10/22/2008 12:35PM

Choosing Your Battles



1:35 pm: Cluck. Meow. Whatever. I'm not getting seriously involved in today's gargantuan pick-6 pool at Belmont despite the $1.019 million carryover. Go ahead and call me a big chicken, but I'm putting in $500 or less instead of my personal-maximum $5,000 that a playable carryover of this size might seem to warrant.

It's not just the four turf sprints, the two maiden claimers, or the 17 first-time starters. If I had some good ideas -- even one or two -- I'd be in there swinging. These opportunities are rare. A $1 million carryover means $1 million in free money. If there are 10 winners, each will get $100,000 more than he otherwise would. If it's easy enough that there are 100 winners, each ticket will pay $10,000 extra.

But it's a card where I could make out $100,000 worth of tickets and still feel like I was a heavy favorite to go under 4 1/2. With fields of 12x10x10x9x11x12, there are over 1.4 million possible combos. At least nobody can buy the thing unless he's got a spare $2,851,200 burning a hole in his pocket.

You almost have to always deal with a big and messy field somewhere in a pick-6. That's usually the race where I'll use almost everyone, splitting nine horses into three A's, three B's and three C's, hoping I'm smart enough elsewhere to pick up 6 or 9 of them by the time that race rolls around. I can deal with one or two of those races on a card. Today it feels like there are six of them. I just don't know where to start.

So I'm planning on a small sacrificial offering, a caveman ticket of 2 or 3 per race just in case it's My Lucky Day. Today I am chum, a guppie, an amateur, a tourist, a sucker, dead money. I'll kibbitz the sequence here as it unfolds, rooting to stay alive as long as that lasts and then rooting for bombs so implausible that we just might get a $3 million carryover into tomorrow's far more manageable card.

I don't mean to dissuade anybody else from diving in. Some people love these kinds of cards, excel at turf sprints, and like handicapping races where a majority of the horses have never raced at today's distance and surface -- a little bit like this year's Breeders' Cup.

--Our apologies for the technical difficulties with the two DRF blogs the last few days. Typepad, the  software Dan Illman and I both use to post our entries and your comments, sprung an update on us that has wreaked different types of havoc with our blogs. The damage here has been limited to the archive, which calls up an ancient post about the timing difficulties from last February's Fountain of Youth no matter where you click. Spooky. Dan's been hit harder, unable to post any readers' comments. I'm told we're "working on it."

2:30 pm: Here we go. I kept it to $240 $360:

The board for the first leg opened with McLaughlin third-timer Winthrop House 6-5, two others with experience 6-1, and all six first-timers seemingly icy at double-digit prices ranging from 14-1 to 66-1. The pick-3 willpays into the race also showed no support for the firsters, so I went with the two faves on my sad little ticket.

One possibly useful new tool for dealing with the increase of leg-2 races with firsters, as today's 5th is, are the rolling-doubles pools. This proved helpful to me Sunday, when I saw that Rosie's Run, the Kathleen DeMasi firster in leg 2 who figured 15-1 or better on paper, was the fourth or fifth choice in the double pool; she won like a good thing at 9-1. The problem is that you're dealing with pretty small pools by the time you have to put in your tickets, and most bettors seem to be ignoring these pools. But for what it's worth, with $14k in the pool at this writing,the only firster taking money in race 5 is Kaleidoscope Sky, third choice in most of the doubles and half the price of the three other firsters. So I used him and the favored Contessa entry as my two in the 5th.

2:34 pm: Mott firster Cross the Divide bet down from 14-1 to 10-1, so I added him to the first leg, increasing the investment from $240 to $360.

2:40 pm: Winthrop House got the job done at $5.80 with Master third and Cross the Divide nowhere. What an easy game.  Lots of happy guppies who singled the chalk. Lots of scowling whales who bought the race. 

3:15 pm: Knocked out in the second round but feeling strangely relieved and vindicated for doing the Chicken Dance. I'd have had to go at least 6 deep or more to come up with Staywaystella ($31.40), first-time turf with nothing wonderfully appealing on pedigree and dropping from MSW to MC after two double-digit defeats on the dirt. First three finishers, 14-1/10-1/70-1, combined for a $7882 triple. First two pick-six winners combined for a $142 double.

Wasn't planning to do any more Belmont betting today but Shine On Me, one of my two choices in the upcoming 6th, just opened at 19-1 and is the 8th choice in the double and pick-3 willpays. First time for tag, Prado named, owns field's second-best turf-sprint fig...time to get into some trouble.

3:50 pm: Tempest Storm a runaway box-to-wire winner as part of a Contessa entry that ran 1-3 on  seemingly speed-favoring turf that's so hard these conditioned claimers and maidens have hung up times of 1:21.49, 1:09.66 and 1:21.42 so far. Pick-3 comprising first half of pick-6 came back $407.50 for $2 despite two post-time favorites. Shine On Me...didn't.

4:25 pm: The Shaughraun ($19.00) outfinished T Harry, heaviest favorite in the sequence card, to win leg 4 and increase the parlay to $2,638.46 and counting.

5:00 pm: Sky Mesa ($11.40) in the 8th set up the following willpays. There will be from 4 to 14 winners with the 1,2,3,4,7,9 and 10; one winner at $2.3 million with the 5 or 6; and a five-day, $2.3 million carryover with the 8,11 or 12:

1-$196,855 (12 winners)

2-$472,453 (5 winners)

3-$346,882 (7 winners)

4-$171,054 (14 winners)

5-$2,362,267 (1 winner)

6-$2,362,267 (1 winner)

7-$214,751 (11 winners)


9-$590,566 (4 winners)

10-$168,733 (14 winners)



The three carryover possibilities are all first-time starters, trained by Roy Lerman, Jeff Odintz and Gary Gullo, who are a combined 1-for-55 with firsters in 2007-2008, and who have opened at 99-1, 31-1 and 25-1.

5:25 pm: George Weaver firster Kiss and Fly ($30.60) completed four winning tickets at $590,566 apiece by making up about eight lengths down the stretch to win the nightcap. She was the 7th choice in a field of 12 but the third most heavily-backed of the seven firsters in the race.

Okay, back to those Breeders' Cup pp's.....