11/08/2012 5:00PM

Tuley: Ferraro weathers storm to win Pick the Ponies; NFL picks

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LAS VEGAS – Last week, a lot of people back East were trying to get out of the path of Superstorm Sandy. John Ferraro, a 64-year-old physician from Clifton Park, N.Y., had another reason to get out of town: he was playing in the Pick the Ponies handicapping tournament at the LVH Hotel-Casino.

“We fly out of Albany and they canceled all the flights to the east and south,” Ferraro said. “We were lucky to have a non-stop flight because the five other flights to Vegas had connections in other airports that were closed. If we didn’t have that exact flight, we wouldn’t have made it.”

I’m guessing his competitors are secretly wishing Ferraro would have been stuck back home as he took the $27,170 first-place prize in the contest, which ran the Wednesday through Friday before Breeders’ Cup, and had another entry that took third place worth another $6,435.

The PTP costs $500 to enter – $450 if you register before the early bird deadline – and contestants make 10 mythical $100 across-the-board wagers each day. The field had 143 players, though Rosemary Rocco of the LVH says about a dozen canceled because they couldn’t make it due to Superstorm Sandy. No word yet on if any of those are claiming they would have won if only they had made it out of town.

But this story is about Ferraro.

He finished with a score of 14,810 points to edge out Dan Mandarino of Henderson, Nev., who had 13,990 and earned $13,585.

“I was sitting in second and fifth heading into Friday,” said Ferraro, a tournament veteran who was second in the 2005 Pick the Ponies during Derby Week. “That’s a good spot to be in, but sometimes you choke or put your winners on the trailing ticket and neither does well.”

Well, Ferraro didn’t suffer that fate as he did enough on both to move up to first and third. He said the main horses on his winning entry were Basmati at 7-1 in the third race at Santa Anita, the last race on the BC undercard that day, plus Flirtacious Spring, a 12-1 shot in the eighth race at Aqueduct.

“I didn’t have any horses I really liked in the Breeders’ Cup races on Friday, so I mostly chose from Aqueduct, Churchill, and Santa Anita, and it worked out,” he said.

BC results and the futures

As stated in this space last week, the Breeders’ Cup Classic futures for John Avello ended up being a small loss with the victory by Fort Larned, who had been available at 100-1 earlier this year and was bet all the way down to 6-1 before the futures closed earlier last week, though it would have been worse if Flat Out had won. (A few people told me they bet Fort Larned – and Flat Out – at 9-1 in the parimutuel pool based on that mention in this column, just like some bet I’ll Have Another after I wrote how the Lucky’s race books had liability on the Doug O’Neill trainee; sometimes the “someone must know something” line rings true.) Royal Delta’s win in the Ladies’ Classic was fine for the house as her odds were never higher than the 7-1 they opened at earlier in the spring.

Shanghai Bobby ran away with the BC Juvenile, and Avello dropped his 2013 Kentucky Derby future odds down to 11-1 after the race. At the William Hill books, he was just lowered to 20-1.

Back to the NFL betting board

Last week, I went 1-2 for the second straight week as I lost with the Bengals and Bills (both of whom had their chances to cover but came up short) in the early games Sunday and then won with the Steelers over the Giants later in the afternoon. I’m still above .500, but not showing overall profit with the juice, so hopefully these three plays change that.

Chargers +3 vs. Buccaneers

A lot of people are getting on the Buccaneers’ bandwagon after last week’s performance by Doug “Muscle Hamster” Martin, though I guess it should be called getting on the Bucs’ hamster wheel. However, I think there’s been too much of an overadjustment here. Yes, the Chargers have been inconsistent, but I don’t think they should be an underdog of a full field goal to this Tampa Bay team. The Chargers finally put together a solid game with their 31-13 win over the Chiefs, and they’ve had a few extra days rest after that game a week ago Thursday.

PLAY: Chargers for 1 unit.

Raiders +7.5 vs. Ravens

The Raiders also have been inconsistent (and I’m glad I went with the Buccaneers against them last week), but I think that even without Darren McFadden they can score on the Ravens’ defense that hasn’t been dominant and keep this game close. They already showed they can handle the “West Coast team playing early game on East Coast” with their near upset of the undefeated Falcons four weeks ago.

PLAY: Raiders for 1 unit.

Vikings +2.5 vs. Lions

I’ve said many times that I’m not a big fan of “revenge” as I’d rather have the team that has already proved it could beat the other, so considering the Vikings beat the Lions 20-13 in Detroit, I’m happy to take the few points with them at home. The Vikings have lost three of their last four games to come back to Earth, but we know they play better at home as they’re 4-1 straight up. They’re only 2-2-1 against the spread at home, but their only game as a home dog was the big upset of the 49ers.

PLAY: Vikings for 1 unit.

Last week: 1-2 for a net loss of 1.2 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL overall: 13-11 for a net loss of 0.2 units.