11/25/2004 12:00AM

Another big-ticket blitz on pick six


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Musical Chimes, the favorite for the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood Park, will be prominently featured Sunday on the front page of Daily Racing Form. This will present a dilemma for Brad Anderson, captain of the three-man team charged with constructing a winning pick six for a few hundred horseplayers.

Anderson and fellow handicappers Rich Nilsen and Ron Ruchtie have a tough act to follow. They became instant heroes Oct. 30 when they pieced together a massive pick six ticket for 618 America Tab customers who invested a minimum of $10 into the "Players' Pool," solely to wager on the Breeders' Cup pick six.

The promotion was a smashing success. Using solid handicapping and brute force - the main ticket cost $43,200 and included at least four horses in each Breeders' Cup race - the ticket hit five consolations (five of six) and produced an after-tax return of $210,563 on a total play of $44,280. The net return was odds of 4.76-1.

Sunday, America Tab has put together "Players' Pool 2" to wager on the $1 million guaranteed pick six pool at Hollywood Park. Anderson, Nilsen, and Ruchtie will construct another massive pick six ticket. But there is a problem. Anderson is an anti-handicapper who tries to zig when others zag. And when the Sunday edition of DRF hits the newsstands, Matriarch favorite Musical Chimes will be staring him in the face.

"When a horse is on the cover of Daily Racing Form, cross it off," Anderson suggests. "My theory in looking at a card is 'Don't bet the favorite.' " Apparently, the strategy works. Anderson was one of two ticketholders to hit a $1.3 million pick six on May 19 at Hollywood Park, a card that included just one winning favorite. Since December, Anderson said he has hit eight pick sixes for approximately $2 million.

He is not trying to be clever by suggesting DRF cover horses be thrown out. Most horses featured on page 1 are the ones to beat, the logical favorites.

So what to do with Musical Chimes in the Matriarch? Anderson, Nilsen, and Ruchtie probably will use her, and try to beat her by using several others. If their Breeders' Cup pick six strategy is an indication, they won't need to split hairs. If a horse is a contender, they will use him.

"I don't want to try to out-handicap ourselves," Anderson said, and it worked for the Breeders' Cup.

When you are betting a $44,280 ticket into a $4.5 million pool, every race is a spread. Yet blunders occur, such as the one that occurred in the BC Juvenile.

"I said that the one mistake I will never make is that we cannot handicap the Juvenile," said Anderson. "We just have to press the all button. We thought we'd done that by throwing out the Europeans."

Someone forgot to tell Wilko. Beaten on the turn, the European import Wilko re-rallied for a $58.60 upset. It was the only race the group missed.

The group's big-ticket approach weighs longshots equally with favorites and is counter to another popular strategy. Many pick six players construct multiple back-up tickets that allow them to miss one leg of the series and remain alive for a major payoff providing a "key" horse wins another leg.

"I never really understood saver tickets," Anderson admitted, and said he typically wagers $3,000 to $5,000 on the pick six. When Anderson hit the $1.3 million pick six in spring at Hollywood, he played only two tickets - the winning ticket cost $4,200; the backup was $1,400.

America Tab executive vice president Mike Weiss was pleasantly surprised at the success of the Breeders' Cup promotion, and the subsequent publicity.

"We gave the guys each a $500 stake in the pool, and I thought, 'Well, we at least have $1,500 in there,' " Weiss said. "We did not expect that kind of reaction."

Anderson pitched in an additional $15,000. "That's more money than I usually play," he said. "But when else are you going to have an opportunity to bet this big of a ticket? I thought we had an overwhelming opportunity. It's almost like - I can't lose. Even if we hit five of six, we'd get our money back."

They did better than just break even. "It's nice everybody made a profit, and it was a lot of fun," said America Tab's Weiss. "And this sport needs to pick its head up and have fun."

The group wager gave average horseplayers a chance to be part of something big.

Flush with success, Anderson was game to continue as soon as possible.

"He wanted to do it every other day," Weiss said. "The next big [pick six], with a good set of races, seemed to be this weekend at Hollywood. I thought we should keep it alive."

As of early this week, Players' Pool 2 already had taken in more than $13,000 to play the Hollywood pick six. The question is how big of a ticket makes sense when chasing a pool that is "only" a million?

Anderson said, "I don't know. But let's hit them over the head with a hammer and get it."

Still, playing the pick six is not for the faint-hearted.

"You have to have the stomach to keep playing [regularly] and have 30 to 60 days of losing," Anderson said.

During 2004, it has worked out just fine for Anderson, a sharp handicapper with a dose of self-deprecating humor.

"Who knows if I'm just lucky?" he said. "Next year I may be saying, 'I used to have money.' "