08/11/2002 11:00PM

When getting shut out is a good thing

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Have you ever heard of someone who was happy he didn't bet a $88 winner?

No? Well, then do I have a story for you.

Ken Daniels, 50, was playing in the Suncoast Invitational handicapping tournament last weekend. He was partners with lifelong friend Robert Brendler of Rockville, Md., but Brendler wasn't able to make the trip, so it was Daniels who was responsible for putting in all of their plays. Daniels is a professional horseplayer in Las Vegas, and he also co-hosts the San Diego-based "The Thoroughbred Hot Line Radio Show" with Felix Taverna on Saturdays and Sundays.

After two days, the tournament was wide-open. Mike Mayo of Richardson, Texas, was the leader with only 5,884 points. At the Suncoast and Orleans tournaments, that's usually the first-day leader's score. Players make 12 mythical $100 win bets each day, with the first $20 paying full track odds and the remaining $80 capped at 20-1.

So, even though Daniels was 0 for 12 on the second day and was tied for 61st place in the 207-player field, he still had a shot on Saturday.

"Our chances were still slim," Daniels said, "but the scores were low enough that we were still in the running and that's all you can ask for. It was important to get off to a fast start."

Daniels got his fast start with a big closer, tabbing Darned Bold in the second race at Calder. Darned Bold rallied from eighth place and paid $42.40.

That put him back in contention and on the lookout for one more live longshot. He found it in a cheap maiden claiming race at Louisiana Downs. Scotty Scotty had an upsetter's chance at 40-1, but Daniels debated whether he should use a contest selection on him. The horses loaded in the gate and Daniels put in his contest play at the last second. He turned to go to the betting window, but it was too late.

"A lot of players just play the tournament, but I usually bet all my plays," Daniels said. "I feel much more confident if I'm willing to put my own money on them. I normally would have bet $100 to win on a horse like that. This time, I got shut out."

Scotty Scotty rallied late and paid a whopping $88.60 to win and was worth 2,566 contest points. Daniels was disappointed that he didn't have the cash in his wallet, but happy to have the contest points.

The Daniels/Brendler team ended up winning the tournament with 7,664 points. Steve Meyer of Monterrey, Calif., was second, just 14 points behind in the narrowest margin in Coast Casinos contest history. Mike Jelinsky of Las Vegas was third with 6,934 points.

"After the tournament, I was talking to Mike Jelinsky, who is a friend of mind, and I was still upset about not getting a bet down on that $88 winner," Daniels said. "Mike told me, 'Quit complaining. Do you realize that if you had bet $100 on that horse that it probably would have paid $87 and you would have lost the tournament?' I didn't realize until then that by getting shut out I made a lot more money."

If Scotty Scotty had paid $87, Daniels's parimutuel winnings would have been $4,350 on a $100 bet, but he would have finished the tournament with 7,648 points, 2 points behind Meyer. The difference between first- and second-place prize money was more than $37,000.

As it turned out, Daniels and his partner collected $72,450 in first-place prize money, plus another $5,000 for having the top score on Saturday. Meyer took home $35,190 and Jelinsky collected $18,630 for third.

Little green on turf futures

The three turf races in pool 2 of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship future bet didn't generate as much handle as any of the races offered in pool 1 (Classic, Distaff, and Sprint), and that carried over to the fixed odds futures offered at the Park Place Entertainment race books in Nevada.

John Avello, who sets the future book odds at the Park Place properties from his office at Bally's, said there was very little betting in either the parimutuel pools or on his fixed odds as pool 2 closed down at 4 p.m. Sunday.

* Bally's has teamed up with letitride.com to sponsor the 2002 Bally's Breeders' Cup Future Book Challenge. Starting Thursday, players build a fantasy stable of three runners in each of the Breeders' Cup races, locking in odds from the Bally's future book. Selections can be changed each week (based on the changing future book odds) through Oct. 25. Full details available at letitride.com and ballysraceandsports.com.

Woods 7-5 for PGA

Tiger Woods dominated the Buick Open field last weekend, winning by four strokes as the 3-2 favorite. That victory caused Jeff Sherman, golf oddsmaker at the Palms, to lower Woods's odds from 3-2 to 7-5 for this week's PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.

"Tiger is in fine form and I lowered him to 7-5, and I'm busy bumping up the odds on a lot of other players," Sherman said Sunday afternoon.

Sherman said he expects handle to pick up as the tournament nears.

Phil Mickelson is the second choice at 10-1, followed by British Open champion Ernie Els (12-1), Sergio Garcia (12-1), Padraig Harrington(25-1), and Retief Goosen, David Duval, Davis Love III, and David Toms (all at 30-1).

The Palms also has a dozen head-to-head matchups (Woods is a -340 favorite over Mickelson at +280) and proposition wagers on such things as over/under winning score (274 1/ 2), lowest round by any golfer (64 1/ 2), will there be a playoff (yes +300/no -400), and will Tiger make the cut (yes -4,000/no +2,500).

Sports book notes

Preseason football bettors, especially the professionals, who bet the most money and ultimately set the line, have been doing well against the bookmakers. Of the 17 games played heading into Monday night's Dolphins-Bucs contest, the line has moved on 13 of them. Bettors have been on the right side in seven of those, but that doesn't tell the tale. The biggest "steam" games have just about all gone in favor of the bettors.

The first was the Redskins' 38-7 win over the 49ers, when the Redskins opened as 2 1/2-point dogs and were bet all the way to 3-point favorites. Last Friday, the Falcons were bet from 1 1/2-point favorites to 4 1/2 over the Jaguars and won 23-13, and the Cowboys were bet from 1-point dogs to the Raiders to 3-point favorites and won 20-6. On Saturday, the Titans opened as 1-point dogs to the Rams and were bet to 2 1/2-point favorites before winning 28-26. Another change of favorite was the Broncos, bet from 1-point dogs to the Bears to 2 1/2-point favorites, and they went on to win 27-3.

After home teams covered three of five games on Thursday and Friday, the road teams were 7-1-2 on Saturday.

The over is 10-7 this preseason.

* Tony Stewart, who had a very eventful week, to say the least - he was fined $60,000 for punching a photographer and faces other sanctions - won Sirius Satellite Radio at the Glen NASCAR race as the 4-1 second choice behind Jeff Gordon, the defending Winston Cup champ, who has yet to win a race this year.