11/11/2010 4:15PM

Titans still the play despite shift from underdog to favorites


The Breeders’ Cup was a rousing success here in Las Vegas last weekend – well, except for those whose emotional or financial investments were tied to Zenyatta.

But even those who left disappointed were left with lots of excitement. No one could say they didn’t get their money’s worth.

A lot of the crowds gathered in the race books Saturday afternoon were there to watch Zenyatta put her 19-race winning streak on the line against the boys in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But they were also putting money through the betting window. According to Vinny Magliulo of Las Vegas Dissemination Company, the wagering hub for Nevada, the statewide handle on just the Breeders’ Cup races on Friday and Saturday was $7,250,035, a 5.5 percent increase over last year’s $6,875,003. Overall handle for the two days was $10,524,542, a 3 percent increase over last year’s $10,182,228.

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“Zenyatta drew a lot of casual fans, which is always good to see, and it was a great race,” Magliulo said, “but there were good cards on both days for race fans and it was encouraging to see the increase in handle in this economy.”

◗ One of the $800,160.40 pick six tickets was hit at the private party at the Wynn Las Vegas. The person who hit it didn’t want to be identified (“Too many people know already,” he joked), but he did reveal that having Dakota Phone, the $77 winner of the BC Dirt Mile, was obviously the key and he only went five deep to get him.

◗ Another big winner during BC Week was Steve Napper of Fairdale, Ky., as he topped a field of 197 in the Pick the Ponies handicapping tournament at the Las Vegas Hilton last Wednesday through Friday. Making 10 mythical $100 across-the board wagers each day, he compiled a score of 17,095 to win the $37,430 first-place prize. Michael McIntyre of Massillon, Ohio, finished with a score of 16,965 to collect $18,715, while Alan Hasher, of Solano Beach, Calif., was third at 15,895 to take home $8,865.

◗ John Avello of the Wynn has posted odds on the Eclipse Award vote for Horse of the Year (and all other categories), though they are only for entertainment purposes since the Gaming Control Board doesn’t allow wagering on things that are voted on (elections, MVP awards, reality TV shows, etc.). He has made Blame a 5-12 favorite with Zenyatta at 2-1 for Horse of the Year. In some categories, Avello doesn’t even list a second horse (Uncle Mo for 2-year-old male, Awesome Feather for 2-year-old female, Goldikova for female turf horse, Blame for older male, Zenyatta for older female). The closest races he has are in the human categories: Ramon Dominguez a slight 8-5 favorite to win the jockey award over Garrett Gomez at 9-5, and Todd Pletcher at 5-8 vs. Steve Asmussen at 7-5 for top trainer.

Back to the betting board

I went 1-1 with my picks last week, winning with the Buccaneers +8 1/2 vs. the Falcons (nearly pulling off the outright upset) and losing with the Dolphins +5 1/2 vs. the Ravens.

Titans –1 1/2 vs. Dolphins

No, don’t call the psych ward – I’m not out of my mind. And don’t call the editors at DRF – this isn’t a typo. I’m taking a favorite (though, for the record, I bet it myself at pick-em. This game opened with the Dolphins as a 2 1/ 2-point home favorite and I liked the Titans, who have since been bet to favoritism. I think the money is on the right side. The Dolphins are winless at home, so they don’t have much of a home-field advantage (though taking them last week when they were previously undefeated on the road didn’t work out). The Titans were already a solid team and Randy Moss should help the offense immediately and help them in their quest to knock the Colts off the AFC South pedestal.

PLAY: Titans for 1 unit

Cowboys +14 vs. Giants

Okay, I know this is an ugly play as the Cowboys at the biggest underachievers of the season, going from Super Bowl favorites to 1-7 and laughingstocks of the league. But I still think this line – which was pick-em in advance lines at the M Resort back in August and just Giants –10 a week ago at the Hilton – is an overadjustment. That’s just a lot of points for any NFL team to lay to another team. Consider that double-digit underdogs are 8-4 against the spread this year, and most of those teams have had far less talent than the Cowboys do. And here we have a division rivalry and a team going through a coaching change that should also provide a spark. Hopefully.

PLAY: Cowboys for 1 unit

Patriots +4 1/2 vs. Steelers

Sunday night’s game should have a playoff atmosphere with two of the best franchises the past decade. This could very well be for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Granted the Patriots took a step back last week in their loss to the Browns, but coach Bill Belichick almost always gets his team to bounce back after a loss and is 15-7 against the spread in that spot with the Patriots. The Steelers’ defense, while still No. 1 in the league, showed some weaknesses in letting the Bengals rally before falling short on Monday night.

PLAY: Patriots for 1 unit

Last week: 1-1 for a loss of 0.1 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL season record: 16-11 for a net profit of 3.9 units.