01/12/2005 1:00AM

Just for kicks, book posts Eclipse odds

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LAS VEGAS - If there's a debate over how likely something is to happen, then an oddsmaker will give you odds.

In Nevada, state regulations forbid wagers to be taken on anything that involves a vote (boxing being the exception to the rule), but that doesn't keep John Avello, director of race and sports operations at the Bally's and Paris hotels, from putting up all sorts of odds for entertainment purposes only, from the Oscars to the Emmys to the current rash of reality shows.

Earlier this week, he posted odds on the 2004 Eclipse Awards.

"I've been doing these for three years," Avello said. "A few are slam dunks, but many others are open for conversation. They're just a lot of fun for our guests.

"I take the finalists in each category and, just like I do with the Oscars and the Emmys, I get input from voters and other people involved in the industry and make odds based on how strong the finalists actually are," he said. "These are exactly what I would put up if we were able to take bets."

According to Avello, the slam dunks in the Eclipse would be Sweet Catomine, 1-20 as 2-year-old filly; Ouija Board, 1-9 as top female turf horse; and to a lesser extent, Smarty Jones, 1-5 as 3-year-old male; Kitten's Joy, 1-5 as male turf horse; and Ghostzapper, 1-5 as older male and 1-2 as Horse of the Year.

The rest of the equine categories are open to debate. The real toss-ups are in the sprinter division, with Speightstown at 4-5 and Pico Central at 6-5, and older female, with Sightseek at 4-5 and Azeri at even money. Declan's Moon is a pretty solid 3-5 choice over Wilko (3-1) as 2-year-old male; Ashado is 2-5 as 3-year-old filly over Ouija Board (2-1); and Hirapour is at even money over McDynamo (9-5) in the steeplechase division.

In the human categories, Avello has Robert Frankel as a 7-5 favorite in the trainer's race over Todd Pletcher (8-5) and Steve Asmussen (5-2); John Velazquez the 1-5 favorite ahead of Edgar Prado (6-1) and Rafael Bejarano (10-1) in the jockey race; and Pablo Fragoso a 4-5 favorite over Brian Hernandez Jr. (6-5) as apprentice jockey.

Frank Stronach is the favorite as both owner and breeder. Stronach Stables is 6-5 as top owner over Michael Gill (8-5) and Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey (7-2). Adena Springs/Stronach Entities is 1-2 as top breeder over Juddmonte Farms (7-2) and John Franks (9-2).

Let the debates begin. Winners will be announced at the Eclipse Awards, to be held Jan. 24 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, and telecast live on TVG.

More shows for the Vegas set

Monday featured the debuts of two reality shows that should be of interest to those who love horse racing, Vegas, and gambling.

"Caesars 24/7," a behind-the-scenes look at the running of Caesars Palace, airs on A&E at 10 p.m. on Mondays. Its storylines and characters are similar to those in the Discovery Channel's "American Casino," but are less cheesy and contrived than Fox's "The Casino" last summer.

"American Dream Derby" is broadcast on GSN (formerly known as the Game Show Network) at 9 p.m. Mondays, and the first episode will be replayed on Thursday and Friday night. Check your local listings if you receive GSN, which is only available on digital cable in some markets, including Las Vegas.

"American Dream Derby" has a dozen hopeful competitors vying for $250,000 plus a stable of Thoroughbreds. Avello has installed Susan Bosso as the 4-1 favorite, with LeVar Thomas as the 5-1 second choice. The rest of the field includes Chris Black (6-1), Eric Childers (7-1), Deanna Manfredi (8-1), Dean Pellegrin (10-1), Tara Clark (12-1), Tara Walden (15-1), Jewel Savage (18-1), Aaron Coen (20-1), Sara Slavin (25-1), and David Malatesta (40-1).

The stock market game

Let's be honest here, it's sort of like a reality show when someone makes predictions and puts his reputation on the line. Even if we're not involved, we can follow along and keep score.

One of the most cutthroat reality shows is the stock market, where there are big winners and losers every day.

Each year, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has a competition in which it asks a group of stock analysts to pick a hot company to watch and then grades them on how much the stock rises or falls. For the past four years, the winner has been David Ehlers of Las Vegas Investment Advisors. He is also the father of Daily Racing Form handicapper Scott Ehlers.

David Ehlers's stock pick for this year is Sunair Electronics (SNR), which is run by former associates of billionaire H. Wayne Huizenga, who is best known as the founder of Blockbuster Video and the owner of the Miami Dolphins.

As for Ehlers's competition, Randy Campanale of First National Bank of Nevada selected Forest Laboratories (FRX), a New York pharmaceutical company, and Harvey Cohen picked Dreman/Claymore Dividend & Income Fund (DCS).

Six tiebreakers needed in Leroy's match

Each Friday at 10 p.m., the Riviera sports book is the site of a handicapping contest known as the Leroy's Challenge, which is aired locally on KBAD AM-920. In the contest, a nine-player single-elimination tournament, two handicappers give out five college basketball selections for Saturday's action, with the winner advancing to the next round.

Last Friday, the tournament's "play-in match" between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds, Mark Mayer of GamingToday and Jeff Haney of the Las Vegas Sun, was as close as it could get. Both went 3-2 with their selections, so the rules called for a tiebreaker, beginning with their best bet and then, in descending order, on their next five picks. Both lost their best bets, both won their second-best plays, both lost their third-best plays, and both won their fourth- and fifth-best plays.

The next tiebreaker was margin of victory/defeat, starting again with their best bets. Haney's selection of Providence +7 vs. Boston College missed by only two points, as BC won, 69-60. Mayer's best bet, Gonzaga pick-em vs. St. Mary's, lost by 89-81.

Haney returns this Friday to face professional bettor and No. 1 seed Alan Boston, who was featured prominently in Chad Millman's 2001 book "The Odds," and is a frequent guest on local and national radio and TV shows.