Danny Way, Keanu Reeves and Adrien Brody are Vegas Gaming Expert Anthony Curtis' Latest Picks as Favorites to Win 2009 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race
World-Renowned Handicapper Shakes Up His Predictions After First Practice Runs for Prestigious Grand-Prix-Style Charity Race on April 18
by Anthony Curtis
LONG BEACH, Calif., April 14 /PRNewswire/ -- If Las Vegas gaming expert Anthony Curtis' picks pan out on Saturday, April 18, it will be a fight to the finish in this year's Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race between world-champion skateboarder Danny Way, Keanu Reeves, the star of "The Day the Earth Stood Still," "The Matrix" trilogy and "Speed," and Oscar-winner Adrien Brody. After observing last week's practice sessions, the venerable handicapper also has tapped NASCAR pit reporter Jamie Little -- whom he accurately picked to win the 2008 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race -- to mix it up with her competitors in the Pro Category, Al Unser, Jr., the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, two-time CART Series Champion and overall winner of the 1985 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, and Johnny Benson, 2008 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion.
Curtis, president of LasVegasAdvisor.com and one of the world's most recognized and quoted gambling authorities, has revised his predictions on how the stars of film, television and sports will fare in this historic, 10-lap race for charity, which is conducted in race-modified Scion tCs on a 1.97-mile street circuit through the downtown streets of Long Beach, California, as part of the 35th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. He offers his insights solely for entertainment purposes on www.lasvegasadvisor.com . [There will be no actual wagering on the outcome of the race.]
"Getting the inside scoop from the trainers and studying the drivers during the day-long practice sessions on the actual course where the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race will be run yielded new information, which has led to the first major change in the odds," said Curtis. "The most important revelation was the power of the handicap that the drivers in the Pro Category will face. The celebrity field will get a 30-second head-start over the Pros, and in a short race, that's a big spot. This is reflected in the odds changes, where Way, Reeves and Brody in particular have moved up -- and MTV's Fonzworth Bentley and Disney star Raven-Symone also should benefit."
Here's how Curtis sees the field of 18 shaping up now.
-- Danny Way (3-1) Opening odds: 7-1. The intensity and fearlessness that marked Way's jump over The Great Wall of China on a skateboard have served him well behind the wheel of his Scion. Other drivers will have to outmaneuver the X Games champ if they expect to catch him on race day. -- Keanu Reeves (6-1) Opening odds: 14-1. This guy is really fast! His innate talent, honed during his training at Freddy Spencer motorcycle school and participation in other racing events, looks like it's starting to pay off. Definitely a contender. -- Adrien Brody (15-1) Opening odds: 21-1. Brody's overall athletic ability coupled with natural speed and grace on the track could help Brody break to the front of the pack. Could be the one to go home with a racing trophy to put next to his Oscar. -- Fonzworth Bentley (16-1) Opening odds: 18-1. If he stays focused and keeps his speed on, he could show the C.O.L.O.U.R.S. of victory. Don't count him out. -- Raven-Symone (18-1) Opening odds: 25-1. This young lady could be the spoiler! She's a cool, calm, yet scrappy competitor who catches on fast and pays attention to her trainers' advice. Her determination just might earn her the checkered flag. -- Eric Close (28-1) Opening odds: 20-1. Close's genial trackside personality is just a bit too laid back for this field. If he can remain consistent, he'll be right up there, but the other drivers are aiming to leave him in the dust "Without a Trace." -- Ken Baker (28-1) Opening odds: 23-1. Despite his steady improvement, don't count on the E! Entertainment news exec to make any headlines on race day. -- Tim Daly (30-1) Opening odds: 23-1. The "Private Practice" star needs to pay close attention in his final practice run on April 17 to make up for the slight edge he lost. Still a challenger, though. -- Carlos Mencia (35-1) Opening odds: 26-1. What is going through the mind of Mencia? The famed funnyman is having a ball but not putting any pressure on the front runners. -- Alex Trebek (55-1) Opening odds: 65-1. The affable Trebek is a smart and worthy opponent who has improved since practice, but it is unlikely he'll put the rest of the field in "Jeopardy!" on race day. -- Mary Lynn Rajskub (65-1) Opening odds: 45-1. The charming star of "24" and "Sunshine Cleaning" remains a long shot, despite good training reports and some nice practice runs.
Rounding out the field in this year's race are charity auction winners Douglas Fregin and Annamarie Dean. Each entrant donated upwards of $50,000 to "Racing for Kids" to race alongside the celebs in this year's race.
Charity Auction Winners:
-- Douglas Fregin (31-1) Opening odds: 22-1. The Blackberry mogul has a big heart and some racing experience as a member of a Porsche club in his native Canada. But will that - along with a few tips from Unser - be enough to keep him in contention? -- Annamarie Dean (55-1) Opening odds: 30-1. Track insiders say she's gotten the recklessness out of her system since being taken out by George Lucas in her first run in 2007 and racking up a fender-bender in practice. But the high bidder in this year's Boys and Girls Club charity auction still has a long way to go.
Even with a :30-second head start, the celebrity field will need to test their newly honed racing skills against a highly competitive contingent of professionals. Here's how Curtis picks them.
-- Johnny Benson (7-2) Opening odds: Same. The 2008 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion does this for a living, and he's top of his game. Watch out!! -- Al Unser Jr. (7-2) Opening odds: 3-2. Although he's highly regarded as a six-time winner at Long Beach, track moles give "The King of the Beach" even odds with Benson. Still, there is no doubt in anyone's mind that Unser knows the track best so this will be a fight to the finish. -- Jamie Little (7-1) Opening odds: 9-1. Even with the :30-second Pro handicap, the winner in last year's Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, is running fast as ever. If she tires of her day job as an ESPN/ABC pit reporter for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, she could find herself a whole new career, behind-the-wheel! -- Tom Rudnai (11-1) Opening odds: 16-1. It's been eight years since Rudnai won the 2001 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, but you'd never know it. He's mixing it up with the best of 'em and making the folks back at Longo Toyota in El Monte and Penske Motor Group proud. -- Coy Gibbs (13-1) Opening odds: 6-1. Missed the practice day and, with this field, it could cost him. Hope he's getting a few secret pointers from the old man Joe before race weekend.
"Handicapping the field for entertainment purposes began as a novel idea couple of years ago, but now it has become a highly anticipated fan-favorite part of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race experience," said Les Unger, national motorsports manager at Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. "Year after year, we've seen the level of celebrity talent and the quality of racing competition continue to rise. Best of all, the race has evolved into a major charity event that helps benefit a good cause."
Toyota will donate $5,000 to "Racing for Kids" in the name of each celebrity racer, and another $5,000 to the winning racer's charity of choice. Racing for Kids is a non-profit program benefiting children's hospitals in Long Beach and Orange County, Calif.
Finally, an additional $15,000 donation is made in conjunction with the 12th annual "PEOPLE Pole Award," sponsored by PEOPLE magazine. The award honors the pole-position winner of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race qualifying session on Friday, April 17. On behalf of the race and its participants, Toyota has donated close to $1.7 million to various children's organizations since 1991.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Celebrity odds are provided for entertainment purposes only. Wagering on the outcome of the race is neither encouraged nor implied.
ABOUT ANTHONY CURTIS: Anthony Curtis is one of the world's most recognized and quoted gambling authorities. The president of LasVegasAdvisor.com, he has appeared as a casino expert on "Dateline NBC," "48 Hours," A&E, E! Entertainment, Discovery, The Travel Channel, The Food Channel, The Learning Channel, and has been the subject of articles in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, San Diego Union-Tribune, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Arthur Frommers' Budget Travel and Discover magazine. Curtis is author of Bargain City--Booking, Betting and Beating the New Las Vegas and The Art of Gambling Through The Ages. Considered one of the world's foremost experts in tournament play, Curtis' top tournament wins include $76,000 World Matchplay Blackjack Championship, $125,000 Atlantic City Craps Championship, $50,000 Las Vegas Keno Championship, and $60,000 Las Vegas Blackjack Championship.