06/03/2009 11:00PM

Lack of storylines will hurt Belmont handle

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LAS VEGAS - In the major horse racing events during the course of the year, star power and storylines have a big impact on handle in the race books here.

The Kentucky Derby is the exception, as the tradition of the first Saturday in May draws a crowd and betting interest. But the other legs of the Triple Crown are much more dependent on who ends up in the field and how much their stories catch the imagination of the public. In the Preakness two weeks ago, Nevada race books handled $2,077,529, an increase over the $1,760,292 bet last year, according to figures from Las Vegas Dissemination Company, the state's wagering hub. Heading into last year's Preakness, there was talk of Big Brown being a super horse off his Derby victory, while this year's Preakness, after longshot Mine That Bird won the Derby and was considered a fluke, had the added element of the battle of the sexes with superfilly Rachel Alexandra taking on the boys.

"That was a really good storyline, it got a lot of play," said LVDC's Vinny Magliulo. "But it wasn't just the horses but the whole Calvin Borel story, with him jumping off the Derby winner to ride the filly. People were drawn into that."

Of course, Rachel Alexandra, with Borel in the irons, held off Mine That Bird down the stretch. Now we're left with a Belmont Stakes Saturday that doesn't have a horse going for the Triple Crown, something that always spikes Belmont handle, so it's not expected that Nevada books will match last year's handle of $2,425,250 on Saturday's big race or the overall handle on the card of $3,474,415.

There won't be nearly as many promotions at race books this weekend as there would had Mine That Bird prevailed, but head-to-head matchups will be readily available. John Avello at Wynn Las Vegas posted the following matchups on Thursday morning: Mine That Bird -140 (risk $1.40 for every $1 you want to profit) vs. Dunkirk +110 (win $1.10 for every $1 wagered); Mine That Bird -125 vs. Charitable Man -105; Chocolate Candy -160 vs. Mr. Hot Stuff +130; Summer Bird -125 vs. Brave Victory -105; Flying Private -120 vs. Miner's Escape -110; and Miner's Escape -150 vs. Luv Gov +120.

The Station Casinos will have a $10,000-guaranteed twin quinella wager in which bettors try to pick the quinella in two separate races, one of which will be the Belmont.

The M Resort on the south end of the valley will be continuing its in-race wagering during the running of the Belmont (imagine if you had picked up on Mine That Bird's big move in the Derby before Tom Durkin and been able to get a bet down heading into the stretch). You have to put money on account and use its hand-held wagering units to place the wager.

Tuley the Tout's picks: 1. Brave Victory; 2. Charitable Man; 3. Mine That Bird; longshot: Summer Bird.

Other Vegas events

The World Series of Poker started last week at the Rio with the first of 57 events, ranging from a $1,000 buy-in event last Saturday (the smallest buy-in in world series history) to the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E championship, which crowns the best all-around player. The letters stand for horse, Omaha, razz, stud, and eights or better. Of course, the Main Event is the $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em Championship event, which starts July 3. The field will play down to the final table by July 15 and then the "November Nine" will return to battle it out for the title on Nov. 7. This is the second straight year the world series is using a long break to build up the hype for the day-after telecasts on ESPN. The champ is expected to be crowned Nov. 10.

* The CineVegas Film Festival runs at the Palms from June 10-15, with a mix of world premieres and art films. Jon Voight and Willem Dafoe will receive awards for their acting careers, and directors George and Mike Kuchar will be honored. There also will be hundreds of filmmakers and actors hoping to achieve that status. Go to cinevegas.com for details.

* The Palms also is rolling out the red carpet for stars of another genre. The NHL's Stanley Cup finals will be wrapping up next week with the Detroit Red Wings taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins, and then the sport's stars will be coming to Las Vegas for the NHL Awards, to be held June 18 at the Palms, including a week-long schedule of activities.