02/16/2004 12:00AM

Fixed-odds futures entice bettors

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The Kentucky Derby Future Wager, conducted nationwide last Thursday through Sunday, continues to be a tough sell in the race books in Nevada.

Because of the holiday, statewide handle figures were not available from Las Vegas Dissemination Company on Monday, but a sampling of race books found that many took only a handful of bets in the parimutuel pool that is run by Churchill Downs.

"I can only speak for our properties," said John Avello, who sets the horse racing odds for all of the Caesars Entertainment casinos from his office at Bally's, "but we still handle 90 percent of our Derby wagers in our fixed-odds future book compared to the parimutuel offering. Other race books that don't have fixed odds probably get more action in the pari-mutuel pool than we do, but our customers still prefer locking in their price."

The traditional fixed-odds futures in Las Vegas's race books allow a bettor to keep the odds at the time the bet is placed, whereas in the KDFW, the final odds are not determined until the pool closes, which in this case was Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time. Avello put up his Derby odds before the Breeders' Cup last October, with most of the top candidates between 50-1 and 100-1. Those prices were pounced on long ago, and that did create some value in the KDFW for bettors who shopped.

For instance, Eurosilver and Lion Heart have each been bet down to 8-1 at Bally's, but they were available at 11-1 and 14-1, respectively, in the KDFW. As of Monday morning, however, Eurosilver was still an even higher 12-1 at the Imperial Palace.

Another thing that kept the prices high on the individual horses in the KDFW was the existence of a field bet of "all other 3-year-olds." That isn't available in the fixed-odds future books, and that wagering interest was actually the 9-5 favorite when the KDFW closed Sunday.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner and reigning 2-year-old champion Action This Day went off slightly higher in the KDFW, 14-1, compared with 12-1 at Bally's and 10-1 at Imperial Palace. Other horses who have been bet down in Las Vegas and went off higher in the KDFW included Borrego, Gran Prospect, Lucky Pulpit, Master David, Mr. Jester (mostly because of his loss as the beaten favorite in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds), St Averil, and The Cliff's Edge.

There were just as many cases, though, where horses were bet down in the KDFW but still had higher prices in the fixed odds. The most notable was Gradepoint, winner of the Risen Star, who was pounded down to 24-1 in the last betting of the pari-mutuel pool but was still 30-1 at Bally's and IP on Monday morning.

Read the Footnotes, winner of the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream on Saturday, was bet down to 14-1 in the KDFW, pretty much in line with his fixed odds of 15-1 at Bally's and 12-1 at the IP.

Halfbridled, the BC Juvenile Fillies winner and 2-year-old filly champ, was part of the KDFW and the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, which was also held this past weekend. Halfbridled closed at 22-1 in the KDFW and 7-2 in the KOFW. Avello has her in both of his fixed odds lists in the Derby, where she is 20-1, and the Oaks, where she is the 4-1 favorite.

"The fact that she might race in the Derby is the only thing keeping her odds in the Oaks from being any lower," Avello said. "The problem I have with her is that I can't make her odds too high in the Oaks, because if she runs she's not going to be more than 2-1."

The second choice in Avello's Oaks futures, at 5-1, is A.P. Adventure, who closed at 9-1 in the KOFW. Betting ended, however, before her victory in the Las Virgenes at Santa Anita on Sunday afternoon; otherwise, her odds definitely would have been much lower.

Earnhardt a big hit

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a fan favorite on the NASCAR circuit, and he's also popular with bettors who follow the sport. His victory in Sunday's Daytona 500, on the sixth anniversary of his late father's only win in the race, made a lot of his fans happy and had sports books in Las Vegas cashing a lot of tickets Sunday afternoon.

But Micah Roberts, auto racing oddsmaker for the Station Casinos, said his books still did well on the race

"We had a pretty high handle and a lot of money spread out on all the drivers in the field," Roberts said, "so even though we had a lot of tickets at 4-1 (the opening odds on Junior) and 3-1 (the closing odds), we still did OK on the race. It's much easier to overcome that than when you get a lot of tickets cashed on a driver at 30-1."

* Speaking of fan favorites at long odds, John Daly's victory at the Buick Invitational was another popular result for some lucky bettors, according to Jeff Sherman, golf oddsmaker at the Palms.

"We opened Daly at 100-1 and raised him to 125-1, which commanded a few bets," Sherman said. "He still remains popular, albeit less than a few years ago. But we always get a few tickets on him when he gets higher than 100-1, and now (with this victory) we will see more."

Of course, you might not see 100-1 on Daly for a while. Over the weekend, Sherman lowered Daly's odds from 150-1 to 100-1 to win The Masters and wrote some tickets on him Sunday at the new price. After his Buick win, Sherman lowered him again to 75-1.

In this upcoming weekend's Nissan Open, Daly is 60-1.

* Just like in last week's NFL Pro Bowl, bettors in Las Vegas backed the favorite and the over in the NBA All-Star Game and came up with a split decision. The game went over the total of 255, which was steamed up from an opening number of 251, as the West won 136-132. But the West failed to cover the 7 1/2-point spread, which had opened at 6 1/2.