09/20/2007 12:00AM

It's never too early to start thinking Derby

EmailLAS VEGAS - With none of the top 2-year-old colts running this weekend, it's a good time to pause and look at their future-book odds.

But if you think I'm talking about the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in five weeks, you're not thinking future enough. The Wynn Las Vegas, which is the only race book in town with futures on all 11 BC races to be run Oct. 26-27 at Monmouth Park, has futures up for the 2008 Kentucky Derby to be run at Churchill Downs on May 3, more than seven months from now.

"I've mostly gotten play from people who were bugging me to put them up," said John Avello, director of race and sports book operations at the Wynn. "People ask for these earlier and earlier every year, especially once the 2-year-olds start running at Saratoga and Del Mar. When I began putting together my list at the start of August, I had 25. Now, we're approaching 100."

A check of the list on Wednesday showed 94 2-year-old colts (no females at this time), and Avello said he adds one or two a day either from seeing them on entry lists or from customer requests, which he said he welcomes and will offer a fair price on.

Avello said that because of the uncertainty of this type of future book - it's not like the NFL, where you know one of the exactly 32 teams has to win the Super Bowl - he worked a negative hold percentage into his opening lines.

"What that means is that if you weighted your bets on all the horses on the list, you couldn't lose," Avello said, before adding, "but the catch is that the winner has to be on the list."

Avello said that's usually the case, with the notable exceptions of Charismatic in 1999 (who wasn't added until that spring) and Giacomo in 2005 (who was added the previous December).

Majestic Warrior, the Bill Mott trainee who impressively won the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, opened as the 40-1 favorite and has been bet down to 30-1. If those odds sound high for a favorite, they shouldn't, as we've all seen how much of a longshot it is for the stars of the fall to even make it to the first Saturday in May. But Majestic Warrior, a son of A.P. Indy, is being seen as something special after coming from 11 lengths back to win by 2 1/4 lengths.

"In making him the favorite, I'm looking at the breeding, plus the way he finished in the Hopeful he looked like he could have run for six miles," Avello said.

Tale of Ekati is the second choice in the Wynn future book, opening at 75-1 and currently at 40-1. Other top contenders are Sargent Seattle (50-1), The Leopard and Kodiak Kowboy (both at 60-1), and the quartet of Georgie Boy, Gold Coyote, J Be K, and The Roundhouse (all at 75-1). As of Wednesday night, every other

2-year-old was at least 100-1, with more than a quarter of the list at

200-1 or higher.

An interesting note is that even though Majestic Warrior is the Derby favorite, he's only the second choice in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile future book. Tale of Ekati, who won the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont last Saturday, is the BC Juvenile favorite at 4-1, followed by Majestic Warrior (5-1), Kodiak Kowboy (6-1), and Sargent Seattle (8-1). Ready's Image had been as low as 8-1 before being raised to 15-1 after giving up the lead in the Hopeful.

"Even though it's the same batch of horses, the Juvenile and the Derby have to be viewed as two totally separate events," said Avello, pointing out that a lot of the summer 2-year-old stakes are at seven furlongs leading up to the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile, while it takes a lot more to get 1 1/4 miles in the Derby.

Weekly horse handicapping contests

After the Del Mar meet closes, a lot of the weekly handicapping contests in Las Vegas go on hiatus, but the action picks back up with the start of the Oak Tree at Santa Anita next Wednesday, though not as much as in the past.

The South Point will resume its pick 5 handicapping contest every Thursday from Sept. 27 through Nov. 1, using the last five races from Santa Anita. Entries, which are $10 and are limited to 10 per person, can be made either at the South Point, located five miles south of Mandalay Bay on Las Vegas Boulevard, or at the El Cortez in downtown Las Vegas. There are $500 in weekly prizes, and the entry fees go into a progressive jackpot, which the South Point seeds with $500 each week. It grows until someone goes 5 for 5.

The Excalibur is continuing its Wednesday win and quinella contest, which was held during the Fairplex meet. There is no entry fee, limit of one per person, with a first prize of $500, $150 for second, $75 for third, $50 for fourth, and $25 for fifth. There is also a $100 aggregate prize for the leader(s) after the fourth race and $50 prizes for the leader(s) after the second and sixth races. Winners must be present.

The Poker Palace in North Las Vegas has a head-to-head matchup contest with a $500 prize for the top score on Wednesday through Friday and another $500 for a Saturday-Sunday contest.

The contests that are no longer being held are the Super Saturday contest at the Las Vegas Hilton, which will look to resume after the football season, and the Thursday $10 buy-in contest at the Coast Casinos. The Orleans, however, is hosting the $500 buy-in Fall Classic at The Orleans on Oct. 4-6, with an anticipated field of 800 and a purse of $500,000. Players make 12 mythical $100 win bets a day from the contest tracks, which are scheduled to include Belmont, Calder, Laurel, Hawthorne, Louisiana Downs, Bay Meadows, Oak Tree at Santa Anita, and Keeneland (Friday and Saturday only).