05/28/2008 11:00PM

Real action comes after the race


NEW YORK - The 140th Belmont Stakes, besides being a bid for Triple Crown immortality by Big Brown, will be the last leg of a $1 million guaranteed pick six, a $1 million guaranteed pick four, and offer win, place, show, exacta, trifecta, superfecta, and grand-slam wagering. If that's not enough action for you, however, there are some intriguing oddball proposition bets on the race being offered at Las Vegas racebooks and on Internet gambling sites.

At BodogLife.com, for example, you can bet on who Kent Desormeaux will thank first in his live post-race interview on ABC should he ride Big Brown to victory. The current odds:

6-5 Family/family member

3-1 Big Brown

9-2 Trainer Rick Dutrow

5-1 Fans/general public

8-1 IEAH Stables

10-1 God or Jesus

You can't get 3-1 on Big Brown in any other pool and I think it's an overlay here. You could even make a little saver on that two-for-the-price-of-one coupled entry at 10-1.

There's actually one prop out there where you could get even better than 3-1 on Big Brown: He's 9-2 on one site and 5-1 on another to win the Belmont wire to wire. That's not the likeliest scenario, but a 500 percent profit instead of a 30 or 40 percent profit if he wins without leading all the way makes it a little tempting.

There's an interesting pair of props regarding whether the attendance (120,319) and full-card handle ($114.8 million) will exceed the record 2004 figures from Smarty Jones's Triple Crown bid. The current prices have a higher attendance a 2-5 favorite and a lower handle a 4-5 choice, which seems a counterintuitive parlay.

In fact, you could make a case for beating both of these favorites. Justified or not, Smarty Jones had been elevated to folk-hero status by the time of the Belmont, complete with a troupe of cheering nuns and an owner hooked up to an oxygen tank, while Big Brown's story and connections are not exactly perceived as wholesome or huggable. It's also hard to believe that first-time attendees who were part of the 2004 mob scene had such an enjoyable day that they have been waiting to come back, given that there's no evidence they have been back since.

The handle question is tricky, with "lower" presumably being the chalk because handle was down 2 percent on Derby Day and 15 percent on Preakness Day. Those declines, however, were in comparison with 2007 figures, where the main events were more competitive and the supporting races (especially at Pimlico) had bigger and more appealing fields. Belmont's betting menu has expanded somewhat since 2004, it has no issues with account-wagering availability as the Derby and Preakness did, and this year's card includes an additional major stakes race with the addition of the Acorn, run a day earlier in 2004. You could do worse than taking even-money on a higher total handle.

The cynicism surrounding this year's race and its principal player is reflected by the shortest price on any prop menu: BodogLife's line on whether Big Brown will race again after the Belmont. They have him -300 (1-3) to win the race but -400 never to race again.

Dutrow, however, reiterated Thursday that he fully intends for Big Brown to race in both the Travers and the Breeders' Cup Classic, the latter despite Santa Anita's announcement last week that it will stay with its synthetic surface for at least another year or two. Dutrow said previous comments he had made about "never going back to California" and being "lost" on training for synthetic-track races referred to his not stabling an entire string there, and that he was pointing Big Brown for the Classic and other horses for Cup races at Santa Anita as well - presumably Dubai World Cup card winners Benny the Bull for the Sprint and Diamond Stripes for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (a race that may now need a name change).

Smarty Jones did not race again after finishing second in the 2004 Belmont, a race in which many thought he was compromised by aggressive tactics from other riders and multiple challenges that softened him up for Birdstone's late run. Dutrow, however, rejected that interpretation of the race and was critical Thursday of that colt's handling. He said he "couldn't believe" that Smarty Jones had a key prerace workout over a sloppy, sealed track at Philadelphia Park - actually the track was fast - and added that he thought it was unwise for Smarty Jones to be fully extended to score a lengthy Preakness victory instead of being geared down through the stretch the way Big Brown was two weeks ago.

"The connections of Smarty Jones," he said, "were not smart."