Just about every gambler dreams of making a bet so bold, so brilliant that it has even the sharpies in Las Vegas buzzing.

I've done it.

The following item appears in the current issue of Sports Forum, a gambling publication: HOT HORSE SENDS BOOKIES TO CHALK BOARD

LAS VEGAS -- Leading choices in the future-book betting for the Kentucky Derby at Nevada betting parlors are as follows: Rockhill Native 7-2 Superbity 4-1 The Carpenter 6-1 Jaklin Klugman 8-1 Doonesbury 8-1 Plugged Nickle 8-1

The rush was on in early week to get down on Plugged Nickle and Las Vegas bookies -- wise to the ways of the world -- quickly lowered the price from 12-1 to 8-1.

A source in Miami told Sports Forum that Washington Post turf writer Andy Beyer had made a large wager on Plugged Nickle at 12-1 at one of the Las Vegas betting shops. The turf expert and author on thoroughbred racing could not be reached to confirm the report at press time.

I will confirm that on the first Saturday in May, I expect to bring the Vegas bookies to their knees.

Future-book wagering on the Kentucky Derby is an old tradition, one that originated in Caliente, Mexico, and was adopted by the Las Vegas gaming establishments, presumably because it is so profitable for the house. Picking the winner of a horse race weeks or months in advance is an exercise fraught with uncertainty, but the bookmakers rarely offered odds on major contenders that were adequate to compensate for all the risks involved.

Ordinarily, I have enough trouble selecting the Derby winner two days before the race, let alone two months. I picked Secretariat to finish out of the money, ignored Affirmed, dismissed Seattle Slew.

But even with this record of overlooking the obvious, I couldn't overlook Plugged Nickle. He was one of the top-ranked 2-year-olds at the end of last season and he won his first stakes race this year, the Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park, by seven lengths in dazzling fashion. He is being trained by one of the best men in the business, T. J. Kelly.

If Plugged Nickle was a hard horse to overlook, the Vegas oddsmakers somehow did it. They made Rockhill Native their Derby favorite. Rockhill Native was last season's 2-year-old champion who thoroughly discredited himself this winter in Florida. When they posted Plugged Nickle at 12-1, I heard opportunity knocking.

In the last week, the price on the colt has dropped to 6-1 or less, as the Derby picture has come into sharp focus. Contenders have been dropping like flies.

Superbity was hurt and will miss the Derby. Koluctoo Bay suffered an injury that will probably end his career.Gold Stage, who had seemed to be a formidable contender, ran an inexplicably dismal race at Gulfstream.

On the entire Eastern seaboard, there is only one horse left with anything resembling legitimate Derby credentials: Plugged Nickle.He can confirm this status when he runs in the rich Florida Derby Saturday, and he will be an odds-on favorite to win it.

The bulk of the bona fide Derby candidates appear to be based in California. A number of 3-year-olds have displayed some ability at Santa Anita, and one of them has finally risen above the pack. His name is Raise A Man.

Raise A Man won two of his first three spring races in sensationally fast time, then went a distance and whipped The Carpenter, who had been the ranking 3-year-old on the West Coast. That performance prompted jockey Bill Shoemaker to declare, "this colt is a freak!" Raise A Man will have a chance to verify Shoemaker's assessment when he runs in the Santa Anita Derby Sunday.

Neutral observers may be heralding Raise A Man's achievements in the weeks ahead, but in this column the California colt will be viewed a bit less charitably than the Iranian terrorists. In the meantime, Plugged Nickle will be depicted as the most loveable and noble steed since Black Beauty. I apoligize for this sacrifice of objectivity, but it's not every day that a horseplayer gets the chance to put one over on the Las Vegas sharpies.