02/08/2002 12:00AM

No beefs with Future Wager

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Clairvoyant horseplayers will have a field day next week when betting is offered on the first round of the Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby Future Wager.

The Future Wager will be open next Thursday through Sunday, but because the pool is parimutuel most money will be bet on Sunday afternoon, after most of the important races have been run. The two key 3-year-old races next weekend are the $200,000 Fountain of Youth Saturday at Gulfstream Park and the $125,000 Risen Star Sunday at the Fair Grounds.

Las Vegas horseplayers will have a chance to compare odds between the Derby Future Wager and existing Derby future books in town.

"We don't plan anything special to compete," said Frank Minervini, oddsmaker for Coast Resorts. "One thing it'll do is raise the level of awareness. I certainly don't see it as a negative."

At one time, Las Vegas race books had to temporarily close their future books during the wagering period of the Derby Future Wager, but not any more.

"There was a patron in town who went on his own to the Gaming Control Board," said John Avello, director of operations of race and sports for Bally's and Paris Las Vegas. "He liked to bet on the fixed odds and asked if we here in Las Vegas could keep ours open while offering the Derby Future Wager. The Gaming Control Board sided with him.

"I have no problems with it either way. It's good for the player because they can compare odds and wager on the higher ones."

That echoed the sentiments of Cyril Burger, race and sports book manager at the Las Vegas Hilton, and Tara Martinez, race book manager at the Imperial Palace. Las Vegas casinos thrive on competition, so having the Derby Future Wager and the public awareness it brings is looked upon favorably.

Avello was asked if he would move odds in reaction to wagering on the Derby Future Wager.

"There will be no change whatsoever in our book, even if their odds are lower on certain horses," said Avello. "Ours has already been bet into heavily. We have a good gauge on who the favorites should be and who the comers are.

"I'll look at their final odds on Monday and maybe use that as a gauge. If they have a horse at 10-1 and I have him at 50-1, I want to take a bet on that horse. I wouldn't lower any horses, but I might raise some to generate action."

One advantage Las Vegas future books have is that they offer many horses to bet on. The Derby Future Wager will list 23 horses plus a field bet.

Richard Eng is turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of the Race Day Las Vegas Wrap-Up Show.