05/03/2012 12:40PM

Tuley: Union Rags remains top choice at Vegas books

Tom Keyser
Union Rags closed as the 7-2 favorite in future book wagering at both the Wynn Las Vegas and Lucky's Race & Sports Books.

LAS VEGAS – Bodemeister opened as the morning-line favorite for Saturday’s 138th running of the Kentucky Derby, and a check of early betting on offshore websites shows that might end up being the case, but Nevada race books still consider Union Rags as the betting favorite as far as their future books are concerned.

At both Wynn Las Vegas and the Lucky’s Race & Sports Books, Union Rags closed as the 7-2 favorite when advanced parimutuel wagering was to open Thursday morning with Bodemeister the 4-1 second choice.

“Bodemeister obviously had the big win in the Arkansas Derby, but Union Rags has the better credentials and is a proven winner against stiffer competition,” said John Avello, director of race and sports book operations at the Wynn.

And then there’s the matter of money. The Wynn and Lucky’s have both taken more bets on Union Rags at bigger prices; of course, that’s aided by the fact Bodemeister didn’t run as a 2-year-old and wasn’t added to future books until after his maiden win Feb. 11 when Lucky’s debuted him at 75-1.

[KENTUCKY DERBY: Get PPs, watch analysis video, read latest updates]

Dan Shapiro of Lucky’s said the only losers for his company’s future book would be Union Rags, Hansen, I’ll Have Another, and Creative Cause.

“We got hit at 200-1 on I’ll Have Another well before he even won the Robert B. Lewis,” Shapiro said. “Someone in Southern California knew something.

“Bodemeister wouldn’t be great, but he’s still a small winner for us.”

Avello said his losers would be Union Rags, Dullahan, Hansen, and El Padrino.

“Hansen was a big play after his Breeders’ Cup [Juvenile] win,” Avello said, “but none of our losses will close the Wynn.”

[KENTUCKY DERBY FIELD: Watchmaker's odds, video contender profiles]

Union Rags also has emerged as the future-book favorite in odds to win the Triple Crown. Avello opened Union Rags at 14-1 a few weeks ago and he’s been bet down to 11-1. Bodemeister was 15-1 as of Wednesday. At Lucky’s, Union Rags was 15-1 and Bodemeister 16-1 as of Wednesday. Avello said his main liability in the Triple Crown odds is I’ll Have Another, who opened 85-1 but is now down to 40-1.

Both books also offer the generic “Will any horse win the 2012 Triple Crown?” proposition wager. Like most props, bettors tend to bet on something to happen (and something they can cheer for) as opposed to something not happening and the line has dropped. Wynn opened the “no” at –850 (risk $8.50 for every $1 you want to profit) with the more-popular “yes” at +650. As of Wednesday night, the odds were –775/+575. Lucky’s was dealing “no” –1100/”yes” +750, so it looks like Lucky’s is the place to go if you think this is the year, while Wynn is the better price if you think the drought will continue.

As with any big sporting event, there’s plenty of other prop bets, too.

Head-to-head matchups are always popular and will be offered by most books and were expected to be going up later Thursday and Friday. The Wynn already had some posted by press time, and Union Rags is favored there also at –145 against Bodemeister +115 (after going as high as –150/+120).

Avello also has his usual list of props with the winning time at over/under 2:01.40 (the over has been adjusted to –140 with the high temperature and humidity expected, plus a chance of rain, which always has people looking to the over), winning mutual payoff over/under $18.30 (solid at –170 on the over/+150 on the under), and whether the winning saddlecloth will be odd or even. That last prop opened –110 each way and was adjusted to even –175/odd +155 after the draw.

“With the even, you get No. 4 Union Rags and No. 6 Bodemeister,” said Avello, and he could have added No. 8 Creative Cause and No. 14 Hansen as other top contenders with even numbers, “so I had to adjust that.”

In a blog post earlier this week, DRF publisher Steven Crist wondered about what the odds would be on the nine horses that ran in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile against the rest of the field. Avello has answered with –120 for the BC Juvenile runners (Alpha, Creative Cause, Daddy Long Legs, Dullahan, Hansen, Optimizer, Prospective, Take Charge Indy, and Union Rags) and even money for the others. Shapiro said Lucky’s was going to do that prop as well.

The additional betting options are part of what has made Las Vegas become known as Churchill Downs West on the First Saturday in May every year. Station Casinos also is boosting its Twin Quinella wager to a $20,000-guaranteed pot on Saturday (it’s $5,000 on a daily basis and usually $10,000 for big events). Most race books also will be offering free Derby glasses or T-shirts with minimum wagers, usually in the $20 to $25 range.

Not to leave out Reno, Shapiro (after doing a 5 p.m. Friday seminar at the Riviera on the Las Vegas Strip with yours truly and Gary Seibel) will be hosting another seminar at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Grand Sierra in Reno with Steve Fierro.

Wherever you watch and wager, enjoy Derby Day.

Tuley the Tout’s picks: 1. Creative Cause. 2. I’ll Have Another. 3. Daddy Nose Best. Longshot: Trinniberg.