05/31/2001 11:00PM

Not too early to be betting Breeders' Cup

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If John Avello were a singer instead of director of operations of Race and Sports at Bally's and Paris Las Vegas, he'd be James Brown, the hardest working man in show business.

Avello is juggling projects that include the Breeders' Cup Future Book and planning for Bally's Summer Stakes II handicapping contest. He will also offer horse-versus-horse betting once the Belmont Stakes field is drawn.

Avello has two Breeders' Cup races open already, the Classic and Sprint.

He thinks there's great value in the Classic, "especially if you think a 3-year-old has a chance to win the whole thing. Last year, Tiznow was a 3-year-old, but not a highly touted 3-year-old" in May.

Seven of the nine Belmont Stakes probables are posted in the Classic: A P Valentine, 40-1; Balto Star, 50-1; Dollar Bill, 40-1; Invisible Ink, 50-1; Monarchos, 10-1; Point Given, 5-1; and Thunder Blitz, 60-1.

"Point Given is relatively low at 5-1. I hate putting him that low," said Avello, "but I have no choice. I have a lot of money on him, so he's a significant loss right now."

Avello added that the Belmont Stakes gains significance because "Belmont Park is where the Breeders' Cup is going to be."

For futures players seeking value, it's better to shop five months out than five weeks out from Breeders' Cup day. Currently Point Given is the Classic favorite with Captain Steve and Tiznow next at 7-1 odds.

The Sprint has a narrow focus because of defending champion Kona Gold (5-1) and Caller One (4-1). Avello feels older horses like these are more apt to make Breeders' Cup day because of their maturity and carefully scripted stakes schedule.

"When I handicap the Breeders' Cup, I work with what I see now and what I project for the future," said Avello. "Kona Gold and Caller One are both tremendous sprinters. They are far and away the two horses to beat."

Futures players can get first dibs on the Distaff this weekend. "The next race I'll introduce is the Distaff. I'm pretty much ready to go with that."

Meanwhile, Bally's Summer Stakes II will be held Aug. 3-4.

"We're real excited about it. It'll be our second year, said Avello. "It takes time for people to understand what you're doing. I've gotten a big response so far."

Summer Stakes has a unique format that combines straight wagers on day one with exacta wagers in day two.

The entry fee is $1,000 and sign-ups before July 15 are eligible for a 10 percent bonus on any contest winnings. First prize, based upon 200 entries, will be $75,000.

Richard Eng is turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.