09/11/2003 11:00PM

Get 'em while they're hot

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There is a lottery each week at the Stardust on the Strip for the opportunity to bet into the opening football lines. Sharp bettors value the opportunity to wager on that fresh number, before others have a chance to change the spread.

For horse racing future-book bettors, there is no lottery. But finding that fresh number is just as important to horse racing bettors as it is to sports bettors. It is a fleeting thing, that opening number, usually lasting as long as a paycheck on Friday.

For some, getting that first big number is more important than whether the horse makes it to the starting gate.

For example, the Palms race and sports book hung a future-book line on which jockey would win the riding title at the Del Mar meet, which ended Wednesday. Patrick Valenzuela took the trophy, with Julie Krone second, but Valenzuela's odds were low from the start, while some got as high as 1,000-1 on Krone. So, although those who wagered on P. Val got the money, those holding Krone tickets have a souvenir for a lifetime.

For those looking for big numbers on next year's Kentucky Derby, your time has arrived. At least two Las Vegas bookmakers have posted odds on which current 2-year-old will win next year's Run for the Roses. The Imperial Palace has had its line up for a little while, and Bally's and Paris-Las Vegas started accepting Derby future wagers on Friday.

The Imperial Palace is famous for offering future wagers on a variety of sporting events. The Kentucky Derby is just one of those events. IP race and sports director Jay Kornegay says that for his future bettors, the earlier the better. His staff combs Internet sites, racing publications and gathers word-of-mouth information to arrive at the opening lines.

At the Imperial Palace, Silver Wagon is the favorite to win next year's Derby, at odds of 35-1. Other early offerings include the filly Ashado at 100-1; Birdstone, 50-1; Chapel Royal, 70-1; Limehouse, 60-1; and Value Plus, 50-1.

From the Del Mar Futurity comes the winner, Siphonizer, at 60-1 - although expect that to change quickly - and also-rans Cooperation, 45-1; Gulf of Mexico, 60-1; and Perfect Moon, 50-1. Getting action after his impressive Del Mar maiden-breaker was Odds On, a spitting image of his father, 1997 Derby winner Silver Charm, at 40-1.

The freshest line is at Bally's and Paris-Las Vegas. John Avello, who heads the race and sports operation for the adjoining casinos, says he starts the Derby futures off his Breeders' Cup Juvenile list. Avello, like many bettors, believes that a solid foundation as a 2-year-old is a plus for a 3-year-old campaign. In addition to noting a horse's early form, Avello also relies on breeding and the information he gleans from the pages of this publication.

"It's never ending," Avello said. "I try to watch every race for 2-year-olds, then will log them for future references."

At Bally's and Paris-Las Vegas, Value Plus and Chapel Royal are co-future favorites at odds of 40-1. In addition to the filly Ashado at 150-1, Bally's and Paris also have Del Mar Debutante winner Halfbridled at 125-1.

Other Bally's-Paris odds are Birdstone at 75-1; Cooperation, 100-1; Gulf of Mexico, 150-1; and Perfect Moon and Limehouse, 125-1 each. Silver Wagon starts out at 60-1, while the promising Odds On is at 100-1. The complete 2004 Kentucky Derby future book list is at the Bally's website at ballysraceandsports.com.

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