03/11/2003 12:00AM

Shopping for best Derby prices

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It's shopping season again at Nevada's race books.

Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager will be conducted this weekend, and Nevada bettors are in the unique position of being able to compare odds in the parimutuel offering with fixed odds available at local casinos.

Of the $516,906 bet nationally on this year's Pool 1 (Feb. 13-16), $49,596 or slightly less than 10 percent, came from Nevada, according to Vincent Magliulo, vice president of corporate affairs for the Las Vegas Dissemination Company, which acts as the hub for all parimutuel wagers in the state. Nevada's handle was a 43 percent increase over last year's Pool 1 handle of $34,594.

"The parimutuel futures have become more popular as more people become aware of it," Magliulo said. "It's definitely been promoted better. Churchill Downs's Future Wager is a benefit to players. Along with the books' fixed-odds futures, there's no better place to shop than here."

But as much as bettors are taking to the parimutuel option, they still prefer being able to lock in their odds. John Avello, horse racing oddsmaker for the Park Place Entertainment casinos, and Frank Minervini, oddsmaker for Coast Casinos, both said that during the weekends when both options are available, handle on their fixed odds dwarfs the amount bet in the Future Wager, in which bettors have to wait for the pools to close Sunday afternoon to find out what odds they have.

The accompanying chart shows odds that were available earlier this week at three Las Vegas betting outlets. Horses that aren't listed at a particular book (Aristocat at the Imperial Palace, Inamorato at Coast Casinos, Supah Blitz at Coast and the IP) are generally put up at 100-1 until they get bet down.

By the time you read this, most of those big prices on longshots will be gone as local bettors snap them up and bookmakers lower the odds. But that's not a given. Morning line makers, such as Churchill Downs's Mike Battaglia, generally don't like to insult owners and trainers, so they avoid making any horses more than 30-1 or 50-1. Some of the horses in Pool 2 will certainly go off at 99-1 or higher, or at least closer to the odds set by Nevada casinos, so just because you see a horse at 20-1 in the Future Wager morning line and 100-1 at a given race book, don't assume you're getting value by locking in your price.

Horseplayers outside Nevada can also use this chart to see how horses have been bet since future books went up last summer and fall. It's a pretty good indicator of the public's view of a horse based on real-life wagering.

Playing the field

With only 23 individual betting interests allowed in the Future Wager, the "all other 3-year-olds" is always a popular option. In Pool 1, the field went off as the 2-1 favorite. In this weekend's Pool 2, Battaglia has made the field 10-1 since most of the perceived contenders are on the list of separate betting entries.

Here are some of the horses you get in the field for 10-1, along with their odds at some Vegas race books: Hold That Tiger (30-1 at Park Place, 15-1 at Coast, 25-1 at IP); Robledo (60-1 at Park Place, 30-1 at Coast, 45-1 at IP); Midway Cat (75-1 at Park Place, 80-1 at Coast, 25-1 at IP), and Siberland (125-1 at Park Place, 45-1 at Coast, off the board at IP).

The odds are definitely higher at the race books, but you get all of them for one bet in the Future Wager.

Future advice

If you're intrigued by some of the odds that were available earlier in the week at Nevada race books and want to take your comparison shopping to the extreme, circle your calendar for April 3-6 (the dates for Pool 3).

Make plans to go to the books the previous weekend and gather up all the future book sheets so you can see where the biggest values are available before the pool opens.