12/13/2004 12:00AM

A new Derby darling emerges in books

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LAS VEGAS - Talented 2-year-old horses can run fast, but not as fast as word spreads about them.

The buzz in Southern California has been for Fusaichi Samurai, a son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus. Like his father, Fusaichi Samurai is trained by Neil Drysdale, and ridden by Victor Espinoza.

Fusaichi Samurai won his career debut Saturday in Hollywood Park's fourth race, a maiden special weight event. A story in the Sunday's L.A. Times stated: "Glowing pre-race reports filtered from the Drysdale barn to Las Vegas, where the 2005 Kentucky Derby future-book price on Fusaichi Samurai dropped at one racebook from an opening 225-1 to 15-1 about 10 days ago."

But which race book?

"That would be us," confirmed John Avello, race and sports book director at Bally's and Paris and the manager of the biggest Derby future book in Vegas, which is offered at all of the Caesars Entertainment casinos. "Every year there seems to be a super horse, but there are only three that come to mind that were bet heavily even before running a race: Fusaichi Pegasus, Empire Maker, and this horse."

Avello opened his 2005 Derby future book in September with Fusaichi Samurai at 225-1, far down the list from Roman Ruler at 35-1 and Scipion at 50-1. But the money started flowing in on the unraced prodigy. Avello didn't want to get into the exact amounts he had taken on Fusaichi Samurai, but he said, "Generally, if a horse opens around 225-1 and we take $100 on him, we would lower the odds to 150-1, then 100-1, then 50-1 and then keep cutting in half from there."

Before Saturday's race, which Fusaichi Samurai won by two lengths in 1:15.54 over 6 1/2 furlongs, his Derby future odds were 15-1.

"The horse looked phenomenal," Avello said. "After the race, we lowered him to 8-1 because people kept betting him. The rest of the weekend, people were coming up to me, asking, 'Did you see the race? He's a great one, ain't he?' People have already fallen in love with this horse."

But Fusaichi Samurai isn't the only Derby contender to be receiving significant action. In fact, as of noon Monday, Avello had raised him back to 10-1, leaving Rockport Harbor and Declan's Moon as the 8-1 co-favorites in Bally's future book.

Early money not always smart money

In last Saturday night's WBC heavyweight title fight at Mandalay Bay, Vitali Klitschko defended his belt by knocking out Danny Williams.

The odds at the Mandalay Bay sports book opened with Klitschko -400 and Williams +300, but big early bets came in and dropped the odds to -300/+220 by Saturday morning. Money showed for the favorite throughout the day, and the line was raised back to -400/+300 by early Saturday night before dropping back to -375/+275.

But as balanced as the betting action turned out to be, the fight was not close.

Klitschko peppered Williams with left jabs from the start and pummeled his head with overhand rights. Williams, who upset Mike Tyson in his last bout after being beat up early, fought on gallantly despite being knocked down by Klitschko in the first and third rounds.

Williams landed a few hard punches that excited underdog bettors and fans from Britain, who came to Vegas in hopes of having the heavyweight title return to England, but none did any damage.

Scattered cheers could be heard throughout the arena, which was not sold out, at the 1:30 mark of the seventh round. Why? The over/under on the fight was 6 1/2 rounds.

It didn't last much longer. Williams was knocked down for the third time just 30 seconds after that. He survived the round, but Klitschko put him away in the eighth round for his 34th KO in 37 career bouts.

Early NFL bettors faring better

A week ago Sunday night, early NFL bettors at the Stardust went 2-0, with wins on the Bengals +11 vs. the Patriots and Texans +10 1/2 vs. the Colts. Coupled with the Cowboys' win over the Seahawks from the previous Monday night, early bettors improved to 21-21. Totals bettors have been doing even better, with a record of 24-14, a 63-percent clip.

This week, again with no college line moves because the bowl games are already up, early bettors bet six sides and four totals.

On Saturday's schedule, the Giants got bet from +11 to +10 at home vs. the Steelers and the total was bet from 35 to 34. In Sunday's games, early bettors took three more home teams, with the Lions, Bears, and Buccaneers. Road teams that took enough money to move off their opening lines were the Jaguars and Ravens.

In totals wagering, another game that could be affected by winter weather (Jaguars at Packers) was bet to the under, whereas the Ravens-Colts game, to be played in a dome, and the Patriots-Dolphins game Monday night in Miami were bet to the over.