04/28/2005 11:00PM

Smart odds shoppers sitting pretty

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LAS VEGAS - Since the beginning of the year, local handicappers and tourists have been able to bet their favorite Derby horses at juicy prices via future book wagering. The edge for horseplayers is fixed odds, meaning that the odds of your horse when you make the bet are your odds on Derby Day.

By now, most of the logical colts have been picked over. I don't think you'll want the probable Kentucky Derby favorite, Bellamy Road, at 2-1 at the Plaza or 7-2 at Bally's.

But at some point this spring, Bellamy Road was 125-1, and was still 50-1 the week of the Wood Memorial - a race he won by 17 1/2 lengths to earn a 120 Beyer Speed Figure.

The way to measure the popularity of a Derby future book horse is not the total amount of dollars wagered, but by the exposure the race book has on that horse. Exposure is how much money the race book must pay out to winning bettors should that horse win the Derby.

At the Plaza race book, Lou D'Amico reports he is sitting well with almost every horse except Wilko and Closing Argument. That may sound strange, but again, it depends on the players who bet horses like that at their peak odds value.

The Plaza is offering a number of aggressive Derby proposition bets, including the margin of victory, final time of the race, mutuel payoff for the winner (over/under $19.60), and whether the Derby winner wins the Preakness.

At Bally's race book, John Avello said he is sitting well on all horses except for Afleet Alex. Avello had raised Afleet Alex's odds to 25-1 after a last-place finish in the Rebel, and then, he said, "We got pounded on him."

Avello determines whether to move his odds up and down not only when money gets bet, but also based on how horses perform or are doing physically. For example, he started Bellamy Road at 125-1, took a few bets and dropped him to 100-1, and had him at 50-1 even after his 15-length allowance win at Gulfstream.

Derby future book bets are all about shopping for prices, handicapping the talents of each horse, and then projecting how horses will develop throughout the spring.

Coast player takes carryover bonus

Herman Rabe won a $64,290 bonus carryover last Wednesday, when he was the only player to have a perfect ticket in the Coast Resorts Pick 5 contest. The contest is based on the first five races in Southern California. The carryover had mushroomed after more than a month of no perfect tickets at either Santa Anita or Hollywood.

Rabe and one other player had four wins going into race five. Rabe had County, who won easily, and the other player had Line of Departure, who ran sixth. The Pick 5 contest will be offered this Wednesday and Thursday during Derby Week.

Richard Eng is the turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of the Race Day Las Vegas Wrap Up radio show.