05/16/2005 12:00AM

Giacomo not getting much respect


Ever since Giacomo's 50-1 upset of the Kentucky Derby, the debate has been raging: Was it a fluke, or is he for real?

The loudest voices have been crying fluke, and oddsmakers seem to agree. The Plaza sports book here had Giacomo as high as 8-1 to win the Preakness, with the Caesars Entertainment properties offering 5 1/2-1. Any way you look at it, it seems certain that Giacomo will be going off as the highest-priced Derby winner running in the Preakness since Charismatic was 8-1 in 1999.

But what about the odds on the other horses? Since no race books in Vegas were offering Preakness odds on any horse other than the Derby winner, we turned to Michael "Roxy" Roxborough, legendary oddsmaker and founder of Las Vegas Sports Consultants.

Roxborough pretty much split the difference between the Plaza and Caesars odds and set odds on Giacomo at 7-1. Unlike track morning-line odds, Roxy's are a reflection of the horses' chances of winning rather than what the odds will be at post time. Afleet Alex is Roxy's favorite at 5-2, followed by High Fly and Closing Argument as the co-second choices at 6-1.

It might seem strange that Closing Argument's odds are lower than Giacomo's, but Roxy said he felt that while the Churchill strip seemed to favor horses on the outside on Derby Day, Closing Argument ran the best of the horses near the hot pace.

"I think Closing Argument ran the better race in the Derby," he said. "Of course, this is just my opinion, and opinion makes gambling."

Roxy has Wilko, Noble Causeway, and Greeley's Galaxy each at 10-1, followed by High Limit (15-1), Sun King (18-1), Scrappy T (30-1), Going Wild (35-1), Galloping Grocer (40-1), Malibu Sunshine (40-1), Hal's Image (50-1), and Golden Man (50-1).

Roxy said that when he put together these odds at noon Monday, they reflected the fact that some horses might not make the field, which is limited to 14. He said Golden Man would be lowered to 40-1 if he got in.

Of course, we'll have a much clearer picture Wednesday afternoon (5 p.m. Eastern) when the Preakness field is drawn and the morning line is revealed.

Wright outclasses Trinidad

In horse racing parlance, Saturday night's middleweight bout at the MGM Grand between Felix "Tito" Trinidad and Ronald "Winky" Wright was supposed to be an epic match race. But instead it was a walkover.

Trinidad was the -185 favorite, while Wright, stepping up in class, was the +165 underdog, but it was Wright who went wire to wire to win a decision that was as close to unanimous as any you're likely to see. One judge had it 120-107, scoring it 10-9 for Wright in all 12 rounds, with 1 point deducted from Trinidad for a low blow in the ninth. The other two judges gave Trinidad one round apiece, scoring it 119-108.

Trinidad landed only 58 punches the whole night, while Wright connected on 262, most of them jabs that had Trinidad's head looking like a bobblehead doll on several occasions.

As lopsided as the bout was, it was more entertaining than the secondary feature, in which Zab Judah, a clear-cut -1100 favorite, knocked out Cosme Rivera in the third round to defend his welterweight title. That was even more of a mismatch. The best fight of the night featured Will Grigsby, who upset Jose Victor Burgos as a +240 underdog to claim the junior flyweight title.

Kahne finally gets a win

Also Saturday night, Kasey Kahne held off Tony Stewart on two restarts in the final 14 laps to win the Chevy American Revolution 400 at Richmond International Speedway in Virginia.

Despite never winning a Nextel Cup race before, Kahne, who as a rookie last year had a record five runner-up finishes, was one of the co-favorites at 10-1 along with Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman.

Purdy also wins maiden

Another first-time winner on a major sports circuit was Ted Purdy, who won the Byron Nelson Classic in Irving, Texas, beating a field that included Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, and Retief Goosen. In a tournament that will likely be remembered more for Woods missing the cut for the first time in 142 PGA events, it was the unknown pair of Purdy and Scott O'Hair who battled it out to the end, with Purdy prevailing by one stroke for his first tour victory. Bettors who had the "field" at 5-1 at the Las Vegas Hilton didn't have to worry about who won, since both Purdy and O'Hair weren't listed as individual betting interests.

Yankee streak justifies low odds

As recently as Friday, May 6 - the day before the Derby - the Yankees were 11-19 and tied for last place in the American League East. I remember this because I noticed that the Yankees were still favored in the neighborhood of 3-1 in many future books.

This struck me as odd since they were in the division cellar, but I wasn't exactly surprised, because books are more inclined to lower odds than they are to raise them, especially with a popular team like the Yankees, who have a history of winning.

Sure enough, the Yankees haven't lost since, reeling off eight straight wins through Sunday to get back to .500, at 19-19.

The books have to be pleased they didn't raise the odds in a knee-jerk reaction.