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Race books brace for BC multitudes
It's been said and written before, and probably more eloquently, that while the Kentucky Derby is the biggest race of the year, the Breeders' Cup is the biggest all-day event, with eight championship races.
But in Las Vegas, it's more than a one-day event. The Pick the Ponies handicapping tournament ignited the festivities on Wednesday, and the 200 players in the field were to put in their final selections on Friday afternoon. Over at the Fiesta on Rancho Drive, players who qualified for the championship weekend of the racebook's "Racin' with Jason" contest will be competing Friday and Saturday for two four-day cruises in the Mexican Riviera.
That's just the preliminaries. Breeders' Cup mania really takes hold Friday night, with three handicapping seminars around town.
The biggest will be held from 7-9 p.m. in the Bally's Grand Ballroom. Ralph Siraco, Richard Eng, and I will be there live with call-in guests Steven Crist, Andy Beyer, Mike Watchmaker, Brad Free, and a couple of jockeys. Expected are Laffit Pincay Jr., Gary Stevens, Kent Desormeaux, and Patrick Valenzuela. Admission is free, and the show will be broadcast live locally on KSHP AM-1400 and online at www.drf.com and www.cgplays.com. Both websites will also archive the show.
At 6 p.m. in the Sam's Town race book, the "Track Talk" radio crew of John Kelly, Patrick McQuiggan, and Bruce Finkelstein will be joined by special guest Corey Black, former jockey and current TVG color analyst.
At 6:30 p.m. at the Stratosphere, race book host Jay Kessler will do a BC seminar with Jerry Jacovitz, creator of the Jerry J's Power Page sheets, which can be found in a dozen race books in the Las Vegas area.
The Stratosphere, along with its sister Arizona Charlie's properties, is among the race books offering a special twin quinella wager on two Breeders' Cup races on Saturday. Bettors pay $2 per combination and vie for the money in the prize pool, which will be seeded with $2,500 in house money. The Station Casinos properties (Palace, Boulder, Texas, Santa Fe, Sunset, Green Valley Ranch, and the Fiestas in North Las Vegas and Henderson) will have a special $10,000 payout for its twin Q (which is usually $5,000).
In both cases, if no one hits both races, the jackpot will be carried over to two races on Sunday, extending the Breeders' Cup weekend even further.
There will be no such carryover in the Super Saturday contest at the Imperial Palace. The progressive jackpot for the weekly contest hasn't been hit in a long time, and on Saturday the winner could walk away with $19,000 if the contest draws the expected 295 entries.
The entry fee is $20, and players are asked to pick the final six Breeders' Cup races. Second prize is $800, with $400 for third, and prizes are awarded through 25th place. There is also a $400 prize for the leader after the first three races.
In addition, as a special BC bonus, the top 25 finishers will receive a limited-edition 20th anniversary Breeders' Cup bobblehead doll. The only other Las Vegas place I've heard that has these is the Palms, which is giving them out with a minimum $50 wager.
And all of this is without even mentioning the regular menu of win-place-show, exactas, trifectas, superfectas, pick threes, pick fours, and pick six that will be available in the parimutuel pools on the championship day of races. Every race book in town will be packed to capacity, with several casinos hosting special parties.
The biggest party open to the public will be in the Bally's Grand Ballroom. The cost is $50. The most popular hangout for locals over the years has been the Coast Casinos, with the Orleans, Gold Coast, and Suncoast opening ballrooms with big-screen TVs, banks of betting windows, and food and drink specials. Turf club members should have already received their tickets in the mail (complete with coupons for two free hot dogs or pastries, free beer or soft drink, and souvenir T-shirt). Tickets can also be picked up in the race books.
Most race books, even those without formal parties, will also be giving out commemorative T-shirts. The industry standard is to hand them out with a $20 bet.
Football contest updates
It's not often that a contestant who goes 6-1 in the Stardust Invitational handicapping tournament gets overshadowed, but that's what happened last week. Ted Sevransky went a very impressive 6-1, including a solid best-bet winner with Mississippi -3 1/2 vs. Alabama (Ole Miss won 43-28 after leading 38-14 after three quarters), to defeat Park Place vice president of race and sports Chuck Esposito's 3-4 mark. But the big news out of the weekend was that Lem Banker and Ken White, who had tied in their first-round matchup the previous week with 5-2 records and losers in their tiebreaking best bets, again went 5-2 but this time won their best bets to force another playoff. Their picks will be given by host John Kelly at 9 p.m. Friday in the Stardust sports book (and live on KDWN AM-720 in nine Western states and online at www.kdwn.com) at the start of Friday night's matchup between handicapper Bryan Leonard (footballwinners.com) and GamingToday managing editor David Stratton.
* "Peter and Paul" went 4-1 in the Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest to move into first place with a record of 27-8. The previous leader, "the-sportspage.com," went 2-3 but is still in second at 26-9. "Soup Du Jour" and "Three21" are just off the pace at 25-9-1 after both going 4-1.
* "BMAN" went 3-2 to remain in first place in the Station Casinos' Gambler's Challenge with a record of 23-10-2. "A.J. Sports" is second at 23-11-1 and is followed by "J.D. Sports" and "Fred Sharwell" at 23-12. The selections of all the leaders in both contests will be available Friday afternoon in the respective sports books.
NBA: Lakers title favorite
Okay, so we have a full weekend of horse racing and football (and baseball if the Marlins are able to send the World Series back to New York) - so why not some basketball, too?
The Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings will play an exhibition game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Thomas & Mack Center. According to quotes he gave to the Los Angeles Times, Kobe Bryant is expected to play.
The NBA regular season begins Tuesday. The Lakers are the 6-5 favorites to reclaim their title, according to odds from Las Vegas Sports Consultants. The defending champion Spurs are the second choice at 4-1, followed by the Kings and Mavericks at 5-1. The top team in the Eastern Conference is the Nets at 7-1.