05/18/2003 11:00PM

Town readies its Crown hype


As expected, last Saturday's Preakness wasn't as big of an event here as the Kentucky Derby two weeks earlier, but Funny Cide's impressive victory has Las Vegas gearing up for his Triple Crown bid three Saturdays from now.

Trying to reach race book directors on Monday morning was an act in futility, as many of them were in meetings to discuss parties, promotions, seminars to capitalize on the excitement that will lead up to the Belmont.

Statewide handle on the Preakness was $1.33 million, down 15 percent from the $1.57 million wagered last year, according to figures from the Las Vegas Dissemination Company. The day's total handle on all race cards from coast to coast was $3.87 million, down from $3.99 million last year, and didn't even equal the $4.37 million bet on this year's Derby alone.

A lot of late money came in on Funny Cide, making him the 9-5 favorite, and there were a lot of happy bettors. With all those bets being parimutuel, the race books were happy with their takeout, but they also fared well with separate bets that they booked. The favorites swept the board in head-to-head matchups at both Mandalay Bay (Funny Cide over Peace Rules, Scrimshaw over Foufa's Warrior, and Senor Swinger over Kissin Saint) and Bally's (Funny Cide over Peace Rules, Scrimshaw over Ten Cents a Shine, Senor Swinger over Kissin Saint, New York Hero over Cherokee's Boy, and Midway Road over Foufa's Warrior), so everyone taking the plus-money on the underdogs came up empty.

In addition, with no quinella offered at Pimlico, race books that took action on house quinellas made out like bandits. House Qs pay off with the winning mutuel multiplied by half of the place price of the second-place finisher. With 20-1 shot Midway Road ($15.40 to place) finishing behind Funny Cide ($5.80 to win), the house Q paid only $44.60, which was low compared with the $60.30 payoff for a $1 exacta. Most bettors who used Funny Cide probably weren't confident of Midway Road's chances. Conversely, a one-two finish of Funny Cide and Peace Rules would not have been good for bookmakers, as that was a very popular wager with bettors who saw it as a match race between the two.

Even before Funny Cide's connections were awarded the Woodlawn Vase, Mandalay Bay's oddsmakers put up a prop on whether the New York-bred gelding would complete the Triple Crown. They made the "yes" at +120 (or 6-5) with the "no" at -160 (bet $8 to win $5).

"We felt his odds in the Belmont would be around 6-5, maybe 7-5 if Empire Maker doesn't run," said Scott Reynolds, race and sports book supervisor. "We wanted to give our customers the chance to bet the Belmont right away, including a chance to bet against him."

More Seattle Slew chips at Palms

By now, most people know that Funny Cide is a descendent of Seattle Slew (on his mother's side), who was the last living Triple Crown winner until his death last May. The Palms, which has already distributed commemorative Seattle Slew casinos chips for the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, will release the Belmont set of chips on Thursday at 10 a.m. at the main casino cage. The chips are in denominations of $2.50, $5, $25, and $100. The Triple Crown version, which will also include a special $1 chip, are due to come out June 5, two days before Seattle Slew's great-grandson makes his run for immortality.

Sorenstam inspires props galore

A lot of people, including Vijay Singh, aren't happy that Annika Sorenstam is taking on the men in this week's Colonial PGA event, but don't count bookmakers among them. Sorenstam's presence will mean much more handle than this tournament would otherwise get, and probably the most of any tourney this year that doesn't include Tiger Woods.

Prop bets have been up since February, when Sorenstam accepted a sponsor's exemption to play. Jeff Sherman, the golf oddsmaker at the Palms, has Sorenstam at 500-1 to win the tournament, +325 to make the cut and -450 that she misses the cut.

A lot of bettors will be very happy if she shoots exactly 77 on Thursday. When the Park Place Entertainment properties (Caesars Palace, Bally's, Paris, Flamingo, Las Vegas Hilton, etc.) put up their odds three months ago, they made the over/under on Sorenstam's Thursday round at 77 1/2 and made bettors lay -115 either way. The under has since been bet up to -250. Meanwhile, the Palms has the over/under at 76 1/ 2, with the over at even money. If she shoots a 77, both of those bettors would cash.

Singh, who was the 8-1 favorite to win last weekend's Byron Nelson Championship, withdrew from the Colonial after his victory in that event, and that spoiled the most intriguing prop out there. Three months ago, Caesars Palace had Singh as a 6 1/2-stroke favorite over Sorenstam for the first two rounds of the Colonial. Bettors had bet Singh up to a 7 1/2-stroke favorite and -160, but those bets are now only worth a refund.

At Park Place books, as well as Station Casinos, you can also bet on how many strokes Sorenstam finishes over or under par through the first two rounds. Other Sorenstam props at the Palms include: what will she have first (birdie or eagle at +110, bogey or worse at -140), number of first-round holes below par (over/under 1), number of holes above par (over/under 7), highest score on any hole (over/under 7), will she shoot a round in the 60's (yes at +600, no at -900) and will she shoot a round in the 80's (yes at +130, no at -160).

Spurs become heavy favorites

The NBA playoffs have entered the conference finals with a lot of popular teams (the three-time defending champion Lakers, the Kings, and the East's No. 1 seeded Pacers) on the sidelines.

The Spurs are now an overwhelming 1-3 favorite as set by Las Vegas Sports Consultants, with the Mavericks at 3-1, the Nets (who won Game 1 of the East's championship series on Sunday) at 5-1 and the Pistons at 15-1.

The "zig-zag theory" has gone completely cold. After going 18-10 in the first round (and 18-8 in last year's first round), teams after a straight-up loss went 8-10 in the second round to stand at 26-20 (56.5 percent) overall.

Divided opinion on 'American Idol'

Two Las Vegas sports book directors have made odds on Wednesday night's "American Idol" finale.

Nevada gaming regulations prohibit wagering on these types of events, but the Hard Rock Hotel's Jamie Shea made Ruben Studdard the 5-7 favorite over Clay Aiken at 6-5 for mtvnews.com.

Bally's John Avello made the big guy (Studdard) a 4-5 favorite with Aiken at even money. Avello made the right call on "The Bachelor," as he had Jennifer a 5-6 favorite over Kirsten at even money.