05/19/2005 11:00PM

Funny business on Derby Day


By Sunday, we will know whether Giacomo's victory was as much of a fluke as his Derby price, or if we have yet another bandwagon brigade heading to Belmont Park for a Triple Crown try. No matter what, Giacomo's unlikely Derby win gave way to three vintage Las Vegas stories.

Breaking the code of "What goes on here, stays here," what went on here will now be told - for a few good post-Derby laughs.

The first involves the phone calls that those of us who live in Las Vegas get every year. It seems every friend we ever had calls in the months before the Derby, asking to get down on a hot horse. Of course the odds he wants are three days old but, hey, you live in Vegas, baby, and you can still find those numbers, right?

Well, as soon as Derby favorite Bellamy Road breaks onto the scene, the call came to one of our colleagues. He ferrets out a juicy 50-1 futures bet on Bellamy Road and bets several crispy C notes for he and his friend. Bellamy Road cooperates by romping in the Wood Memorial, and his price plunges. Our colleague is sitting on some pretty good change with the Derby favorite.

We all know what happened, and I can sympathize. I remember when I had two C's on Event of the Year at 250-1 in the 1998 Derby futures only to throw away my tickets after he injured himself in a workout. But my colleague got his horse to the starting gate, which made watching Giacomo and many others charge by Bellamy Road all the more painful. Moral of this story: If your horse is going to be injured, let it happen before the race.

The second story concerns a friend who is a host at a Strip resort. He gets a call from California about this great Derby prospect by Holy Bull. The host stops by Bally's and locks up a horse named Giacomo at 25-1 odds shortly after the Hollywood Futurity. Sitting on the ticket through the winter, he watches as Giacomo runs fourth in the "weak" Santa Anita Derby. While standing with his buddies moments after the race, he puts the ticket up for sale and gets a buyer.

Now it's Derby Day, and the host notices that Giacomo is double his old future book price at five minutes to post time. He decides to blow a double sawbuck on the horse. Giacomo wins at $102.60 to bail out the host, while the buyer of his futures ticket gets half the price. Moral of this story: Don't buy anyone else's future bets. Buying your own is much more gratifying, or humiliating, depending on the outcome.

Third story. There is a Las Vegas-based handicapper who has a daily ratings sheet distributed in many of the Las Vegas race books. He also has private clients that subscribe to his service. A well-heeled player is having a "good day" early on Derby Day, and he calls his handicapper and shares thoughts on the Derby. The handicapper tells his client that he likes Don't Get Mad and Giacomo as live longshots.

The player promptly wheels the pair as keys in all four spots in the Derby superfecta. After pumping over $6,000 in $1 superfecta tickets into the race, the guy hits the Derby super for $864,253.50. The Las Vegas handicapper, however, misses the life-changing score by not hitting the "all" button that would have covered Closing Argument in the place spot. He gets a nice follow-up call of celebration from his client while cutting the conversation short due to another pressing bathroom visit. Moral of this story: I really don't have one, except to say it is nice to share these stories with those who certainly have some of their own.

Ralph Siraco is turf editor for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the Race Day Las Vegas radio show.