08/15/2006 11:00PM

Leroy's fills the Stardust void


There is bad news and good news for Las Vegas handicappers and bettors this football season.

The bad news is that the Stardust Line is off the air on Sunday nights after 25 years of giving out the opening numbers and analysis of the next weekend's games. In addition to the local listeners, the 50,000-watt signal could be heard on KDWN in nine Western states and in recent years gained a much wider audience with the Internet.

The good news is that Leroy's has stepped up to fill the void with the Leroy's Line Show with former Stardust host John Kelly and handicapper Dave Cokin, who has been on an impressive 60-percent run the last few years when picking three games each Sunday night on the Stardust show.

The Leroy's Line Show debuts this Sunday from 9 to 11 p.m. Pacific time on KBAD AM-920, an ESPN radio station, with previews of the upcoming college and pro football seasons. That will be its airtime until Sept. 10 when it will start immediately following the Sunday night NFL game.

Jimmy Vaccaro, marketing director for Leroy's, said it was a natural to pick up where the Stardust left off.

"I went to [Leroy's owner] Vic Salerno back in January and said that the writing was on the wall that the Stardust was closing and we should take the lead on this," Vaccaro said. "It's the greatest two hours in sports betting radio, recapping the weekend's action and getting the first look at the next week. If we didn't snap it up, someone else would."

To make it a complete preview show, for the first time Leroy's will be posting its opening football lines on Sunday nights for Cokin to handicap against.

Vaccaro said the only "fly in the ointment" to getting the deal done was that KDWN is undergoing an ownership change and Leroy's wasn't able to land a deal with the superstation.

"KDWN, with all their changes, would only commit to a month-to-month contract, and you obviously can't do that and risk being taken off the air in the middle of football season and having to switch stations," he said.

But Vaccaro said he's happy they were able to work it out with KBAD, which is a sister station to KENO AM-1460. Leroy's already had a show on KENO - the "Leroy's Sports Hour" - from 2 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

This football season, that show will feature Beat Bogdanovich, a head-to-head handicapping contest between well-known sports book director Nick Bogdanovich and the one-named professional gambler called Fezzik. Both put up $25,000 of their own money and will make six plays each Friday for 12 weeks during the season. (As of Wednesday, it was still undetermined if they would start with the opening weekend of college football or wait until the NFL starts.)

Leroy's will continue its Friday night radio show, which moves from KDWN to KSHP AM-1400. It will be called "Leroy's Money Talks Show from the Silverton," at the hotel on the south end of town, and run from 7 to 9 p.m. The show will provide analysis of the weekend card and include the Money Talks Invitational with weekly matchups between handicappers who put up $5,000 apiece to battle for the winner-take-all prize of $80,000. The field of 16 comprises Al McMordie, Steve Maclaughlin, Andy Iskoe, Bill Krackman, Bob Donahue, Bryan Leonard, Chicago Pete, Doc of Doc's Sports, Jorge Gonzalez, Ken "the Shrink" Weitzner, Marc Lawrence, Paul Sonner, Ron Boyles, Stephen Nover, Erin Rynning, and Wayne Peters. Vacarro said if he gets 16 more interested parties, he'll make another bracket and have the two winners play off for a $160,000 prize. Leroy's is pitching in $20,000 for the runner-up.

Leroy's is also hosting a $250 buy-in college football contest and its free NFL contest for the masses, but I'll go over those in Saturday's column about the football contests in Las Vegas that are open to the public.

Wagering on English soccer

Soccer was a big part of the betting menu this summer, with sports books all over town pleasantly surprised by the amount of wagering on the World Cup. For those who can't wait until the 2010 World Cup to get their soccer wagering fix, many books have odds on the English Premier League, which begins action on Saturday. Caesars Palace has Chelsea as the prohibitive 2-5 favorite to win the title, with Manchester United at 9-2, Arsenal at 6-1, Liverpool at 7-1 and Tottenham at 40-1. No other team in the 20-team league is less than 100-1.

* The Nextel Cup circuit moves to Michigan International Speedway this Sunday for the GFS Marketplace 400. Station Casinos has Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne as the 7-1 co-favorites, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards at 10-1, and Jeff Gordon at 12-1. Ricky Bobby is conspicuously absent from the list.

Head for White Pine

There is no live horse racing meet here in Las Vegas. For railbirds needing a fix in the summer, the road trip is usually to Del Mar, 320 miles from the Strip. But locals can stay in-state and travel the 244 miles to the White Pine Horse Races and County Fair in Ely. The route is to take I 15 North to US 93 North to Nevada 318 (aka the Extraterrestrial Highway because it goes by the famed Area 51) to Nevada 38 to US 6. Travelers would be wise to get a map or print directions from a site such as mapquest.com since Nevada 318 and Nevada 38 change back and forth.

* For Las Vegas locals who are unable to get away, the Suncoast will be hosting "Del Mar Day" on Monday in its Grand Ballroom. The doors open at 9:30 a.m. for wagering on the East Coast and the festivities will include a seminar with Raceday Las Vegas radio host Ralph Siraco and handicapper Jon Lindo, free refreshments and pastries and hot dogs, souvenir raffles, and a special $5 buy-in handicapping contest on the first five races at Del Mar. Anyone making a $20 wager will receive a free Del Mar T-shirt, one per person while supplies last.