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Show jumping's in town, complete with odds
There is no live horse racing here. Usually the only horses seen here are when the rodeo comes to town, otherwise local equine enthusiasts get their fix in the race books.
This Friday and Saturday, however, the Las Vegas World Invitational will be held at the Thomas and Mack Center with the planet's 25 top show jumping riders and their horses competing for $1 million in prize money, a record for a show jumping competition. This inaugural event, which is hoping to find an annual home here, has already been rated a five-star competition by the International Equestrian Federation, which is based in Switzerland, and is the only show in the U.S. to be rated at the highest level. The United States Equestrian Federation, based in Lexington, Ky., is the national sanctioning body.
The competitions include the $100,000 Vegas Stake, a speed event that features one round, plus a jump-off against the clock; the $50,000 Knockout, where riders will race against each other on identical courses; the $100,000 Ride And Drive, a unique event where riders first complete a jumping course on a horse, then finish an obstacle course in a car; and the $750,000 Grand Prix, a premier jumping event that will include some of the highest fences in international competition.
Are there odds? This is Vegas - what do you think? The Las Vegas Hilton, the host hotel, has Germany's Meredith Michaels Beerbaum as the 2-1 favorite in the Grand Prix, with Brazil's Rodrigo Pessoa at 3-1 and Britain's Nick Skelton at 4-1.
Tickets, priced at $75, $85, $100, $150, $225, and $500 per night, are available at the Hilton box office, the Thomas and Mack Center, or at unlvtickets.com.
Hilton goes for the horse set
The Las Vegas Hilton is making a concerted effort to attract horseplayers to its off-Strip location, going far beyond the show jumping odds. Race and sports book director Jay Kornegay has remodeled the race book with upgraded big screens, better lighting, and 200 seats with individual TV's, plus a posh VIP section.
The SuperBook is also hosting the Pick the Ponies tournament, Oct. 26-28, the Wednesday through Friday before the Breeders' Cup.
* In the past five years, letitride.com has held free online Breeders' Cup contests with Bally's. This year, the contest is sponsored by the Hilton. Contestants pick three horses in each of the eight BC races through Oct. 25 and lock in the current future odds. Points are then awarded by using a multiplier for each place of finish with the locked-in odds (5x for win, 3x for place, 1x for show). Each race is a separate competition, and the eight winners will receive accommodations for two and an invite to the 2006 Kentucky Derby VIP Party at the Hilton. Other prizes will include merchandise from the Hilton and the Breeders' Cup. Full details at letitride.com.
Sports book notes
In another live event here in Vegas this weekend, the PGA's Michelin Championship takes place through Sunday at the TPC at Summerlin and TPC at The Canyon's courses. Phil Mickelson is the favorite at 8-1, followed by Jim Furyk (10-1), Davis Love III and Stuart Appleby (both at 15-1), and Padraig Harrington (25-1). John Daly (30-1) is also in the field and is sure to draw a crowd after battling Tiger Woods last weekend in San Francisco.
* In the Leroy's Money Talks Invitational at 8 p.m. Friday at the Riviera, local handicapper Gary Greene will face veteran bookmaker Nick Bogdanovich, who was recently let go by the Golden Nugget's new owners. Both will give their top seven football picks on the weekend in the Riviera sports book, broadcast live on KDWN AM-720 and kdwn.com. Last week, "Chicago Pete" Ventrella defeated Lee Sterling.
* In the Stardust Invitational at 9 p.m., also aired on KDWN, local radio host Steve Cofield faces handicapper James Manos of vegasinsider.com. Last week, Andy Iskoe eliminated Dave Malinsky.
* After oddsmakers started the NHL season with totals between 5 1/2 and 6 goals, and the first two days last Wednesday and Thursday had the over go 9-6 and 2-1, oddsmakers have adjusted with totals now mostly at 6 and 6 1/2. In the subsequent five days through Tuesday, unders were a combined 23-11 (68 percent). As teams are adjusting their defenses to combat the new rules, there appears to be value in betting the under 6 1/2, as long as your book doesn't charge too high a vigorish. For instance, the standard vig is -110 (bet $11 to profit $10) on each side, but I've seen that it is becoming common already for books to charge -120 on the over when the total is 6 and -120 on the under when the total is 6 1/2.
* The NBA preseason is under way, and on Tuesday night the Hilton posted over/under season win totals for the league's 30 teams. The defending champion Spurs and the Heat have the highest total at 58 1/2, followed by the Pacers (54 1/2), Rockets (53 1/2), and the Pistons and Nuggets (both at 50 1/2). Sports book supervisor Jeff Sherman said the Suns would have been in that group at 50 1/2, but when it was confirmed that Amare Stoudemire would likely be out for four months, the Hilton lowered the Suns to 43 1/2. At the bottom of the league are the Hawks (21 1/2), Bobcats (22 1/2), and the Hornets (23 1/2). The regular season tips off Nov. 1.
* Station Casinos has Jimmie Johnson as the 5-1 favorite to win Sunday's UAW-GM Quality 500 Nextel Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. That might actually be an overlay, since Johnson has won the last three at Charlotte, and four of the last five. Points leader Tony Stewart is the second choice at 6-1, and then it's a noticeable dropoff to Mark Martin, Kurt Busch, and Greg Biffle at 12-1.
* After a run of big-name boxing cards, the sport takes a brief break the next few weeks. The next major fight is Nov. 12, when WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko puts his belt on the line vs. former champ Hasim Rahman at the Thomas and Mack Center. Caesars Palace has Klitschko as a -360 favorite.