The Preakness Stakes, horse racing's second jewel, is not nearly as compelling a wagering magnet as the Kentucky Derby. But with the prospect of a Triple Crown champion still alive, a fair number of casual bettors, along with racing enthusiasts, will throw a few bucks into the pot.

For one thing, a lot of sports fans are simply enamored of the opportunity to be part of sports history by having a winning ticket on the horse that could go on to capture the Triple Crown, a feat that hasn't been accomplished since Affirmed in 1978. (I still have my winning ticket on Afleet Alex on the refrigerator door.)

"Super Saver is going to get a lot of support [from bettors] because he won the Derby and people know the name," said Richard Gardner, sports book manager for

After the Preakness Stakes post position draw on Wednesday, Super Saver was installed as the 5-2 favorite, followed by Lookin At Lucky at 3-1. The two colts will be in adjacent starting gates with Lookin At Lucky in No. 7 and Super Saver in No. 8. Paddy O'Prado, third in the Derby, is 9-2 from the No. 10 gate.

However, the Kentucky Derby was run on a sloppy track that favored Super Saver, who had previously competed and won in the mud. Lookin At Lucky was the pre-Derby odds favorite, but as track conditions deteriorated, Super Saver closed the odds gap and the two contenders were relatively close by post time. Lookin At Lucky, with a disadvantageous No. 1 post position, finished sixth.

With good track conditions forecast for Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Gardner figures that this time the odds on Lookin At Lucky will narrow.

Las Vegas Hilton sports book horse racing expert Charlie Ludlow, a Johns Hopkins graduate, cut his handicapping teeth at Pimlico, just a short distance from campus.

"If the Preakness is run on a fast track, then you have to throw out the Derby because that was in the slop," Ludlow said. "So you have to go back to the dirt performances."

Seven of the 12 Preakness starters did not run in the Kentucky Derby, and Ludlow sees a couple of interesting prospects from that non-Derby group: Caracortado, at 10-1, and Schoolyard Dreams, at 15-1.

"Some people are saying this is a paceless field," Ludlow said. "But I couldn't disagree more."

Ludlow says that both Caracortado and the Nick Zito-trained Jackson Bend could set a fast pace and that both Super Saver and Lookin At Lucky will take the challenge and want to stay with the front-runners. Schoolyard Dreams' trainer, Derek Ryan, whose horse has the No. 2 post, says his horse likes to stay with the pace as well.

For bettors looking for a local wagering angle, Schoolyard Dreams had two starts at Philadelphia Park as a 2-year-old last fall, finishing third and first. And then there's this bit of history to build an argument for Schoolyard Dreams - the Philly Park alumnus actually beat Super Saver in the Tampa Derby in March. Schoolyard Dreams was second and Super Saver third (Odysseus, a horse that didn't make the Derby or the Preakness, won the race.)

Ludlow also pointed out a subplot that handicappers may want to consider: Zito, Jackson's Bend trainer, has a couple of horses that he may be resting for the Belmont Stakes in three weeks. It's Ludlow's opinion that Zito just may try to use Jackson Bend's speed to drain Super Saver, if not in the stretch of the 13/16-mile Preakness, then certainly for the 11/2-mile Belmont.

Delaware table games near. They're about to take the wrapping off the table games in Delaware. Casinos in both Delaware and Pennsylvania, which were previously mainly slots parlors, will be rolling out table games this summer.

The tentative starting date for full-fledged table-game action at Delaware Park, a thoroughbred racetrack just south of Wilmington, is June 18, pending inspections and approvals by state regulators. Casino executives and Regulators point out the date could change. Two other Delaware race tracks also have casinos, Harrington Raceway and Dover Downs. The drawing board plan is for Harrington to open its table games first, followed by Delaware Park and then Dover.

Delaware Park is the most convenient to Philadelphia (about 55 miles south on I-95) and plans to have 42 table games plus a 20-table poker room. Count on the old standards - blackjack, craps, and roulette, plus three- and four-card poker, Let It Ride, mini- and midi-baccarat, pai gow poker, and house-banked Texas hold 'em.

Delaware Park already has electronic versions of some of these games and they will stay, mainly as a lower minimum wager alternative. Live table games will generally have $10 minimums, but could be as low as $5 when there's less demand.

Delaware Park executive Andrew Gentile said live blackjack would feature most rules favored by players familiar with basic strategy, including surrender, dealer standing on all 17s, unlimited double downs, and 3-2 payoff on blackjack (many casinos elsewhere have lowered the payoff on naturals to 6-5). Rules on splitting are still to be determined, although there will probably be a max of three times on aces.

A Derby record, maybe. I did have the Kentucky Derby exacta of Super Saver and Ice Box, at least in theory, as certified in a prerace phone call to the office. But that pales in comparison to my 91-year old aunt, Ann Pannulla, of Oreland, who had a $12 box on Super Saver, Ice Box, and Paddy O'Prado for a $2,337.40 payoff. And I figure that just might be this year's record for oldest handicapper cashing a Derby trifecta. The secret? My aunt said she pored over the past performances for about five hours, giving special weight to jockeys and trainers. She hasn't decided on her Preakness picks yet, but I'm going with Super Saver, Paddy O'Prado, and Schoolyard Dreams, in that order.