09/22/2011 3:20PM

Union Rags made the early Derby favorite at Vegas sports books

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LAS VEGAS – Handicapping is all about trying to predict the future, and the most anticipated future book for horseplayers is for the following year’s Kentucky Derby.

John Avello, previously at Bally’s Las Vegas and at the Wynn since 2005 (yowzers, has it really been that long?), puts up the first Derby futures in town every year. The current list for the 2012 Run for the Roses went up Sept. 8 with Alpha and Fire on Ice as the 50-1 co-favorites among the 126 horses listed, with Union Rags at 60-1 being the only other colt not in triple digits.

In the subsequent two weeks, a lot of horses have been added, with the current list at 155 and growing (the most recent sheets can be found on the “Race Book Notes” page at ViewFromVegas.com) and the odds have been changing as bettors back their opinions.

Union Rags is now the 30-1 favorite, with Drill at 35-1, Creative Cause and Take Charge Indy both at 45-1, and Alpha and Fire on Ice still sitting at 50-1. Takes the Gold, at 85-1, is the only other horse under 100-1 as most of the eligible horses are in the 200-1 to 300-1 range this far out.

If that’s a little too future for you, the Breeders’ Cup is just six weeks away and again the Wynn has led the way with those futures, putting up the Breeders’ Cup Classic all the way back in January. Twirling Candy opened as the 12-1 favorite, with Crown of Thorns at 14-1, Richard’s Kid at 15-1 and Fly Down at 18-1. So You Think is now the favorite at 6-1, with Twirling Candy still among the top contenders at 8-1, the mare Havre De Grace at 9-1, and Await the Dawn, Stay Thirsty, and Tizway at 10-1.

Many books have added Classic futures over the summer – for instance, the Lucky’s network of race and sports books, including their new location at the Riviera (with a walk-up window on the Strip side of the casino), has So You Think slightly higher at 7-1, with Havre De Grace and Tizway as the 8-1 co-second choices – but the Wynn is the only book to have futures on multiple races, with the Ladies’ Classic, Dirt Mile, Filly and Mare Turf, Sprint, Mile, Turf, and Juvenile being offered.

Speaking of futures . . .

Back on the sports side of the race and sports book scene, speculating on the Super Bowl champion also is very popular. When the NFL season kicked off Sept. 8, the Patriots were sitting as the 9-2 favorite at the Las Vegas Hilton, with the Packers 5-1, the Steelers and Eagles at 8-1, the Chargers at 10-1, and the Jets and Saints at 12-1.

Now, two weeks later, the Patriots are still the favorite, but down to 7-2 off two impressive victories, with the Packers still at 5-1, but the Steelers and Eagles have dropped too 10-1 (mostly due to them both losing to the Ravens and Falcons, respectively) along with the Jets, while the Chargers are now 12-1 off their loss to the Patriots along with the Saints and Texans.

But the biggest drop of all is the Colts, who were 20-1 last month when it wasn’t known how serious Peyton Manning’s neck injury was. The Colts are now listed at 300-1.

◗ In college football, Oklahoma is the 2-1 favorite to win the BCS Championship Game, with Alabama at 7-2. Before the season started, they were both right around 4-1 to 5-1. LSU is currently the third choice at 7-1, with Boise St. at 8-1.

Back to the betting board

I went 0-2 for the second straight time last week, certainly not the way I wanted to start the season with my posted plays. It’s especially frustrating when I’m 4-6 in the Hilton SuperContest, which means my non-best bets are 4-2. But it’s early and I’ve had worse starts and been able to get back around 60 percent, so we’ll keep plugging along.

Broncos +6.5 vs. Titans

I was really surprised when this line came out this high on Sunday (and was actually bet up to –7 at most books on Monday before getting bet back down). When the Hilton put up its advance line last Tuesday, the Titans were only a 3-point favorite. Granted, the Titans went out and upset the Ravens 26-13 on Sunday as 6-point dogs, but I think this is an overadjustment to that performance when you consider the Titans lost in Week 1 to the Jaguars. Also, while the Broncos haven’t been the best team we’ve seen this season, it’s not like they’ve played terribly in their narrow loss to the Raiders and then squeaking out a 24-22 win over a surprisingly resilient Bengals team this past Sunday. The Titans aren’t that much better than either team, so I expect the Broncos to be in this game the whole way. In fact, the best bet of all might be the +250 on the money line to win outright as I think this game should be a lot closer to pick-em and that’s a nice price on what I perceive as a coin-flip, but I’ll stick with the spread as my official play.

PLAY: Broncos for 1 unit.

Falcons +1.5 vs. Buccaneers

Here’s a game that is closer to pick-em, but I’m of the opinion that the wrong team is favored, even though the Falcons are on the road like they were when they lost in Week 1 at Chicago. However, they had a much better showing in their 35-31 win last Sunday night over the Eagles and should be set for this NFC South showdown. As for the Buccaneers, I don’t see why they’re getting this much respect from the market off a loss to the Lions and needing to rally from a 17-0 deficit to beat the Vikings. But I’ll take what’s offered.

PLAY: Falcons for 1 unit.

Last week: 0-2 for a net loss of 2.2 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL season record: 0-4 for a net loss of 4.4 units.