Picking the right horses can land big money.
But picking the right horses in a handicapping contest can land you big, big money.
The Las Vegas Hilton will hold its Pick The Ponies Invitational XVIII May 2-4, and all that big, big money ($115,000) will be available in the contest. The entry fee is $500 and is limited to 200 bettors. If a contestant registers by April 23, the entry fee is $400 per entry, with a maximum three entries per person.
On the contests first day (May 2), there will be late registration from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. at the race book counter. Contestant windows open each day at 8 a.m. All racing forms will be available at contest windows at 11 a.m. each day. Unofficial results are posted about one hour after each days last contest race at the race book.
On Tuesday, May 1, there will be tournament registration from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. On Tuesday, daily racing forms for Wednesday will be available at the race book counter. There also will be a cocktail party from 6 p.m.-8 p.m.
Each contestant can only wager $3,000 per day. There are full track odds for the first $50. All bets must be made in $100 increments. There are 10 bets per day with no exotic wagers.
Contestants will bet races from Aqueduct, Hollywood Park, Bay Meadows, Hialeah, Pimlico, Churchill Downs and Hawthorne. There will be an awards ceremony Saturday, May 5 with a continental breakfast at 8 a.m.-8:30 a.m. in the race books Hall of Fame Room.
Also, special $47 room rates are available for contestants.
There also is an early incentive registration. If you sign up by April 23 at 5 p.m., there will be an additional $15,000 in bonus prize money. The bonus money, provided by the Hilton, is independent of tournament entry fees. The early entrants will be eligible for the daily payoffs. First place will receive $2,500, second place $1,500 and third place $1,000.
Coast casinos will hold a Hollywood Park Handicapping Contest every Wednesday and Thursday (from April 25-July 12) at all Coast Casino Resorts race books.
There is a $20 fee to enter and all entry fees are returned as prize money. For more information, visit any Coast race book.
Winner at Suncoast Invitational
The first-ever Suncoast Invitational Handicapping Contest at Suncoast Hotel and Casino was March 28-31 with $357,000 in prize money given away.
Tommy Castillo, who correctly picked the most winners, won $107,450 to become champion.
Second and third-place prizes went to Len Friedman, who went home with two checks totaling $79,820. His second-place finish paid $52,190.
"This contest was the most successful event of its type ever offered by Coast Resorts," said Bob Gregorka, Coast Casinos race book director. "Participation was tremendous and all the entrants were right on target with most of their bets. Were already planning our next contest."
In addition to selecting favorite races, players could also bet on more than one horse per race. Contest tracks included Santa Anita, Hialeah, Aqueduct, Sportsman, Oaklawn, Turfway and Pimlico.
The next Coast contest is Aug. 15-18 at The Orleans. That contest has been held in the past, but has a new name this year: The Championship at The Orleans.
Kentucky Derby odds
Imperial Palaces fixed odds have Point Given at an 8-5 favorite to win the 127th running of Kentucky Derby May 5. Congaree, which won the Wood Memorial Saturday, is 5-1. He was 7-1 going into last weekend. Balto Star is 7-1 as is Monarchos. Millennium Wind is 8-1.
Odds opened with 175 horses that could be played individually. Currently, 106 horses still can be played individually; as 69 were taken off the board.
John Bennetts NBA and Baseball Picks
Matchups in the NBA are undetermined at this time, making a favorite to win it all difficult to pick at this time. There is no cut-and-dried leader.
San Antonio Spurs with the best record and home-court advantage could be the favorite, though a dubious one at this time.
There are six or seven teams that could win the title. Lakers and 76ers will give Spurs all they can handle. Not so far fetched is the fact that the team that wins the Western Conference title could be so worn down that they may be duck soup for the Eastern Conference winner.
The dark horse of the pack is Milwaukee Bucks who have the talent and coaching to get the job done; however we are going with the Lakers to win the West and meet Milwaukee for the title.
Games for the week ending April 22:
MLB enters its third week with season becoming more interesting with each game. Mets cant hit, ditto Braves. White Sox are overrated, proving that last years wins were a fluke; odds on to miss the playoffs. Twins have hitting and pitching in the early going which means victories.
Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates: Pirates slumping, Cubs winning. Pirates turn things around with Cub Killer Todd Ritchie winning one and left hander Jimmy Anderson notching another.
Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies: Braves bats come alive in Philly. Odalis Perez comes back with a Gem to go along with Braves bats; Kevin Millwood breaks out of his slump with a victory.
Montreal Expos at Florida Marlins: Marlins have been double tough all season and doubly so vs. Montreal. Ryan Dempster has been difficult for Expo batters. Im going with Dempster and Rookie Jason Grilli who has been a pleasant surprise.
N.Y. Mets at Cincinnati Reds: After a series in New York with the Reds; you think Mets wont want to see them for the rest of the season. Mark Leiter and Kevin Appier reverse their losses in New York.
St. Louis Cardinals at Houston Astros: Let the "Bombs" fall where they may, Cards bats come alive. However, are they enough to win? Forget about the sides going over against Andy Benes and Kent Bottenfield who surprised last out; it was a mirage. Overs the game.
Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks: Same old Rockie story, tough at home, soft on the road. Schilling and Randy Johnson are not the Old Spahn and Sain. Pray for rain, however, they will do in this series.
San Diego Padres at L.A. Dodgers: Padres have been a thorn in the sides of the Dodgers the past couple of years and continue their madness here. Bobby Jones and Brian Tollberg notch two wins.
Boston Red Sox at N.Y. Yankees: After a great series in Boston, the Sox bring their act to New York. No hookup between Clemens and Martinez this time around, still the series will be interesting. El Duque notches his first win. Mike Mussina makes it 2 and 0.
Milwaukee Brewers at S.F. Giants: Brewers no pushover, bring their act to the West Coast. Jeff DAmico and Paul Rigdon are good for a couple of wins.
Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians: Both teams have been less than brilliant; more of the same is the story this week. Steve Sparks continues his mastery of Cleveland here.
Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Devil Rays are much improved, against the Orioles at least. Devil Rays torment Os some more at home. Albie Lopez and Bryan Rekar do the honors.
Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers: How long is the As slump going to last? Friendly Texas park and friendly Ranger pitching should do the job. Tim Hudson back in the winners circle, Gil Heredia joins him.
Toronto Blue Jays at K.C. Royals: Blue Jays are in for a shock when they visit the Royals in Kansas City. K.C.s silent bats explode with a thunder and sweep three from Toronto. Double play on Jeff Suppan.
Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox: Twins swept Chicago Pale Sox in Chicago, dont expect a repeat here however. Two wins are not bad. Eric Milton and Brad Radke do the job once more.
Anaheim Angels at Seattle Mariners: Angels, who have designs on the A.L. West title along with Oakland, Texas and Seattle, have to beat divisional rivals. Freddy Garcia and John Halama help out here.
Injuries taking their toll
By Bob Joyce
The NHLs second season is in full swing, but injuries are taking their toll on several teams due to the aggressive play and some mind-boggling hits.
The Detroit Red Wings are leading the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 in their best of seven series, however, Detroit is playing without the services of left-winger Brendan Shanahan who fractured his foot while sliding in front of a hard slap shot from the point as the puck nailed the toe of his skate. Center Steve Yzerman also is out indefinitely after twisting his ankle in game one and right-winger Darren McCarty is questionable for Game 4 Wednesday night.
The Dallas Stars who are leading the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 have lost their center Joe Nieuwendyk with a sprained knee and is out indefinitely.
The Oilers left-winger Ethan Moreau is questionable for Tuesdays game against Dallas.
The Ottawa Senators are down two games to none to the Toronto Maple Leafs will be without defenseman Ricard Persson for Mondays contest due to a concussion. Questionable for the Senators are (D) Chris Phillips (shoulder), (D) Shane Hnidy (groin) and (LW) Magnus Arvedson (groin).
Torontos left-winger Garry Valk is questionable with an eye injury and on defense Wade Belak is sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Vancouver, down 0-2 to the Colorado Avalanche, is without the services of defenseman Scott Lachance with a knee injury, and Andrew Cassels is questionable with a sprained ankle.
The AVS have been without defenseman Ray Bourque for this series due to a lower back strain and (D) Nolan Pratt (groin) are both listed as day-to-day.
NBA playoff betting more fun than in regular season
BY ADAM SOBOLESKI
One NBA guessing game comes to an end this week while another one starts Saturday.
That first guessing game is the regular season, and the second one is the playoffs.
But the playoffs might be a little easier than the regular season because injured players will play and all teams will show up in just about all games.
"The wiseguys will bet (the playoffs) if they find value," said The Mirage race and sports book director Robert Walker. "They like to bet totals and games. As long as we shade against the favorites and the over higher, they like to bet underdogs and unders. They get involved."
Although the NBA playoffs are nowhere near the excitement of the NCAA tournament for Nevada sports books, betting should pick up this weekend.
"Theres a couple of extra people that will bet it," Walker said. "Its not a huge draw. People like to come out here and bet the whole series, but its nothing like college basketball."
NBA bettors do like the San Antonio Spurs to win the title in June.
Last fall, the Spurs were as high as 11-1 at The Mirage. Now, the Spurs are around 5-2. The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are 3-1.
"The (New York) Knicks are 22-1, the (Philadelphia) 76ers are 9-2, and the (Portland) Trail Blazers are 9-2," Walker said. "The Sacramento Kings are 6-1. You can find good value out there."
Walker said money lines, parlays and teasers will be offered on every playoff game. Limits will be the same as in regular season games.
With the playoffs, series match-ups will be offered as well.
"Youll see some prohibitive favorites," Walker said. "Some of the top seeds will be four-digit favorites, just like in (the NHL playoffs)."
In one NHL playoff series, the Colorado Avalanche were a +1000 favorite to win their first round series against the Vancouver Canucks.
But not as many bettors are finding value in NBA games or futures this year.
"Although I have not seen the exact number, in my mind, (NBA) betting is down this year," Walker said. "Its not as high as last year. It coincides with viewership and attendance."
Gold Coast race and sports book director Bert Osborne is excited about the playoffs.
"Play in our books should pick up this weekend with the NBA playoffs starting (Saturday)," Osborne said. "It will be a nice little bonus. I enjoy the NBA playoffs. Its going to be a great playoffs year because its wide open this year."
So, who does Walker think will win the title this year?
"The Spurs are the team to beat," he said. "The Lakers will have a say when this thing is over. The West is real tough. In the East, with Alonzo Mourning back with Miami, that puts a different spin on things there."
Surprises throwingcurve balls at bettors
By ANDY ISKOE
Barely two weeks old, the baseball season is already full of surprises, with perhaps the most surprising being Oaklands awful start.
The As have won just one of nine home games and begin the week 2-10. The team which threatened the Yankees in last seasons playoffs has suffered from an anemic offense and struggling pitching. It is evident that both units are pressing, especially the hitters. There is also the question of team chemistry. Ben Grieve and Matt Stairs are no longer there, and last seasons MVP, Jason Giambi, cant do it alone.
Equally as surprising has been Seattles 9-3 start. The Mariners have lost three of the top players in the game over the past few years (Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr and Randy Johnson). Lou Piniella continues to show why he is among the most underrated managers in the modern era. Speaking of A-Rod, the majors only quarter-billion-dollar player broke out of his slump this past weekend in Oakland as his Texas Rangers swept the three game series.
In the East, Boston, Toronto and the Yankees set the pace, as expected, with the Red Sox having just taken three of four from New York. The teams will meet again this weekend in New York.
Minnesota surprisingly leads the Central with a 9-2 record on the strength of solid starting pitching and an