04/19/2005 11:00PM

Gamblers play to win a horse

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People go to casinos to win all sorts of things.

Money is the most common goal, but if you've been in enough casinos, you've seen players going for cars or motorcycles.

So, why not a Thoroughbred?

That's what the Hard Rock Hotel-Casino has decided to offer with its Kentucky Derby promotion. No, a horse won't be on display in the middle of a bank of slot machines. Instead, customers will be able to earn drawing tickets between this Friday and May 7, Derby Day. Horseplayers get a drawing ticket every time they make $50 in parimutuel wagers at the window. Casino players can receive a ticket for every suited blackjack at the 21 tables, or for every four of kind (10's or better) on video poker.

The winner of the drawing will be able to claim a horse for $3,000.

"We wanted to do something that hasn't been done before," said race and sports book director Jamie Shea. "We said, 'What's the coolest thing someone could win?' and one of the accounting guys came up with offering a horse.

"You're betting on them, why not own one?"

The drawing will be part of a weekend of Derby activities at the Hard Rock. The festivities will start at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 6, with a free Derby seminar hosted by Jason Levine, a handicapper, radio host, and author.

"On Derby Day, we're going to have a casino-wide Derby party," Shea said. "KOMP Radio will be giving away $5,000 with a contest involving the race. We'll have big screen TVs turned to the race. We'll have hot girls walking around handing out mint juleps. When the race happens, we're going to turn off the rock music - which we've never done here before - and have the sound of the race."

After the race, the drawing will be held for the Thoroughbred. The winner must be present. If not, the drawing will continue until a winner is found.

Shea said that obviously not everyone who enters will want to own a horse (or pay the stable fees, the trainer and his crew, feed bills, etc.), so another option is to take $5,000 in Hard Rock comps, such as hotel rooms, dinners, and show tickets.

One might wonder which is the best way to qualify for the drawing. The easiest, of course, is to plunk down $50 on the races and get your ticket right away.

Professional gambler Fezzik, also the seasonal host of Larry Grossman's "You Can Bet on It" radio show, said it would take a lot longer to earn your ticket by playing blackjack.

Fezzik said a 21 player gets dealt a blackjack approximately once every 21 hands, so a suited blackjack would be once every 84 hands. Assuming about 60 hands per hour (which obviously depends on the number of players at a table, the speed of the dealer, the decision-making speed of the players), a player would earn a ticket every 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Fezzik said it would also be about that long between four of a kind with 10's or better in video poker.

NFL Week 1 lines available

The NFL draft is this weekend, and if that isn't enough to whet bettors' appetites for football, the Las Vegas Hilton - fresh after the schedules being announced last week - already has lines for the opening weekend of games.

The season kicks off with the two-time defending champion Patriots hosting the Raiders on Thursday night, Sept. 8. The Patriots are favored by 7 1/2. The weekend ends with Monday Night Football - starting its final season on ABC before moving to ESPN in 2006 - airing a rematch of the NFC title game with the Eagles a 3-point road favorite vs. the Falcons in the Georgia Dome.

The full slate of 14 games on Sunday includes four others with road favorites: Broncos -4 at the Dolphins, Bengals -3 at the Browns, Rams -4 at the 49ers, and the Colts -3 at the Ravens in the ESPN Sunday night game which might be the best on the card. The other 10 games have home favorites: Redskins -4 1/2 vs. the Bears, Panthers -6 vs. the Saints, Jaguars -3 vs. the Seahawks, Steelers -7 vs. the Titans, Bills -6 vs. the Texans, Chiefs -3 vs. the Jets, Vikings -5 vs. the Buccaneers, Giants -2 1/2 vs. the Cardinals, Chargers -5 1/2 vs. the Cowboys, and Lions -1 1/2 vs. the Packers.

Boxing on the Strip

Caesars Palace is hosting boxing cards in the outdoor Roman Plaza Amphitheatre on Friday and Saturday nights as it continues its return to the boxing game.

Friday's card will air as part of ESPN's "Friday Night Fights" at 7 p.m. Pacific, and then the main event is Saturday on ESPN pay-per-view at 6 p.m.

Saturday's featured match is Antonio Margarito vs. Kermit Cintron in a WBO welterweight title bout. Magarito, the defending champion, is a slight -120 favorite at the Caesars sports book, with Cintron backers laying -110.

Before thinking the price is cheap on the champ, consider that Cintron is undefeated at 24-0 with 22 KO's.

Another title bout was supposed to take place with Juan Diaz defending his WBA lightweight belt against Ebo Elder, but Diaz suffered a cut over his left eye last weekend and had to postpone the fight.

The main draw on the card, however, will probably be the wildly popular three-time world champion Sugar Shane Mosley, who is a -700 favorite over David Estrada, a +500 longshot.

The other marquee bout is a heavyweight non-title fight between Jameel McCline and Calvin Brock. McCline is a -170 favorite with Brock offered at +140.

For out-of-state boxing fans - or locals who don't want to go down to the Strip on a weekend night - the Saturday night card is $29.95.