08/22/2004 11:00PM

Ready for this? Derby futures are up

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When John Avello finished his odds on the eight Breeders' Cup races last week at all of the networked Caesars Entertainment properties, it was a great day for Nevada horseplayers who wanted future-book action.

But over the weekend, Coast Casinos decided to take futures betting a step further with its 2005 Kentucky Derby futures, a full 8 1/2 months before the Run for the Roses.

This is the first horse racing future book at the Coasts since Frank Minervini left for the Borgata in Atlantic City after last year's Triple Crown. Racebook supervisor Tim Fitzgerald put together this future book, which included 60 3-year-olds-to-be when the odds were first posted last Saturday and was up to 62 after the weekend.

"I've been watching all the 2-year-old races and weighing all the factors to come up with our opening numbers," Fitzgerald said. "A lot can happen between now and then. We'll be updating the odds as we take money and adding horses along the way and dropping others."

Fitzgerald had to do a lot of updating already as bettors jumped on the juicy prices on some of the top contenders. He opened Afleet Alex as the 40-1 favorite, and Afleet Alex has already been bet down to 20-1. That's also the adjusted price on Roman Ruler, who opened at 60-1 along with Chandtrue, whose odds have been lowered to 40-1. Other horses taking early action: Devils Disciple bet from 80-1 to 40-1, Lunarpal from 80-1 to 60-1, Proud Accolade from 80-1 to 60-1, Consolidator from 100-1 to 60-1, Flamenco from 100-1 to 60-1, Scipion from 110-1 to 80-1, and Sense of Style from 150-1 to 100-1.

College football lines are up

During the football season, in this space in Wednesday's editions (and online at drf.com Monday nights), I give a rundown of the opening line moves for the upcoming weekend's games. It's a chance to see where the lines started, and whether you need to grab a line before it moves further, or to wait if it's likely to continue moving in your favor.

The line for this Saturday's college football opener between Southern Cal and Virginia Tech has already been up for over a week. USC opened as a 17 1/2-point favorite at the Stardust (which I use as the sports book of record) and has been bet up to 18 1/2. That number has already been bet up to 19 at the Caesars properties, MGM Mirage properties, and Harrah's/Rio. The lines for next Thursday's five games have also been up for a week with no movement. The Friday, Sept. 3, game between Washington St. and New Mexico has been bet from Washington St. -2 1/2 down to -1 1/2.

Just before noon Sunday, the Stardust put up its lines for the first big slate of games on Sept. 4. By Monday morning, just 10 of the 29 bettable games had seen a line move, none more than a point. Four favorites took money, with Clemson being bet from -11 1/2 to -12 1/2 vs. Wake Forest; Kansas bet from -3 to -3 (-120) vs. Tulsa; Oklahoma from -32 to -33 vs. Bowling Green; and South Florida from -1 to -1 1/2 vs. Pittsburgh. Five dogs received money: Baylor +14 1/2 to +14 vs. UAB, Tulane +6 1/2 to +6 vs. Mississippi St., SMU +24 to +23 vs. Texas Tech, Idaho +33 to +32 vs. Boise St., and Syracuse +13 to +12 1/2 vs. Purdue. Another dog took money, with Oklahoma St. being bet from +2 1/2 to +1 1/2 vs. UCLA, but then it got bet right back up to 2 1/2.

More news from the Stardust

On Monday morning, Bob Scucci, the race and sports book director at the Stardust, announced the field for the 10th annual Stardust Invitational football handicapping tournament. A field of 16 handicappers is put together in a single-elimination format with two guests making seven selections with a best bet in the sports book at 9 p.m. Friday nights and broadcast live on KDWN AM-720.

Scucci has been receiving kudos for the field he put together last year, which was heavy on professional handicappers and relied less on celebrity entrants that had been used in the past. Last year's group compiled a record of 148-115, with three pushes on all selections, and an even more impressive 25-13 (65.8 percent) on best bets.

The opening-round match may sound familiar; it is the same as last year's championship match, in which GamingToday managing editor David Stratton defeated single-named professional sports bettor Fezzik of lvasports.com for the $10,000 winner-take-all prize. The rematch takes place Sept. 10.

Notable among the contestants is two-time champion "Papa" Joe Chevalier, the former nationally syndicated radio talk show host who is returning to Las Vegas to do a local show on KENO AM-1460; Kevin O'Neill and Mike Orkin, the only Stardust Invitational contestants who have ever posted 7-0 records; former Mirage race and sports director Jimmy Vaccaro; and Pete White, father of Las Vegas Sports Consultants CEO Ken White.

Others in the field include Brent Carter, Dave Cokin, Bob Donahue, Trace Fields, Mark Franco, Dave Malinsky, "Big" Al McMordie, and Ted Sevransky.

The only spot yet to be filled is the traditional invitation to a race and sports book director from another property in town.

* Greg Biffle notched only his second Nascar victory of his career Sunday in the GFC Marketplace 400 at the Michigan International Speedway. For those who saw that coming, it was worth 40-1 at Las Vegas sports books.

Bettors who predicted Stewart Cink would win the NEC Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, were also rewarded at odds in the neighborhood of 35-1.