04/25/2005 12:00AM

Meyer experiences deja vu at Bally's


Kent Meyer is a landlord from Sioux City, Iowa, but he certainly feels at home in the Bally's race book.

On Jan. 24, 2004, he won the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship at Bally's, claiming the $100,000 top prize and an Eclipse Award as 2003 Handicapper of the Year. He returned this past January and finished in 11th place, the best showing by a returning champion in the six years of the NHC.

Last Saturday, 15 months to the day since his biggest triumph, he finished first in the Bally's Moolah handicapping tournament, picking up more than $40,000 in earnings and securing a berth in next January's NHC.

"This is my lucky place, it seems," Meyer said in his typical understated fashion.

Meyer topped a star-studded field of 18 handicappers who put up the steepest entry fee on the handicapping tournament circuit: $5,000.

"There were only 17 other handicappers, but you know they're really good if they're willing to put up five grand," Meyer said.

Contestants made 15 mythical $2 win-and-place wagers on each day of the two-day contest, with six races each day being mandatory for all players. Points were based on the parimutuel payouts (capped at 25-1 to win and 12-1 to place), plus a 5-point bonus for each winner.

Meyer was in fifth place with 99 points after Friday's action. Saturday, he made his move when Rum Point, a first-timer trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, won Aqueduct's fourth race, a maiden special weight, and paid $43.40 to win and $16.80 to place.

"That got us rolling," Meyer said.

Meyer had had another winner with McLaughlin on Friday, and his luck continued when he had Celtic Innis in Pimlico's seventh race, the Maryland Stallion Station Stakes. Celtic Innis, trained by Timothy Keefe, paid $27.40 and $10.40.

Meyer needed just about every point as his total of 269.20 edged the 263.50 of second-place finisher Mark Anderson of Las Vegas. Meyer won $36,000 for finishing first, plus another $4,500 for having the second-highest score (170.20) on Saturday, for total winnings of $40,500. Anderson won $11,250 for placing second and an additional $6,750 for having Saturday's top score, for total earnings of $18,000. Gary Templeton of Bartlett, Tenn., held on for third place with a score of 260.30 after being the first-day leader. He won $6,750 for each accomplishment to take home $13,500.

But it was only Meyer who earned an NHC berth. Bally's other two NHC representatives will come from the Summer Stakes VI tourney Aug. 5-6.

This was Meyer's first attempt to qualify for next year's finals, and he almost didn't make the trip. He didn't call Bally's until last Tuesday to inquire about entering, and didn't decide to make the flight until last Thursday.

Meyer said this victory - and subsequent NHC berth - won't alter this tournament-playing schedule the rest of the year. He said he still plans to go to South Dakota for the annual tourney at the Royal River Racing OTB (formerly the Bettor Racing OTB) and back to Bally's for the Summer Stakes, as well as others.

"I don't need to qualify, but there's still money to be won," Meyer said.

More moolah - at cheaper price

Not everyone has the $5,000 lying around to play the Bally's Moolah tourney and try to turn it into $40,000, but the Coast Casinos' weekly contest on Wednesdays has a carryover this week of $51,860 - and it only takes $5 to enter.

Held concurrently at the Orleans, Gold Coast, Barbary Coast, and Suncoast, the contest asks players to pick the winners of the first five races at the Southern California track. This is the first Wednesday of the Hollywood Park meet, with the carryover coming from the last Wednesday at Santa Anita two weeks ago.

There is a limit of 10 entries per person. In addition to the progressive jackpot for a perfect card, there is also $2,000 in daily prizes on the line.

The Coasts have a Thursday contest with a similar format - except for a $10 entry fee - but that jackpot was hit at Santa Anita and starts over at $1,000 this week.

WPT crowns third champion

The really big money in tournament play these days is in the poker rooms.

The World Poker Tour held the finale of its third season on The Travel Channel this past weekend at the Bellagio. While Moolah contestants were putting up $5,000 across the street at Bally's, the entry fee at the WPT Championship was $25,000.

If you don't want to know the winner until the taped show airs on June 29, skip ahead.

In a classic battle that's sure to make compelling TV when it's edited, Tuan Lee outlasted Paul Maxfield to win the $2,856,150 first prize. The winning hand, a pair of jacks, came after seven hours of play at the final table and 190 hands, including 47 heads-up hands by the final two, who traded back and forth with the chip lead. Maxfield settled for the $1,698,390 second prize.

Caesars card a knockout

The corner of the Strip and Flamingo Road, one of the most famous and busiest intersections in the world, was the location of even more action on Saturday night as Caesars Palace hosted a professional boxing card at its outdoor Roman Plaza Amphitheater.

The arena is in a great location as passersby on the Strip can't help but be curious and try to get a glimpse of the action when they hear the cheers from the crowd.

What they would have seen if they had gotten inside was some entertaining boxing.

In the next-to-last bout on the inaugural ESPN pay-per-view card, "Sugar" Shane Mosley returned to the welterweight division to face David Estrada. Mosley was a -500 favorite, but Estrada wasn't intimidated as he seemed to draw confidence from his vocal supporters from Miami.

But Mosley's experience and speed was too much as he clearly took charge in the fourth round of their 10-round non-title bout. The judges had Mosley winning 99-91, 98-91, and 97-93, though Estrada's fans weren't happy with the decision.

Rain drops started falling as that bout ended, and threatened to put a damper on the final bout, but the skies cleared just in time for Tijuana's Antonio Margarito to defend his WBO welterweight title against undefeated Kermit Cintron of Warminster, Pa.

Margarito opened as a -130 favorite but the public bet Cintron to -125 favoritism. As was the case most of the night, the bettors were on the wrong side as Margarito dominated the bout.

In the third round, Margarito opened a cut on Cintron's right eyelid as blood streamed down the challenger's face. A heckler yelled out to Cintron, "It's a long flight back to the East Coast."

Margarito knocked down Cintron twice each in the fourth and fifth rounds, causing Cintron's corner to throw in the towel.

While Cintron didn't put up too much of a fight, his co-manager, Joe Pastore, attacked a heckling fan after the bout and had to be pulled away by security.