09/27/2005 11:00PM

Futures odds - get 'em while they're cold


LAS VEGAS - The eyes of the horse racing world will be on Belmont Park this weekend, especially those eyeing the Breeders' Cup futures.

Belmont's eight stakes races, including five Grade 1's on Saturday, will go a long way toward determining the fields and the favorites in the Oct. 29 Breeders' Cup, also held at Belmont.

If you want to make any future bets, there's no time like the present, so says Wynn Las Vegas race and sports book director John Avello, formerly of Bally's. Avello is the only oddsmaker in town with futures on all eight Breeders' Cup races.

"The whole point of betting futures is to get the best odds before everyone else gets on the bandwagon," Avello said. "If you're smart, you're going to bet before this weekend's races, because after watching the races I'm going to adjust the odds to about where I expect them to go off at on Breeders' Cup Day."

A relevant example was last week, when it was uncertain whether Ouija Board would come from overseas for the Breeders' Cup and Avello had her at 10-1 in the Filly and Mare Turf. After Ouija Board's 2 1/2-length victory in the Group 3 Princess Royal Stakes and trainer Ed Dunlop saying she was heading to the BC, Avello dropped her to 5-2.

Avello said future book wagering has been light so far this year, but he expects it to pick up this weekend.

"Bettors, I think, are a little afraid of all the defections, so they've kept their money in their pockets," Avello said. "But now with these horses making their final preps and definitely heading to the Breeders' Cup, I expect it to pick up."

* Avello said he has been getting brisk action on his 2006 Kentucky Derby futures, which he posted earlier this month.

"There's a group of bettors who started asking me for these back in February," he said.

First Samurai opened as the 30-1 favorite, but Avello said he has taken more bets on other top contenders, such as Henny Hughes and Stevie Wonderboy, both bet down from 50-1 to 40-1; Flanders Fields, bet down from 60-1 to 50-1; and Sorcerer's Stone, bet down from 75-1 to 50-1.

Account wagering approved

At Tuesday's Nevada Gaming Commission meeting, account wagering was passed for Nevada race books to accept parimutuel wagers from other states where phone betting is legal.

Race books have to submit their systems to the Gaming Control Board for approval. Board chairman Dennis Neilander said that process should go quickly, since the board has done a lot of work recently with phone and computer systems. Expect to see advertising for these accounts before the end of the year.

* Also from the commission meeting, Pete Korner, former oddsmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, gained approval for his new oddsmaking company, The Sports Club, which will compete with LVSC. Korner's company also includes fellow former LVSC employees Cesar Robaina and Tom Vanderhoof. Korner's license was granted under the conditions that he doesn't enter business agreements with Don Best Sports or any offshore books without approval from the GBC chairman.

* The Golden Nugget officially changed hands when the Commission approved the $325 million sale of the downtown property from Poster Financial Group to Landry's Gaming Inc. Landry's Gaming Inc. is a branch of the billion-dollar company Landry's Restaurants Inc., which includes Rainforest Cafe and Joe's Crab Shack.

Sports book notes

Sports books here are reporting increased handle as the baseball playoff races have heated up this week. As of Tuesday night, the AL East race between the Yankees and Red Sox was tied, with both teams 92-65 with five games to play. The Indians were also 92-65 and were tied with the Yankees and Red Sox in the wild-card race. The Indians were also two games behind the White Sox in the AL Central race and will host the White Sox in a three-game series that begins Friday.

Since the week of the Kentucky Derby, the Palms has had a prop bet on whether the Yankees will make the playoffs. The prop opened with the "no" the -125 favorite, but as of Wednesday afternoon, the "yes" was a -175 favorite.

In the National League, the Padres looked as if they were about to wrap up the West despite a late charge by the Giants, and the Astros moved closer to clinching the wild card over the Phillies, but both races were still alive as of Wednesday. It should make for an exciting sports weekend.

* In the invitational football handicapping tournaments this Friday night, Jorge Gonzalez will take on Bill Krackman in the Leroy's Money Talks Invitational from 8-9 p.m. at the Riviera, Ed Salmons will take on Rich Dressler in the Stardust Invitational from 9-10 p.m. Both programs will air live on KDWN AM-720 and on kdwn.com. Salmons and Dressler used to work together at the Imperial Palace until Salmons and sports book director Jay Kornegay left to go to the Las Vegas Hilton. Dressler took over Salmons's post as sports book manager at the Imperial Palace. It will be interesting to hear the opinions of oddsmakers who are usually setting the lines.

* Saturday night is all right for fighting. In Tampa, Fla., Antonio Tarver puts his light heavyweight championship on the line vs. former champion Roy Jones Jr., whom Tarver knocked out in their last meeting. Tarver is a -200 favorite in the rematch. The over/under in the 12-round bout is nine full rounds, with the "will go" at -120 and the "won't go" at -110. The fight is on HBO pay-per-view.

In Reno, Nev., Chris Byrd defends his IBF heavyweight title vs. DaVarryl Williamson. Byrd is a -500 favorite. The fight will be televised on Showtime. On the undercard, James Toney defends his IBA heavyweight belt vs. Dominick Guinn. Toney is a -400 favorite.

* The Nextel Cup circuit returns to restrictor-plate racing this Sunday at Talladega. Dale Earnhardt Jr., despite being out of the Chase for the Cup, is the 5-1 favorite, followed by Jeff Gordon at 6-1 and Tony Stewart at 8-1. Series points leader Jimmie Johnson, Michael Waltrip, and Kevin Harvick are each 10-1.