04/06/2005 11:00PM

With several options, bettors can be picky

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This weekend's , the third and final parimutuel pool offered at tracks and OTB's across the country, offers some interesting betting possibilities.

Here in Vegas, the race books that offer Derby futures do it on a fixed-odds basis, meaning that the odds at the time you bet are the odds you get. The book might lower the odds for the people behind you, but you're locked in.

The only problem is that odds tend to drop and drop as the top contenders continue to excel and the bettors pound the "now" horse. Because the race books have to pay the odds at the time they were bet, this can cause a book to have a lot of exposure - or financial risk - on a Derby contender. When that happens, the book is likely to lower the odds on a horse to a level well below what any reasonable handicapper would describe as true odds, to discourage wagering.

Case in point: High Fly has been getting a lot of support, especially after winning last Saturday's Florida Derby. The accompanying chart shows that Bally's and the Imperial Palace both have him at 5-1, yet when Churchill Downs linemaker Mike Battaglia made the morning-line odds for this weekend's Future Wager, he made High Fly 8-1. In Friday's Daily Racing Form, Mike Watchmaker had him at 12-1.

Sun King, whom Watchmaker has as the 8-1 favorite - backed up by famed oddsmaker Michael "Roxy" Roxborough, who has Sun King as the 7-1 top choice - has been bet down to 4-1 at the IP and 7-1 at Bally's. Battaglia has him at 10-1 in the Future Wager.

So, if those odds hold, there could be value in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager for Vegas bettors who missed the boat the first time around.

The odds on many of the horses in the parimutuel pool will be determined by the results of this weekend's races, primarily the Wood Memorial, Illinois Derby, and Santa Anita Derby on Saturday. Bettors in Las Vegas have the luxury of betting the fixed odds here before those races are run if they think some of the contenders in the Derby Future Wager will be pounded after strong performances.

For instance, anyone who thinks Bellamy Road, Galloping Grocer, Going Wild, Pavo, or Survivalist can win the Wood Memorial will be able to get much better odds at Vegas race books before the race than after the race if their horse runs well.

Another intriguing longshot could be Greeley's Galaxy. He isn't nominated to the Triple Crown, but a win Saturday in the Illinois Derby could make his connections pay the $200,000 supplemental fee. And he's 100-1 at Bally's. Those odds won't be there if he wins impressively Saturday and appears headed to the Derby starting gate.

In the Santa Anita Derby, a win by either of the two Breeders' Cup winners, Wilko or the filly Sweet Catomine, would cause the odds to plummet.

So, there are many ways to look at Derby futures this weekend. Happy shopping.

Derby prop bets more plentiful

Nowadays there are many more ways to bet the race than simply in the future book. Some might border on the absurd, but the more options for bettors, the better.

Lou D'Amico, race and sports book director for the Barrick Gaming properties at the Plaza and Las Vegas Club, has three sheets' worth of proposition wagers nearly a month before the race is run.

"It's hard enough to pick the Derby winner, so this gives people another way to bet the race," D'Amico said. "Basically, they're a lot of fun and create interest leading up the Derby, which is one of our biggest days of the year here in Las Vegas."

For starters, the over/under on the number of starters in the Derby is 18, with bettors having to lay -200 (bet $2 for every $1 you want to profit) on the over and getting +160 (profit $1.60 for every $1 wagered) on the under. The over/under on the number of starters for trainer Nick Zito is 2 1/2, with the over at -380 and the under at +280.

Will a filly run in the Derby? If you bet "yes," you have to lay -220, and if you take "no" you get +180.

The running time is set at 2:02, with the over at -135 and the under at +105.

These types of bets don't end with Derby Day. Both the Plaza and Bally's ask if the Derby winner will go on to win the Preakness. The "no" at the Plaza is -500, while it's a better price of only -360 at Bally's. However, while the "yes" is +200 at Bally's, it's +375 at the Plaza.

And then there's the question that everyone wants answered: Will there be a Triple Crown winner in 2005? Bally's has +700 on the "yes," while the Plaza has +800. The "no" is -1000 at Bally's and -1100 at the Plaza.