Australian tennis, NASCAR early buys

Jan 8, 2008 7:02 AM

Now that Christmas has come and gone and that dreaded December shopping is done, it’s time for the astute sports gambler to do some smart shopping for sports futures for 2008.

First up is the Australian Open set for Jan. 14-27 in Melbourne. Roger Federer (-185, Palms) won it last year and should do the same this year. He is the big favorite in the books while Venus Williams (10/1, LVH) is a good value wager after a comeback season in 2007.

NASCAR revs up its engines in February. It may be worth taking a shot on Tony Stewart in the Daytona 500 (16/1, Stations) on Feb. 17 and for the Sprint Cup Championship (7/1, Palms). Two-time defending champ Jimmie Johnson along with Jeff Gordon (both 4/1) provide almost half the value.

If you want to have some fun with a golf future and gain bragging rights with your friends, take a shot on Tiger Woods to win all four majors (18-1, Palms). It would be his first Grand Slam — something the living legend must still have in the front of his mind at the start of every year.

In the ring, why not take a chance on Oleg Maskaev (+280, Palms) against Samuel Peter (-360) on Feb. 2 in Madison Square Garden in their heavyweight bout? Two weeks later on Feb. 16, Kelly Pavlik (-165, Palms) will look to stay undefeated and knock out Jermain Taylor (+145) again here in Las Vegas in their middleweight rematch Then Manny Pacquiao (-155, Caesars Palace) is favored to dispose of Juan Manuel Marquez (+135) again on March 15 also here in Sin City for the super featherweight title.

March Madness is always a time for the little guy so instead of taking favorite North Carolina (7/2, Caesars) to win it all, take a look at a game BYU squad (150/1, Caesars), a very talented Clemson team (50/1, Caesars) and Butler (30/1, Caesars).

May brings the Run for the Roses and although much is to be gleaned from the early races and the three-year olds, futures money has come in on War Pass (10/1 from 20, Palms), Majestic Warrior (20/1 from 60), Pyro (15/1 from 25), Z Humor (35/1 from 80), Signature Move (30/1 from 80) and Monba (40/1 from 80).

In the NHL, the power is in the Western Conference. Instead of taking the most talented team on the ice right now (Red Wings 9/2, Hilton), it may be better to grab the Sharks (9/1, LVH) and stellar goalie Evgeni Nabokov to win the Stanley Cup.

In June the NBA title will be determined. Everyone is in love with the Celtics (5/2, Hilton) in the East and the Spurs (2/1) in the West. The Pistons (10/1), who beat Boston in Beantown last month, provide great value with the best starting lineup around.

On the diamond, the Boston Red Sox (9/2, Palms) are loaded on offense, have phenomenal starting pitching and a stout closer in Jonathan Papelbon.

The BoSox also have possibly the best back-to-back hitters in MLB history in David Ortiz (20/1, Palms) and Manny Ramirez (40/1). The duo are worth looking at to win the home run race.

Although the NFL season isn’t over, a great-looking futures bet next fall is on the Packers (Over 7 wins, Orleans).

Green Bay should certainly get Brett Favre back after his standout season playing in the same division as the mediocre Vikings, Lions and Bears (Oh my!).

Like stocks, now is the time to get down on your favorite futures and possess a ticket or two that you won’t have to crumple up right away.