03/06/2007 12:00AM

Florida amateur beats the pros

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LAS VEGAS – Last weekend's Daily Racing Form Horseplayers Expo at Wynn Las Vegas gave attendees the opportunity to learn from handicapping experts in panel discussions on Friday and Saturday and to mingle with them at cocktail parties on Thursday and Friday night and at a dinner on Saturday.

On Sunday, the attendees had the opportunity to take on the teachers in a $100 buy-in handicapping contest with a guaranteed prize pool of $10,000. In the field of 151 (panelists were required to pony up the money, too) were about a dozen panelists and other regular players on the tournament circuit, but when the dust cleared it was a first-time starter who took home the 50 percent winner's share of $7,550.

The winner was Troy Levy, 39, of Parkland, Fla., who attended the Expo with his father, Richard.

Contestants made 10 mythical $2 across-the-board wagers on races from Aqueduct and Gulfsteam with points capped at $52 to win, $26 to place and $14 to show. Levy's winning score was 150.50.

Levy's big score was in Aqueduct's eighth race, the Broadway Handicap. Waytotheleft pulled off the upset at 22-1 and paid $46.60 to win, $19 to place and $11.40 to show for 77 contest points as none of the payoffs exceeded the caps. Levy said he had had some smaller winners earlier in the day but realized if he was going to cash in the tournament he would have to find much bigger prices.

"I started out playing the tournament like I would betting my own at the track," he said. "The later it got in the day the more I realized I wasn't even close to breaking even on the $60 in contest wagers we were making, so I started just looking at the three longest shots in each race and seeing who I thought was live."

Half an hour later, Levy scored again in Gulfstream's eighth race, an allowance event, as 27-1 longshot Bound Notebook finished second and returned $20.80 to place and $10.20 to show for another 31 contest points to put him in the winner's circle.

Even though it was his first handicapping tournament, Levy is hardly a racing novice. He has owned and ridden harness horses while working as a trader on Wall Street and is combining his love of horse racing and investing with a new company called Crown Racing (www.crownracingllc.com) in which people can buy shares in the ownership group.

"It's more or less a hedge fund for horse ownership so more people can be involved in this great sport," he said. "Most people can't afford to go buy a horse and pay all the expenses with the risk that it can all go up in smoke with one injury. This way, a lot of people can pool their money and have parts of 30-40 horses, and it gives a better chance to have a superstar."

Terry Sack, 62, of Truro, Nova Scotia, finished second with a score of 146.80 to collect $3,020. Sack owns estate jewelry and pawnbroker stores in Truro and Halifax, but in addition to having an eye for determining the value of jewelry, he showed he also has an eye for the horses. Sack also had Waytotheleft.

"I didn't really like him when I handicapped the race," Sack said, "but I loved how he looked on the track. In fact, all my winners today were because I thought they looked ready. I seem to have a knack for spotting Thoroughbreds that are ready to run. I bet more harness races but don't have as much success with that style of handicapping as I do with the Thoroughbreds."

The top five finishers cashed. Glenn Roe of Loudonville, N.Y., scored 139.20 points to collect $2,265; Jason Ahlswede of Apple Valley, Calif., scoring 134.80 to earn $1,510; and Glenn Schepps of Las Vegas scoring 134.50 to win $755.

Among the Expo panelists, DRF handicapper Dave Litfin had the best showing with a score of 118.10 to finish eighth.

Derby future changes

Expo attendees were able to bet into the Kentucky Derby future odds available at the Wynn over the weekend, but nothing changed the odds more than the running of the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream on Saturday. After Nobiz Like Showbiz finished third as the 3-5 favorite, Wynn director of race and sports book operations John Avello raised the son of Albert the Great from his pre-race odds of 9-2 up to 8-1, which still makes him the Derby futures favorite. The winner, Scat Daddy, was lowered from 30-1 to 12-1 based on his performance. Runner-up Stormello was dropped from 30-1 to 18-1.

Great Hunter was lowered from

30-1 to 15-1 after cruising to victory in the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes, formerly the Santa Catalina, at Santa Anita on Saturday.

Among contenders who didn't run this past weekend, the only others under 20-1 were Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Street Sense, Any Given Saturday, and Ravel all at 12-1; Notional at 15-1; and Circular Quay at 18-1.

The second Kentucky Derby Future Wager pari-mutuel pool will be conducted this weekend from Thursday through Sunday.

Sports book notes

Lleyton Hewitt won the Tennis Channel Open in Las Vegas on Sunday. Prior to the tournament, he was the 8-1 third choice, but he rolled to the title after defending champion James Blake was eliminated during round-robin play last Tuesday. On Sunday, Hewitt opened as a -500 favorite and was bet to -600 at the Las Vegas Hilton before cruising to a 6-4, 7-6 victory over fourth-seeded Jurgen Melzer in the finale.

* Two upsets occurred the past two weekends in mixed-martial arts fighting. On Feb. 24 at the Thomas & Mack Center here in Vegas, Dan Henderson defeated Wanderlei Silva with a third-round TKO as a +250 underdog to claim the Pride Fighting Championship middleweight belt, and on Saturday, Ultimate Fighting Championship legend Randy Couture was a +220 dog when he reclaimed the heavyweight belt for the third time in his career with a unanimous decision over Tim Sylvia at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

* In the Arena Football League's opening weekend, favorites went 5-4 against the spread. The unders held a similar 5-4 edge.

* The NCAA men's basketball conference tournaments continue this week. In the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC the past five years, the regular season champs are a combined 16-19 against the spread in their first games, 11-15 in their second games, and 5-10-1 in conference title games.