daily prize."

The same thing happened to Bedol on Saturday. He racked up $2,116.50 with seven bets left (hmmm, beginner's luck again?), but ended the tourney on a losing streak.

Bedol knew his $3,008.90 total would put him near the top, but he wasn't sure if it would be enough to win. He talked to some of the other contestants and was given a scare when John Gilberg, of Worcester, Mass., said he had $2,424 on Saturday . . . but then Gilberg said he had $0 on Friday. The same thing happened to Gary Templeton of Bartlett, Tenn. Gilberg and Templeton tied for second with their $2,424 totals and collected $7,087.50 apiece (plus $2,835 apiece for having Saturday's top score).

Bedol picked up an extra $975 for having Saturday's third-highest score, but he was kicking himself for not having won more. Bally's offers a 10 percent bonus for anyone paying his $1,000 entry fee by July 15. Bedol planned to enter early (and had already booked his airline ticket and hotel room), but he never got around to registering by the deadline. If he had, he would have collected an additional $3,037.50 bonus for winning the tourney and another $97.50 for his Saturday finish.

"I have no regrets or complaints," said Bedol. "I had a great time."

Bedol said he would look into playing other tournaments.

Shaw held on for fourth place, worth $3,037.50, with a two-day total of $2,164.80. Don Alvey of Louisville, Ky., was fifth (worth $2,025) with $1,704 in tournament points. Prize money was paid to the top 25, plus the top 10 each day.

NFL preseason picks off to 3-0 start

The NFL preseason began Friday, and the betting that goes along with it. My picks in Daily Racing Form went 3-0 over the weekend, but believe me, I'm not resting on my laurels; I very easily could have been 1-2.

Steelers (+2) at Falcons: The Falcons led 13-0 at halftime in Friday night's opener, before the Steelers came back for a 17-16 outright victory. My comment in DRF about the Steelers' quarterback situation not having much of a drop-off proved right, as Tommy Maddox and Tee Martin rallied the Steelers in the second half.

Bengals at Bears (under 34): This line moved to 35 at many sports books, but under bettors didn't need the additional point as this one was sure to stay under the total even though it went into overtime. The Bears won 16-13.

Cowboys at Raiders (-5 1/2): This winning wager was even luckier than the Steelers' win, as the Raiders came back from a 14-7 fourth-quarter deficit to win - and, more importantly for our purposes, cover - 21-14.

I placed 11 units (to win 10) on all three games. Assuming a starting preseason bankroll of 100 units, it now stands at 130.

We'll look at the upcoming weekend's matchups starting in Friday's editions.

Rally caps work and work and work

One of the worst "bad beats" in sports betting history happened Sunday night, as the Indians, who trailed the Mariners 14-2 going into the bottom of the seventh, rallied to win. Bettors who laid between -135 and -150 (or bet the Mariners minus 1 1/2 runs on the run line at plus money) at Nevada sports books, had to be counting their winnings in this one. But the Indians scored three runs in the seventh, four in the eighth, and five in the ninth to force extra innings. Jolbert Cabrera's broken-bat single in the bottom of the 11th completed the biggest comeback in 76 years.

Delayed knockout hurts bettors

Wladimir Klitschko knocked out Charles Shufford, as expected, to retain his WBO heavyweight title. However, it didn't happen as fast as a lot of people expected.

Bettors jumped on the "under 5 1/2 rounds" prop in this fight, expecting the German to make quick work of Shufford. But Klitschko was content to stay on the outside and keep his distance, though he knocked Shufford down twice in the early rounds to give under bettors hope. However, Klitschko didn't land the knockout punch, a hard right the jaw, until 15 seconds remained in the sixth round.

That was late enough for the house, specifically the Mandalay Bay sports book, to keep a sizable amount of the total bets.