10/27/2004 11:00PM

A gambler's delight, from track to gridiron


This town offers something for every level of horseplayer on Breeders' Cup Day.

If you're lucky enough to be invited to one of the VIP parties at one of the larger hotels, well, you can probably skip the next few paragraphs.

For the rest of us, the top-of-the-line party is at Bally's in its Grand Ballroom, with huge projection screens and plenty of betting windows. The entrance fee is $50, but includes a buffet, with carving stations, and an open bar.

The most popular parties are at the Coast Casinos' Orleans, Gold Coast, and Suncoast properties. They open their ballrooms and show the races on huge screens and also have plenty of betting windows. Food options are more of the stadium-style fare. Coast Turf Club members should have received their tickets, which include coupons for a free pastry from 8:30-10 a.m. and hot dogs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., plus a free beer or soft drink. Tickets can also be acquired in the respective race books for a $20 Breeders' Cup wager. Souvenir T-shirts will be handed out at the parties at 1 p.m.

Souvenirs are always a hot commodity on big race days - the Station Casinos are giving out official Breeders' Cup baseball caps with a $20 BC wager - and plenty of people go from book to book to pick up all the available giveaways.

But the main goal for most bettors on Breeders' Cup Day is to make money, and Las Vegas offers many unique opportunities in addition to the parimutuel offerings from the host track.

The Breeders' Cup is again offering pari-mutuel "Head2Head" wagers on each BC race, including a three-way prop in the Filly and Mare Turf, but bettors don't know their odds until all the wagering is done. Vegas books offer different matchups and you lock in the odds when you make your wager. Among the books offering head-to-head matchups are Bally's and the other Caesars Entertainment properties as well as the Station Casinos, the New Frontier, and Mandalay Bay.

For those who want a bigger score, there is a $10,000 aggregate payout in the twin quinella at the Station Casinos (Palace, Texas, Boulder, Sunset, Green Valley Ranch, Santa Fe, and the Fiesta properties) for those picking the one-two finishers in two separate races. The Stratosphere and its sister Arizona Charlie's properties will have a $3,000 jackpot in their twin quinella, and the Plaza downtown and the Rampart in Summerlin also have twin quinellas.

Bettors may also want to take a shot at the Imperial Palace's Super Saturday contest, which will use Lone Star's races 4 through 9 (the pick six races of the Mile through the Classic). The entry fee is $10, and if the anticipated 300 people enter, the progressive jackpot will top $10,000. See the IP race book for details.

For those wanting a shot at an even bigger score, Sam's Town host handicapper Patrick McQuiggan will be putting together a group pick six ticket Saturday morning in the race book.

Breeders' Cup Day in Vegas is great for all of the above reasons, but in the 35-40 minutes between races, in addition to looking for overlays on the tote board, I'll be checking out college football scores, since there appears to be several live longshots on the gridiron, too.

Oklahoma at Oklahoma St. (+13)

Many of the top teams in the country who won and covered last week at home will go on the road this week, and there could be a few surprises. The best chance for an upset lies in this game between Big 12 and in-state rivals. Before last year's 52-9 win by Oklahoma, OSU had pulled upsets the previous two years and covered five of the previous six meetings. This is a game the Cowboys and their fans always get up for, and they have the running game to help control the clock and keep the explosive Sooners offense off the field. As long as OSU doesn't allow Oklahoma to jump to a quick lead and take the crowd out of the game, this should go down to the wire.

PLAY: Oklahoma St. for 1 unit.

Texas at Colorado (+14)

Texas is the midst of its annual pattern of losing to Oklahoma and then following up with a winning streak (a minimum of four straight wins each of the past four years). The Longhorns have won two straight but could be in for a surprise at Colorado. The Buffaloes are coming off a game in which they went toe-to-toe with red-hot Texas A&M, losing by 29-26 in overtime. That was on the road, and now Colorado returns home, where it is 7-3 against the spread as a home dog over the past three years.

PLAY: Colorado for 1 unit.

Florida (+7) vs. Georgia

This game is played in Jacksonville, Fla., and Florida has used that close-to-home-field advantage in winning 13 of the last 14 in the series while going 11-3 against the spread. Heading into this year's matchup, Florida is reeling from an embarrassing loss to SEC doormat Mississippi St., which was the final straw in getting coach Ron Zook fired. As a result of the firing, the players have stuck up for their coach, and I expect an inspired effort. That alone wouldn't put me on the Florida side - there are often inspired teams that just aren't good enough to get the job done - but the Gators have talent and they are also playing a team in Georgia that is 2-4 against the spread and rarely blows teams out. The Bulldogs have been underachieving after having such high expectations, and this is another game that should be close to the end.

PLAY: Florida for 1 unit.

Arizona St. (+15 1/2) at California

This play is basically because of my belief earlier this season that Arizona St. was emerging as the second-best team in the Pac-10 behind Southern Cal. That theory took a beating in back-to-back weeks, when California very nearly upset USC in a 23-17 loss and then ASU got blow out by the Trojans, 45-7. As unpopular as my opinion might be, I believe the results could have been reversed if the games were played in the opposite order - it's conceivable that the Sun Devils could have battled USC to the wire, and then based on that wake-up call, USC could have blown out Cal. If that was the case, the point spread on this game would be much lower, so I'll take the two-touchdown head-start and hope the Sun Devils prove me right.

PLAY: Arizona St. for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-3 for a net loss of 1.3 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1). College season record: 16-14 for a net profit of 0.6 units.