05/05/2005 12:00AM

Sometimes, beating one horse is enough


On a recent appearance on ESPN News, Daily Racing Form's pedigree handicapper, Lauren Stich, said, "This is not your father's Kentucky Derby."

Stich was referring to the recent success of what were once considered sprint sires, as well as wins by a New York-bred (2003's Funny Cide, who was also a gelding) and a Pennsylvania-bred (2004's Smarty Jones), but she could have been talking about the betting options now available as opposed to previous generations.

It's rather quaint to think about the days when win-place-show was the only way to go for the dough, as now we try to figure out the quinella, exacta, trifecta, and superfecta, as well as linking races in the pick three, four, or six.

But while those wagers are offered coast to coast, Las Vegas takes it a step - and, in many cases, several steps - further.

The most common extra wagers available on Derby Day, or any major race day for that matter, are head-to-head matchups in which the horse you bet doesn't have to win the race, it just has to beat the other horse it is paired up with. John Avello, who sets horse racing odds for all of the Caesars Entertainment properties from his office at Bally's, has matched up the entire field.

A rundown of the 10 matchups starts with Bellamy Road at -150 (risk $1.50 for every $1 you want to win) vs. Afleet Alex, who is +120 (win $1.20 for every $1 wagered). Bandini is the same price (-150/+120) with High Fly. The rest of Avello's matchups are High Limit/Sun King (-125/-105), Noble Causeway/Greeley's Galaxy (-125/-105), Wilko/Andromeda's Hero (-160/+130), Coin Silver/Flower Alley (-135/+105), Greater Good/Giacomo (-140/+110), Buzzards Bay/Sort It Out (-155/+125), Don't Get Mad/Closing Argument (-140/+110), and Spanish Chestnut/Going Wild (-160/+130).

Lou D'Amico, race and sports book director at the Plaza in downtown Vegas, has 15 matchups, opting to use the top contenders in several matchups apiece. For instance, Bellamy Road is -165/+135 vs. Afleet Alex, -180/+160 vs. Bandini, and -170/+140 vs. the "entry" of High Fly and Noble Causeway.

Noble Causeway is used in three other matchups, ranging from a -150 favorite vs. Sun King to a slight -120 favorite vs. High Limit and a +110 underdog to High Fly.

Just as with any major sporting event these days, there are proposition wagers available on just about anything associated with the action.

One that D'Amico has put up is whether a Zito trainee (he has five in the field of 20) will win the Run for the Roses, with the "no" at -140 and the "yes" at +110.

The Plaza also has the odds on the winning margin being over/under 2 1/2 lengths (over is at -135 with the under at +105) as well as prop bets asking bettors to pick the exact margin of victory, from nose (12-1) to six-plus lengths (9-1), with margins falling every quarter-length in between. There is even a prop on whether the time of the winning horse will be over/under 2:02 (over is -135 with the under at +105).

Avello has the over/under at 2:02.20, with the under at -160 and the over at +130.

In looking at multi-horse exotic wagers, several race books offer the uniquely Vegas bet of the twin quinella, aka the twin Q, which involves trying to hit the quinella in two separate races. Bettors pay based on the number of combinations on their ticket times the $2 base bet, so if a bettor keys a horse in the first race with three other horses, and then boxes three horses in the second leg, that would be 3x3x2, or $18. All of the winning tickets split up the prize pool that the casino offers. At the Stratosphere, there is a $3,000 guaranteed pool, with a carryover to two races on Sunday if it's not hit.

The Station Casinos offer a $5,000 twin Q every Wednesday through Sunday, but on big race days in the past, Stations has offered a $10,000 guaranteed payout. No word on if that will be offered was available by Wednesday evening.

The betting action doesn't end with the result of Saturday's main event. Both Bally's and the Plaza have odds on whether the Derby winner will go on to win the Preakness. Bally's has the "yes" at +250 (the same as 5-2) with bettors going against the Derby winner laying -330. The Plaza has the odds at -400/+300.

As for a Triple Crown winner, the odds have been coming down (a likely result of people thinking Bellamy Road might be "the one") with the Plaza offering -1,100 on the "no" and +800 on the "yes" and Bally's offering -850/+600.

But Avello goes even further, with individual odds on each Derby entrant to win the Triple Crown. Bellamy Road has been lowered from 20-1 to 12-1, with Afleet Alex the second choice at 20-1; Bandini and High Fly at 25-1; High Limit at 40-1; Wilko and Noble Causeway at 60-1; Greeley's Galaxy and Sun King at 75-1; Don't Get Mad at 100-1 (down from 300-1); Andromeda's Hero at 125-1; Closing Argument, Greater Good, and Flower Alley at 150-1; Buzzards Bay at 200-1; Coin Silver, Sort It Out, and Spanish Chestnut at 250-1; Going Wild at 300-1; and Giacomo at 400-1.

Non-Derby action available as always

If you're looking to bet more sports this weekend, there's plenty of other action going on besides the Derby.

* First and foremost, the NBA playoffs continue (as of Thursday, the Spurs-Sonics was the only second-round matchup set in stone).

* The Nextel Cup's Dodge Charger 500 will be run under the lights Saturday at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, starting at 4:45 p.m. Pacific time. Series points leader Jimmie Johnson is the 7-1 favorite, with Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman at 8-1.

* On Saturday night, Diego Corrales is a -160 favorite vs. Jose Luis Castillo in a 135-pound title fight at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

* Also in Vegas on Saturday night, the Arena Football League's Las Vegas Gladiators host the Dallas Desperadoes at 7 p.m. at the Thomas and Mack Center. The Gladiators are a 3-point favorite.