02/15/2002 1:00AM

ROI's: The satisfied bettors' choice awards


Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Las Vegas for my second annual ROI Awards.

Oftentimes Eclipse Award winners are so well-bet that they don't pay much at the windows. That's fine and dandy for the horses' owners, who get 60 percent of the purse regardless of the odds, but here in Vegas we're always looking for value for our wagering dollar.

There are a few ground rules to the ROI's. Winners were chosen in the same categories as the Eclipse Awards. Only horses that ran in stakes races that attracted sizable betting pools were considered. I'm looking to honor horses who were true overlays in major races that could be bet by as many people as possible, so I will leave foreign races out of the calculations.

So without further ado, the envelopes, please . . .

Three-year-old colt: Point Given has already been announced as the unanimous Eclipse winner in this category, but he illustrates perfectly what I'm not looking for in the ROI Awards. He won 6 of 7 races, but none at higher than 2.3-1. If you had wagered $2 on each of his seven races, you would have cashed a total of $23.40 for an ROI - return on investment - of $3.34 for each $2 bet.

Monarchos, the colt that handed Point Given his only loss, in the Kentucky Derby, also beats him here. Monarchos won the Derby at 10-1 as well as three other races. A $2 win bet on each of his seven races would have grown into $46.80 for an ROI of $6.68.

Three-year-old filly: Forest Secrets won Belmont's Grade 1 Acorn at 50-1 and Churchill's Grade 3 Falls City Handicap at 22-1. She only had a maiden win (at 6-5) in her other six starts, but the two longshot wins were enough to blow away the competition with an ROI of $19.31.

Older male: Tiznow is a shoe-in to win the Eclipse in this category, but his ROI was only $3.73. Freedom Crest lost to Tiznow in the Classic at 68-1, but he had already done enough for his backers to clinch our award. Freedom Crest won Santa Anita's Grade 2 Goodwood at 39-1 and added a win in the San Pasqual Handicap for good measure. His overall ROI was a healthy $14.60.

Older female: Miss Linda wins this on the strength of a 21-1 upset in Keeneland's Grade 1 Spinster and two shorter-priced victories at Saratoga and Monmouth. Her overall ROI was $8.15.

Sprinters: The Eclipse in this category is wide open, but Exciting Story wins the ROI in a runaway. He won his only U.S. start in Belmont's Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at 56-1 for an ROI of $115.50. If you include his five starts in Canada (which I won't), his ROI would still be an impressive $20.85. Because he had only one race in the U.S., I am making him ineligible for Horse of the Year honors.

Male turf: Timboroa would have had an ROI of $9.99 and Numerous Times would have had an ROI of $7.80 if their foreign races counted. But the award goes to French import Val Royal, who won the Grade 2 Oak Tree BC at 3-1 and the Breeders' Cup Mile at 5-1 to compile a $6.80 ROI from three races on U.S. turf.

Female turf: Irish import Golden Apples claims this division with a win in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks at 21-1 and another victory in Santa Anita's Grade 2 Las Palmas Handicap at 5-2. Her ROI in U.S. races was $12.95.

Two-year-old colt: Johannesburg is a virtual lock to win the Eclipse in this category, and his U.S. ROI was $16.40 from his Breeders' Cup Juvenile victory. However, since Johannesburg raced mostly in Europe, I will give the ROI Award to Buster's Daydream, even though he stumbled a few times. Buster's Daydream won 4 of 6 races, including Belmont's Grade 3 Flash at 21-1. His overall ROI was $10.60.

Two-year-old filly and Horse of the Year: This was the most competitive battle of the year. Cashier's Dream won a Churchill maiden claimer in May at 43-1 and a Churchill allowance race at 17-1 to help her compile an ROI of $23.03 from six starts. But she gets edged out by Tali'sluckybusride, who won a Del Mar special weight event at 7-1 and followed that up with a victory in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf at 15-1. Her overall ROI comes out to $24.20.

Because Tali'sluckybusride has the highest ROI with a minimum of two races in the U.S. she also is named ROI Horse or the Year. We love betting dogs in Vegas.

Investigating Barkley's bet

The Nevada Gaming Control Board is investigating the circumstances involving Charles Barkley's Super Bowl bets at Mandalay Bay.

Barkley went to sports book director Nick Bogdanovich and wagered $500,000 on the Patriots +14 and another $50,000 on the Patriots to win straight up. The problem was, Barkley didn't pay for the bets with cash or chips and didn't sign a marker. Bogdanovich didn't get approval from his bosses, and the required paperwork for bets over $10,000 was not filled out. Bogdanovich resigned the next day.

When called Wednesday, Mandalay Bay spokesman Gordon Absher gave an automatic "no comment" to all questions because the casino has a policy not to discuss customers' bets or personnel issues.

Keith Copher, the chief of enforcement at the Gaming Control Board, said: "I've heard the rumor, and we're looking into it. Beyond that, I can't comment on ongoing investigations."

Copher added: "When an investigation is completed, we either do nothing if no wrongdoing is found, 'advise' the property to tighten their procedures, send them a letter of discipline, or file a formal complaint. There will only be a public comment if it rises to the level of a complaint. If that happens, then it would go before the Board, which would either decide on no action, a fine, or a suspension or revocation of a gaming license. This process can take a matter of months."