10/09/2005 11:00PM

Huge early lead fizzles in Fall Classic


Veteran handicapping tournament players call it "playing to the number."

That means that in a given tournament format, a player's main concern is to reach the score that will probably win it or at least get him in the money.

In the Fall Classic at the Orleans, held this past Thursday through Saturday at the off-strip hotel-casino, that number over the years has been 10,000. Contestants made 12 mythical $100 win bets each day.

Last Thursday, with longshots coming in from coast to coast, Murray D. Kram looked like he was going to blow the covers off the book. Kram, a longtime tournament player who moved to Las Vegas this year and was second in the Summer Stakes at Bally's in August, posted a single-day record score of 8,300, causing many to say that everyone else was playing for second place.

Veteran tournament players knew better. Call it "what goes up must come down" or "regression to the mean," but these things have a way of evening out over a three-day tournament.

When the dust settled Saturday afternoon, the team of Dominic Mundo and Richard Surmick had taken the $114,560 first-place prize with a very typical winning score of 10,496.

James Worsham was second with 10,286 points to earn $57,280, Javier Jaramillo was third with 10,262 points to earn $28,640, and the team of Deniz Sidkey and Greg Gass also reached the magic number at 10,264 to earn $17,900.

As for Kram, he added only 1,600 to his total over the final two days to finish fifth with 9,892 to collect $10,740, but he does get a free berth in the Jan. 19-21 Horseplayer World Series at the Orleans to go with the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Champion-ship berth he earned at Bally's.

The top 50 finishers in this past weekend's tourney earned the $1,000 entry fee into the Horseplayer World Series. There are still some qualifying events throughout the country (see coastrace.com for details) or players can enter for $1,000 by calling Debbie Flaig or Linda Ferris at (888) 566-7223.

* With the big tournament over, the Coast Casinos, which also include the Gold Coast, Barbary Coast, and Suncoast, resume their weekly handicapping contests this Wednesday and Thursday, with progressive jackpots available for going 5 for 5 on the first five races on the Oak Tree at Santa Anita card. Wednesday's contest has a $5 entry fee and a carryover pool of $2,995, and Thursday's contest has a $10 entry fee and a carryover of $3,930.

Bettors win and look to next week

The sports books here had a rough weekend, as a lot of the heavily bet games came in on the side of the bettors and some games fell on the number, causing some books to get middled or sided. Bookmakers often say that the players have to win sometimes, so they keep coming back. That was certainly the case this Sunday night, when professional bettors fired away at the opening lines for this weekend's games, even though the Stratosphere did not put up its early lines because race and sports book director Robert Jaynes was ill.

At the Stardust, early betting moved the lines on 15 college games, though mostly only by a half-point or a point. The only line that moved twice was Purdue vs. Northwestern. The Stardust opened Purdue -9, and when money came in on Northwestern, it was lowered to -8 1/2. More money showed for Northwestern, and it was lowered again to -7 1/2. By Monday morning, the Stardust had the line as low as -7, and other books in town had it at -7 1/2.

In the NFL, the Bears were bet from pick-em vs. the Vikings to -1 and then -2 on Sunday night. By Monday morning, when most other books in town posted their lines, it was wavering between -2 1/2 and -3.

Sports book notes

Sports books were hopping all weekend with football action, plus the baseball playoffs and the return of hockey, but other sports also got plenty of attention and betting action:

* Saturday night's much-anticipated Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo lightweight bout lost a lot of its luster when Castillo didn't make the 135-pound limit on Friday. The fight went on, but without Corrales's title belts at stake. Still, 15,000 people packed the Thomas and Mack Center to watch a rematch of the May 7 bout, in which Corrales was knocked down twice in the 10th round but came back to knock out Castillo in what many boxing experts rank as the best round and one of the best fights in years. While the two traded blows equally in May, this time Castillo took control by opening a cut on Corrales's right eyelid in the second round, sending him staggering backward in the third round. Castillo finished Corrales off in the fourth round, knocking him out with a vicious left hook to the head. The over/under on the fight was 9 1/2 or 10 rounds depending on the sports book, and Castillo was a 6-5 underdog. With Corrales and Castillo splitting the first two meetings and with Corrales still holding the title belts despite the loss, a third meeting is inevitable.

* Mark Martin won the Banquet 400 at Kansas Speedway on Sunday at 15-1 at Station Casinos. Martin is part of the Roush Racing team, which has won the last two season titles and took the top three spots in Sunday's race (Greg Biffle was second, Carl Edwards was third) and four of the top five (polesitter Matt Kenseth was fifth).

* In a matchup that would have dominated TV screens in Vegas sports books if it wasn't right in the middle of all this other action, Tiger Woods faced John Daly in a playoff at the WGC-American Express Champ-ionship in San Francisco. Woods was the 5-2 pre-tournament favorite at the Las Vegas Hilton with Daly one of the longest shots on the board at 100-1. Daly missed a potential tournament-winning putt and then a 3-footer to hand the victory to Woods.