02/05/2003 1:00AM

Glaus leads home run derby field


Football is No. 1 in Las Vegas, and basketball gets a lot of attention, especially with March Madness right around the corner, but baseball still has a prominent place.

Greg Maddux grew up here. Jason and Jeremy Giambi and countless other major leaguers make this their off-season home. Pete Rose sightings at the Bellagio, Palms, and Caesars Palace have made news recently. And the Las Vegas 51s are the AAA affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, which brings a lot of baseball players and fans to town.

Baseball will again be on the locals' minds on Saturday with the Big League Challenge home run derby taking place at Cashman Field. Anaheim Angels third baseman Troy Glaus, the defending champ and also the reigning World Series MVP, leads the field, which also features the $250 million man, Alex Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers. The eight-man field is expected to be filled out by A-Rod's Rangers teammate Rafael Palmeiro; new Phillies teammates Jim Thome and Pat Burrell; Lance Berkman of the Astros; Brian Giles of the Pirates; and Magglio Ordonez of the White Sox.

The eight sluggers will be divided into four head-to-head matchups. The winners will advance to the semifinals and the finals until a champion is crowned. ESPN will tape all the activity and broadcast all matchups in seven episodes during the spring and summer, starting March 24 on ESPN2. The shows are sometimes regularly scheduled, and other times used as filler during rain delays and other changes in programming.

The gates open at 9 a.m. with the competition starting at 11 a.m. Reserved tickets are $20, general admission is $8.

Bombs away with baseball betting

There is no wagering on the Big League Challenge, but the Imperial Palace does have odds up on the regular season home run race.

Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Rodriguez are the co-favorites at 4-1, with no one else in single digits. A total of 35 players are listed, plus the field (all major leaguers) at 25-1. Other potential home run kings include Thome at 15-1; Glaus, Jason Giambi and Manny Ramirez at 20-1; Berkman and Todd Helton at 25-1; Burrell, Jeff Bagwell, Ken Griffey Jr., and Richie Sexson at 30-1; and Vladimir Guerrero and Shawn Green at 35-1.

- If you're more interested in how teams do, the Imperial Palace and the Palms have put up over/under season win totals for all 30 teams. The Yankees have the highest total at 98 1/2 wins, with the A's at 93 1/2, the Diamondbacks at 92, and the Cardinals and Braves at 91 1/2. The defending champion Angels are at 90 1/2.

On the bottom of the sheets, the Brewers' total is only 64. The next worst teams are expected to be the Devil Rays - their total opened at 66 and has already been bet down to 65 1/2 - and the Tigers - opened at 65 and has been bet down to 64 1/2. The only other team to move in the early betting has been the Rangers, bet down from 81 to 80 1/2.

- For those looking all the way ahead to the World Series, it should be no surprise that the Yankees are the 2-1 favorite to reclaim the title, according to Las Vegas Sports Consultants. The A's are the second choice at 7-2, followed by the Diamondbacks (5-1), Giants (6-1), Braves (7-1), Angels (8-1), and the Cardinals, Astros, and Red Sox (all at 10-1).

Basketball bettors eye futures

The NBA All-Star Game is Sunday. Not much is expected to be wagered on that exhibition, but bookmakers all over Vegas have been finding innovative ways to spark handle.

The Lakers opened as prohibitive 7-5 favorite to win this year's championship. When the odds went up last summer, they were wrapping up their third straight title. Even after their horrendously slow start, most books kept the Lakers' odds around 2-1 or 5-2 because they didn't want to get flooded with money (plus most people were assuming they would right the ship and return to dominance).

Well, last month, the Stardust saw there was no money coming in on the Lakers at such a low price and ballooned the Lakers' odds to 7-1. They even put the word out on their "Stardust Line" radio show that they were offering such juicy odds. They got what they wanted and have since lowered the Lakers' odds to 3-1.

If you believe the Lakers won't get into the postseason, you can get nice odds at Caesars Palace (and their satellite Park Place properties), where they have a prop bet that asks "Where will the Lakers be seeded in the Western Conference playoffs?" The Lakers missing the playoffs is at 12-1.

Chuck Esposito, Park Place's director of race and sports, said most of the bets have been on the Lakers to be the No. 1 seed (200-1) or the No. 2 seed (150-1). That would be quite a feat considering the Lakers trailed the Mavericks by 14 games and the Kings by nine games through Tuesday night's action.

The Lakers are 12-1 to be the No. 3 seed, 5-1 to be No. 4, 7-5 to be No. 5, 8-5 to be No. 6, 2-1 to be No. 7, and 3-1 to be No. 8.

As for NBA Finals futures, Las Vegas Sports Consultants has the Lakers, Mavericks, and Kings all at 5-2. The Trail Blazers are the next-lowest team at 7-1. The Nets are the lowest Eastern Conference team at 8-1.

- Since becoming legal two years ago, the NCAA men's basketball future book has grown to rival the Super Bowl futures at some properties. Arizona is the lukewarm 3-1 favorite, followed by Big 12 rivals Kansas and Oklahoma at 5-1, Kentucky at 6-1, and Duke, Texas, and Louisville at 7-1.

NHL teams head into stretch run

The NHL returned to action Tuesday after Sunday's All-Star Game. The Western Conference-leading Dallas Stars are the 4-1 favorites to win the Stanley Cup, followed by the Detroit Red Wings, who have seen their odds increased to 5-1 after opening as the 4-1 favorite.

The story of the year is the bankrupt Ottawa Senators, who opened at 15-1 last summer and are now down to 5-1. The Eastern Conference-leading New Jersey Devils are 6-1, while the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues are both 7-1.

The Vancouver Canucks, another great story, have also been lowered to 8-1 from their opening odds of 22-1.