08/17/2001 12:00AM

Team reunited to promote Coast Resorts sports book


When Bob Gregorka was summoned to take over as the race book director for the Coast Resorts Casinos earlier this year, all the veteran race book executive wanted was a seamless transition of leadership at the four race book properties. After all, Gregorka was expected to keep a momentum created by the 15-year run of Robert "Muggsy" Muniz.

Now that the ship has been secured, Gregorka - who had guided the Sands race and sports book before the facility's implosion - is ready to put his own mark on the locals race books.

Since the changeover, Gregorka has reworked the points incentive programs, added a multi-handicapping contest that spanned the Hollywood Park summer meeting, and is hosting several major handicapping tournaments per year at the Orleans and Suncoast properties.

Although Gregorka is surrounded by the crack staff left by Muniz, he needed an old friend to institute the newest offerings at the Coasts race books.

The race books at Coast Resorts have opened future book wagering for the World Thoroughbred Championship Breeders' Cup and next year's Kentucky Derby. In addition to offering future book wagering, the Orleans race book posts horse-for-horse matchups on most major racing days. Anyone in the race book industry will tell you that matchup propositions and future books are a full-time job.

In steps former employee Frank Minervini, appointed race oddsmaker for Coasts Resorts.

Minervini goes back a long way with Gregorka. The pair dates back to the East Coast and their early days at the race track together. The diminutive Minervini started riding horses in the early 1970's in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, accepting mounts at Keystone Race Track (now Philadelphia Park) in the daytime and The Meadowlands at night. He continued riding on the mid-Atlantic circuit through the early 1980's. In 1984 he took out a trainer's license and teamed up with Gregorka to own several horses, their best named Tax Bite.

Minervini continued training Thoroughbreds until the spring of 1988 when he moved his tack to Las Vegas. He hooked up again with Gregorka, first at the Frontier under book director Lenny Del Genio, then on to the Sands in 1989. It was at the Sands that Gregorka commissioned Minervini's talents for matchup props and future books. Horse-for-horse matchups became popular during the Sunday Silence-Easy Goer Triple Crown run. In each case, the longer-priced runner won the match. Their famous head-to-head contests carried right to the Breeders' Cup Classic finale.

Minervini also contributed to the first bonus program for horseplayers that Gregorka instituted at the Sands, known as the Turf Club.

On the Coast Resorts job for just over a month, Minervini admits that matchup propositions now are different than in 1989. Players are much more sophisticated and are ready to pounce on any edge they find in match play. Late scratches and track conditions, along with discrepancies in odds comparisons, can cause an overload of one-sided action. Minervini is aware that several big resort race books on the strip have discontinued the practice citing unacceptable risk exposure.

Minervini, however, doesn't mind going head to head with the "wiseguys." He reasons that the Coast Resorts race books have always been the horseplayer's place in Las Vegas and that offering the new bets is a variety the players will enjoy. Gregorka's philosophy has always been to broaden the scope of action for race players, and to that end, the matchups give life to the everyday racing programs.

Future books also have risks, but, again, Gregorka believes that futures wagering offers interest in the sport's biggest events throughout the year, and Minervini has the job of keeping track of what's happening on the track. Both Gregorka and Minervini hope to expand proposition and futures bets on more racing events throughout the year.

While Minervini keeps busy with his job as oddsmaker, he is also proud of the fact that he and his wife of 16 years have been responsible for the placement of eight retired race horses. "My wife, Peggy, has been very active all her life in caring for the horses," Minervini said. In addition to four children - ages 11 through 15 - and several dogs, cats, and chickens, they also have two equine retirees on their Las Vegas spread while they continue active in efforts to find homes for retired racehorses.

It seems that Minervini has exchanged the orders of "riders up" at the racetrack paddock to "odds up" at his desk at the Orleans. And I wouldn't wager that some of the horses Minervini offers in proposition bets today may be the same equines he finds retirement digs later. Maybe even in Las Vegas.