08/25/2002 11:00PM

Repent nearly fulfills book's best-case scenario

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Medaglia d'Oro held off Repent to win last Saturday's Travers Stakes, but forgive Coast Casinos oddsmaker Frank Minervini if he was cheering too loudly for Repent.

Minervini posted futures on the Travers - the only Las Vegas race book to do so - all the way back on May 29 and had put a lot of work into balancing the action. He was aided by possible Travers runners such as War Emblem, Sarava, and Buddha dropping out for one reason or another. Bets on those horses went into the Coast Casinos coffers and left Minervini in a pretty good position.

Like a Hero, who opened at 25-1 and was bet down to 6-1, was the biggest liability as the horses entered the starting gate. Medaglia d'Oro, who opened at 15-1 and was bet all the way down to 1-2, was another.

"We were happy with the overall handle," Minervini said. "We had a late bet on Medaglia d'Oro earlier in the week at -140 (odds of 5-7) that gave us a little hazard on him.

"When all was said and done, we lost about $100 with Medaglia winning. It would have been much better if Repent had won because we had him at 4-1 for the longest time and didn't have many takers."

Minervini said he doesn't plan to do this type of future on other races besides the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup.

"The Travers is special because it's a race where everyone has seen these horses in the Triple Crown, and then you have horses like Repent who miss those races but then return," he said. "It much better for a future bet, as opposed to the Pacific Classic, which sometimes has a very short field."

Speaking of the Pacific Classic, Came Home's victory caused his odds to plummet in Coast Casinos' BC Classic futures. When Came Home entered the starting gate on Sunday, he was 30-1 because Minervini said he believed like a lot of people that Came Home couldn't get the distance. He's now 12-1.

Medaglia d'Oro is the 6-1 favorite along with Street Cry. War Emblem has been raised to 15-1.

'Brawl' nears full field

While 100 people are going from the Reno area to the California State Fair in Sacramento for Wednesday's Nevada Day at the Races, the people movers will be going in the opposite direction next week for the Brawl in the Fall handicapping tournament at the Reno Hilton.

Tournament coordinator Steve Fierro said only eight spots remain in the field of 64. This tournament was originally to be held during Breeders' Cup Week and have a $3,000 buy-in like its predecessor, the Sting in the Spring, which was held during Derby Week. However, that tourney attracted only 32 players, so the Brawl in the Fall buy-in was lowered to $1,500 and moved to Sept. 4-7. Another important change was the addition of four berths to the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship.

This event has an unusual format. At the opening-night reception next Wednesday, the field of 64 will be randomly divided into groups of four for Thursday's first round. Everyone plays their favorite track and competes only against the other three players in their group.

The 16 winners of those groups will advance to the next round, with everyone else dropping into the losers' bracket. But all is not lost for the first-round losers, as they can still work their way into the top four scores and earn an NHC bid.

The 16 people in the winners' bracket will again be grouped in quartets on Friday, with the four winners advancing to Saturday's finals, which will be contested on the Del Mar card. Only those in the final four can win the $50,000 first prize, but others are eligible to finish in the top four overall and earn a NHC bid, which includes round-trip airfare and accommodations in Las Vegas next January.

"The main draw is that you only have to beat nine people - three each day - to win $50,000," Fierro said. "But the fact is no one is out of it after the first day, and that makes it exciting for everyone."

The entry fee includes accommodations at the Reno Hilton, the opening-night reception, and breakfast and lunch buffets each day of the tournament. Fierro can be reached at 775-250-0688.

Sports book notes

Defending Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon was winless this year, but he was still the 6-1 favorite when Las Vegas Sports Consultants put up opening odds on last Saturday's Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. When Gordon won the pole last week, his odds were lowered to 4-1. He finally rewarded his backers as he bumped Rusty Wallace and passed him with three laps to go. Wallace was the second choice at 6-1.

o Craig Parry had won 19 tournaments overseas, but he had never won on the PGA Tour, so oddsmakers lumped him in the 10-1 field in last weekend's NEC Invitational. After taking the lead on Sunday, Parry evaded his pursuers, including 7-5 favorite Tiger Woods, who was trying to become the first player in 75 years to win the same tournament four straight times. In a second PGA event over the weekend, former UNLV golfer Chris Riley also won his first Tour title in the Reno-Tahoe Open as the 20-1 second choice.

o Baseball might be having yet another labor stoppage this weekend. In Vegas, the only people who are expressing concern are those who are holding future tickets they hope to cash, such as those who bet the Twins over 83 1/2 wins (they already have 78 through Sunday). Bets like those will all be refunded unless 160 games are played - so there are also bettors who know they're holding losing tickets and would gratefully accept refunds if the season is canceled or cut short. Division futures would also be refunded - even for runaway teams such as the Twins, Braves, Yankees, and Diamondbacks - unless division winners are declared.

But the majority of bettors are taking a "who cares" stance because football is heating up.