11/02/2006 12:00AM

Fun Breeders' Cup prop bets


LAS VEGAS - For the first time in five years at the Breeders' Cup, there will be no parimutuel head-to-head matchups offered through the host track. The wager, which pits two horses against each other in a race within a race, is a popular bet here in Las Vegas, which is where the NTRA originally got the idea.

The idea never caught on nationally as the handle averaged only about $75,000 per race last year, even when the takeout was lowered to 10 percent.

But the wager lives on here in Vegas, as most casinos will take the wagers as house bets with the "pick-'em" price of -115 (risk $1.15 for every $1 you want to profit). That comes to a hold percentage of 6.5 percent.

John Avello, director of race and sports at Wynn Las Vegas, again leads the way with three head-to-head matchups in each of the first seven Breeders' Cup races and five in the Classic. Due to Avello being in meetings all day Wednesday after the BC fields were drawn and early deadlines for this issue, Avello hadn't finalized prices, but he passed on the matchups he was working on. In the Classic, he opted to keep heavily favored Bernardini out of a matchup and instead is going with Lava Man vs. Invasor, George Washington vs. David Junior, Perfect Drift vs. Giacomo, Lawyer Ron vs. Sun King, and Suave vs. Flower Alley.

Other intriguing matchups include Octave vs. Dreaming of Anna in the Juvenile Fillies, Circular Quay vs. Great Hunter in the Juvenile, Ouija Board vs. Wait a While in the Filly and Mare Turf, Henny Hughes vs. Bordonaro in the Sprint, Araafa vs. Librettist as well as Aragorn vs. Gorella in the Mile, Pine Island vs. Balletto in the Distaff, and English Channel vs. Cacique in the Turf. By the time you are reading this, all those bets and the others should be available for wagering.

Avello said he was also working on several proposition bets. With trainer Todd Pletcher having a total of 17 horses entered in Breeders' Cup races, including the favored Circular Quay in the Juvenile and Fleet Indian in the Distaff, Avello is setting the over/under on the number of victories by Pletcher horses at 2 1/2. He said the under would be favored.

He said he was also looking to offer an over/under on the biggest winning mutuel of the day - he was thinking the number would be around $52 - and an over/under on the running time in the Classic, putting it at around the two-minute mark and possibly lower.

Another possibility is to do a "Will the Juvenile winner win the Kentucky Derby?" prop. That feat has never been accomplished, but Avello said he was thinking of setting it at 15-1.

Other special wagers available in Las Vegas:

* Jay Kornegay said his Las Vegas Hilton staff also will be looking to create some prop bets for racing's biggest day.

* As mentioned in Friday's column, Jerry's Nugget will have the Marion Card with 18 (up from a planned 12) head-to-head matchups that can be parlayed. Jerry's Nugget will also have additional matchups that can be bet individually.

Tough to find college football dogs

I had a really hard time finding underdogs on this Saturday's college football card. Maybe my head has been too busy looking for longshots in the Breeders' Cup - my selections are in the grid with the rest of the Daily Racing Form handicappers in the Saturday print editions and at the drf.com website. (I should point out that my top picks are not who I think are the most likely winners but who offers the best chance to outrun their odds at a price.) But I do have one football dog, and two short favorites.

LSU at Tennessee (+3)

LSU is No. 11 in the nation in scoring offense at 35.9 points per game, but look at how the Tigers arrived at that ranking. In home games, they've scored 45 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, 45 vs. Arizona, 49 vs. Tulane, 48 vs. Mississippi St., 49 vs. Kentucky, and 38 vs. Fresno St. How have they fared on the road? Uh, 3 points at Auburn and 10 points at Florida. Now, there's no shame in losing at those venues, but it shows how LSU struggles on the road vs. quality opposition, and now the Tigers have to go to Knoxville on Saturday. The Volunteers have played better against a tougher overall schedule, losing only to Florida (21-20) while beating California, Georgia, and South Carolina.

PLAY: Tennessee for 1 unit.

Virginia Tech (-2) at Miami-Fla.(over-under 37 1/2)

The Miami-Fla. program is in disarray, and not just because of its thug image. The talent isn't there either, as evidenced by the Hurricanes' only victories this year being vs. Florida A&M, Houston, North Carolina, Florida International, and Duke. They lost to the only decent teams they've played: Florida St., Louisville, and Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech is coming off and impressive 24-7 upset against Clemson last Thursday night, and now the Hokies also have a few extra days of rest and preparation. The defense should have no problem shutting down Miami, while the offense made strides vs. Clemson and should score enough to get the job done. And the special teams edge always goes to Virginia Tech, under coach Frank Beamer. As long as there are not too many crazy plays (blocked punts, etc.), this should stay low-scoring, so I'll play the under, too.

PLAY: Virginia Tech for 1 unit, and under 37 1/2 points for 1 unit.

Arizona St. at Oregon St. (-3)

I'm not sure why this line isn't higher. Sure, both teams are 5-3 and could be viewed as even, with Oregon St. getting 3 points for home-field advantage. But the Beavers are coming off a 33-31 upset of No. 3-ranked USC on this field, and I see that more as a confidence-booster as opposed to this being a possible letdown spot. Besides, Arizona St. is up to its old tricks of beating up on lowly teams - the Sun Devils' two Pac-10 wins are vs. Stanford and Washington - while faltering when stepping up in class.

PLAY: Oregon St. for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-3 for a net loss of 1.3 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). College season record: 24-23, including 1-1 on 2-unit plays, for a net loss of 1.4 units.