07/31/2003 11:00PM

Odds on Krone plummet back to earth

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LAS VEGAS - Hall of Fame jockey Julie Krone and her agent, Brian Beach, knew she wasn't likely to win the Del Mar riding title this summer.

But word spread to them about how much of a longshot Las Vegas considered Krone after a mention in this space on opening day that she was 1,000-1 at the Palms Resort Hotel race book.

"My agent, Brian, was talking to someone about baseball betting or something, and the other person mentioned that I was 1,000-1 in Las Vegas," Krone said by phone before Friday's twilight card. "He told me and we couldn't believe it."

Krone hasn't won a riding title since the Gulfstream winter meet 10 years ago (before her historic win on Colonial Affair in the 1993 Belmont), but she broke from the gate at Del Mar and was leading the jockey standings with six wins in the first six days. Krone said she has been having fun with the story, including talking to the Television Games Network about the odds.

"People made jokes that it would have been nice to buy a bunch of tickets and give them to owners as incentive to put me on some winners," Krone said.

That opportunity is long gone.

"We took one bet at 1,000-1, one bet at 500-1, and lowered her to 125-1," said Fred Crespi, the race and sports book manager at the Palms. But the betting didn't stop there. "When she was leading the standings, we lowered her to 25-1 but still took more bets on her, as well as at 20-1."

Entering this weekend, Krone was down to 15-1, probably in line with her true odds at this point. After going winless Wednesday and Thursday, she was passed by Patrick Valenzuela and Alex Solis with seven wins apiece and fell into a tie with Victor Espinoza and Mike Smith.

"She's still in the early stages of her comeback from her injuries," Beach said. "I wish we had more time at Hollywood [to get more clients]. We don't have the inventory of horses to work from. We're getting a lot of horses that other people take off of, or shippers and horses off layoffs. You're not going to get a high percentage of winners from those."

The desire to prove the oddsmakers wrong would seem like a great motivating factor, but Krone said it's only a small part of her fast start at Del Mar.

"I guess I'm using it as an incentive, though I use any excuse as an incentive," Krone said. "It doesn't take much."

Jones leaves radio show

Outspoken handicapper/journalist/professor/radio host Gordon Jones has left the "Track Talk" show after 12 years.

"Gordon has wanted to finish a book, and not having to prepare for a regular radio show frees him up to do that," said Norman Kelley, race book manager at Sam's Town, which sponsors the show from 7:30 to 8 a.m. Wednesdays through Sundays on KLAV AM-1230 and on www.samstownlv.com. "His girlfriend, Margaret, has family in California, and they also wanted to spend more time there - plus he's in demand at tracks in California, too.

"He hasn't ended his association with Sam's Town," Kelley said. "He's still sending in his plays every day, and we're putting them on a sheet called The Game Plan. He'll also be back for some seminars on big days like the Derby. It's good for him and good for us."

The show will go on with handicappers Patrick McQuiggan and Bruce Finkelstein, along with John Kelly, the show's former and now current host.

Leroy's still in business

Leroy's Horse & Sports Place Inc., along with its parent company, American Wagering Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on July 25. Leroy's is a franchise-style outfit that operates 47 sports books in Nevada, mostly at smaller casinos that don't have the resources or desire to run their own sports books.

The reason for the bankruptcy was a judge's ruling that American Wagering owed former consultant Michael Racusin $1.35 million. In 1993, American Wagering's chairman, president, and CEO, Vic Salerno was looking to take his company public (stock symbol BETM). Salerno was hoping for a $20 million valuation. Racusin found two underwriters who valued the company at $45 million. Salerno wanted to pay Racusin on the lower figure, but U.S. District Court Judge Howard McKibben ruled that Racusin was entitled to $1.35 million more.

Salerno has vowed that operations will continue and that all bets will be paid. Bettors at several Leroy's outlets this past week said they had no problem cashing tickets and saw no decline in the level of service.

Sports book notes

The USA Today-ESPN college coaches' poll came out Thursday with Oklahoma ranked No. 1, followed by defending champion Ohio State, Miami-Fla., Texas, Kansas State, Auburn, Michigan, Southern California, Georgia, and Virginia Tech. That's the same top 10 as in Las Vegas Sports Consultants' odds to win the Sugar Bowl (this season's BCS title game on Jan. 4), though there is a slightly different order. LVSC has Oklahoma as the 9-2 favorite, followed by Miami (6-1), Ohio State (7-1), Texas (8-1), Michigan (10-1), Virginia Tech (10-1), Kansas State (12-1), and the trio of Auburn, Southern Cal, and Georgia at 15-1, along with Florida State, Notre Dame, and Tennessee.

* NASCAR's dominance in auto racing will be on display with Sunday's ninth running of the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, once the exclusive domain of open-wheel Indy cars. Jeff Gordon has won the race three times, and LVSC has him as the 6-1 favorite. Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman are both 7-1, with Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, and Jimmie Johnson at 8-1. Kurt Busch, a local Las Vegas favorite, is 12-1, with the always popular Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 15-1. The value might be Dale Jarrett, a two-time winner at Indy, at 30-1.