05/26/2003 11:00PM

Big pick six boosts holiday handle


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Pick-six mania does not engulf racetracks in Kentucky with anywhere close to the frequency of Southern California or New York. Kentucky pick-six pools are considerably slower to grow, and, in general, fewer horseplayers focus on taking them down.

But once in a while, such as on Memorial Day weekend, the pick six becomes the talk of the track. The Churchill Downs pick six had not been won since May 17, and after six days of eluding bettors, the carryover heading into Monday's card was $342,497, sixth-highest in track history.

The result was a one-day pick-six handle of $1,034,348, a Churchill record that lifted the total pool to $1,376,845. The chances of yet another carryover seemed highly possible after after the second leg of the sequence when Chosen Chief, the longest shot in a field of seven, led all the way at 22-1.

But then Requesto, the 2-1 favorite, won the third leg, and after 3-5 favorite Cuvee was an easy winner of the Kentucky Breeders' Cup, there were live pick-six tickets landing on all but one (Trappings, a 50-1 shot) of the 12 starters in the final race.

In deep stretch of the finale, it appeared that 30-1 shot Junkinthetrunk could win, and that only one winning ticket, worth more than $900,000, would result. But then Fickle Factor rallied to win as the 9-2 third choice, yielding nine perfect tickets, each worth $107,879.80. Five of six winners returned $393.60.

One perfect ticket was sold at Churchill. Three were sold in Maine, a hub for many "offshore" betting ventures. One winner apiece was sold through TVG, Las Vegas, New England, Penn National, and the Western Region of New York OTB.

Clearly, a large carryover is a major boon for business. Some of the ontrack crowd of 13,142 was attributable to a carnival-type promotion geared toward families, but the pick six was also a factor. All-sources handle soared to more than $11.8 million.

Mineshaft breezes after win

Mineshaft, one of the leading handicap runners in North America, had his first breeze since his victory in the May 16 Pimlico Special when he went a half-mile Tuesday in 48.80 seconds over a fast Churchill surface.

"It looks like he came out of the race good and he's still holding his form," said trainer Neil Howard.

Howard is pointing Mineshaft to the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap, a Grade 1 race to be run here June 14. At this early juncture, Mineshaft figures as a solid favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Foster.

Claiming trainers pick winners

Not that anyone who fills out a claim slip is necessarily intent on claiming a winner, but the owners and trainers who claimed horses here last week did an unusually good job of picking winners.

Ten winners were claimed, including six that were the lone claims out of their respective races. Five of those solo claims weren't even the favorite: Lost Her at Dawn, Broad Creek, Great Return, Lostriverprospect, and Joseph G's Gal.

Horsemen often don't mind claiming a loser, assuming the horse turns in a respectable effort. As a prime example, claiming a maiden that loses a close finish generally is preferable to claiming the winner, simply because the maiden condition is still available to the new connections.

Take Charge Lady to work

Take Charge Lady, the highly accomplished filly whose 4-year-old campaign has been sidetracked by a foot bruise, is scheduled to breeze early next week and could still make the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap on the Stephen Foster undercard, said trainer Ken McPeek.

"She's been training a lot better the last few mornings," McPeek said Monday. "We've got a bar shoe on her, and it's really seemed to help."

In her only start this year, Take Charge Lady was narrowly beaten by Azeri in the April 5 Apple Blossom.

Meanwhile, Minister's Baby, who ran second as the favorite in a Sunday allowance designed as a prep for the Fleur de Lis, is "pretty much definite" for the race, said McPeek.

'Churchill chairmen' exacta

There are innumerable ways to approach a hunch bet, and the finish of the Early Times Mint Julep here Saturday underscores that notion. All a bettor had to do to collect an $88 exacta payoff was combine the "Churchill chairmen" horses.

The winning mare, Kiss the Devil, is owned by Carl Pollard, the current chairman of the board of Churchill Downs Inc. The second finisher, Quick Tip, is owned by Will Farish, the former Churchill board chairman now serving as the U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James in England.

Unbridled Beauty one to watch

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas unveiled a young sensation here Monday when Unbridled Beauty, an Unbridled's Song filly making her career debut, won the first race by 7 1/4 widening lengths. Unbridled Beauty, a $750,000 Saratoga yearling purchase for Bob and Beverly Lewis, finished five furlongs in 58.04 seconds, stamping herself as the probable favorite for the July 5 Debutante Stakes.

Lukas said Proud Citizen, beaten seven lengths when fourth in the Met Mile on Monday, will run next in the Stephen Foster.

* Sand Springs, a 3-year-old filly who registered her second turf victory of the meet last Thursday, definitely is headed to the Regret Stakes on the Foster undercard, said trainer Tony Reinstedler. Aud, an impressive winner of the seventh race Monday for Reinstedler, also will be nominated to the Regret.

* The highlight of the four-day race week at Churchill comes Saturday with the $100,000 Louisville Handicap for older horses. At 1 3/8 miles, the Louisville is the only turf marathon of the spring meet for stakes runners.