05/01/2007 11:00PM

Plenty of opportunities to talk Derby


The first Friday night in May is the perfect time for talking about the Kentucky Derby.

Three Derby seminars will be held Friday night in Las Vegas, one at Sam's Town on the Boulder Highway on the east side of the valley, one at Sunset Station in Henderson in the southeast part of town, and one at Planet Hollywood in the middle of the Strip.

Handicappers and experts will be conducting the seminars, but what I've often found is that the discussions before and after the scheduled speakers are just as informative. People love to talk about the Derby, and even with a glut of radio shows (I'm on six local shows this week myself) and online chats, it's hard to fully dissect the race when having discussions in the race books during a midweek card. And the same is true on Saturday as most bettors are also betting the outstanding undercard races and looking to string together multi-race bets.

But Friday night, after the day's cards are out of the way and most people haven't taken the time to handicap the Saturday undercard yet, is the perfect time to get together with like-minded racing fans.

The Sam's Town seminar, slated to kick off the evening's activities at 6 p.m., will be hosted by the "Track Talk" radio crew of Gordon Jones, Patrick McQuiggan, and John Kelly and will include guest Mike Willman, publicity director at Santa Anita.

Sunset Station's seminar will feature handicapper Jerry Jacovitz of the "Jerry J's Power Page" tip sheets. The seminar is slated for 7 p.m.

Planet Hollywood, formerly the Aladdin, will host the final seminar at 7:30 p.m. with "Raceday Las Vegas" radio host Ralph Siraco, handicapper Jon Lindo, and trainer Nick Hines. The thing I like most about Hines, besides that he's a Las Vegas native, is that he says in his bio at NTRA.com: "I could read the Racing Form when I was only eight. When I was 11, I got called down to the principal's office for having the Form in class." You know that's a student of the game.

The plan for any of these seminars should be to arrive early and stay late, or as late as you can stay before having to get up early for the first post at Churchill.

For those who wake up early Saturday (or stay up all night), Siraco and Lindo also will host a seminar at 7 a.m. on Derby Day at the Orleans.P

Sports book notes

A lot of people will be wondering what to do Saturday between the Derby and the big fight between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. (which I'll preview in Saturday's editions). But Nascar fans already know what they're doing. The Crown Royal 400 Nextel Cup race at Richmond International Raceway is scheduled to start at 7:45 p.m. Eastern and should end in time for the fight. Jeff Gordon has won the last two series races and Station Casinos has him as the 5-1 co-favorite this Saturday along with Virginia native Denny Hamlin. Tony Stewart is the third choice at 6-1, with Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch at 7-1.

* NBA bettors who put too much stock in the zig-zag theory - aka the "loser of the last" since you bet the previous game loser against the spread in the next game - had a tough time earlier this week. The zig-zag was barely profitable at 10-9-1 against the spread in this year's playoffs after the Suns beat the Lakers 113-100 on Sunday afternoon. But starting with the Raptors-Nets game Sunday night, the zig-zag lost seven straight through the end of Tuesday's game and stood at 10-16-1 heading into two games Wednesday (in which the Nuggets +8 1/2 versus the Spurs and Lakers +10 1/2 versus the Suns would have been the plays) and another two games Thursday (Jazz -4 1/2 versus the Rockets and Warriors +2 1/2 versus the Mavericks). Friday's play would be the Nets -6 1/2 versus the Raptors, but as stated before, the zig-zag no longer offers value because the oddsmakers have adjusted in recent years.

* Tuesday night's Cubs-Pirates game taught a lot of bettors a lesson in baseball wagering rules. The Pirates led 5-2 after six innings. The Cubs scored four runs in the top of the seventh to take a 6-5 lead, but then there was a rain delay before the Pirates were able to bat in the bottom of the seventh. After a long delay, the game was suspended. Major League Baseball rules prior to this season would have called for the game to be declared official with the score reverting to the last completed inning, but now MLB rules call for the game to be picked up at the point of the suspension. However, Las Vegas baseball betting rules still require that a game end on the day it is played (with the exception being games that go past midnight), so sports books still graded it as a 5-2 Pittsburgh victory since it did go past five innings. Under bettors don't get a gift, however, as totals rules require a game to go nine full innings (or 8 1/2 if the home team doesn't need to bat in the bottom of the ninth), so all totals were refunded. The same goes for run-line bets.

* In tennis, clay-court specialist Rafael Nadal defeated No. 1 ranked Roger Federer, the four-time Wimbledon champion, on Wednesday in the "Battle of the Surfaces" match that was played on a half-clay, half-grass court in Mallorca, Spain. The Las Vegas Hilton had Nadal as the -130 favorite.