02/16/2012 3:08PM

Brad Free: Don't have to be a whale to hit big

Shigeki Kikkawa
Indigo River was one of four singles on a $20 pick-six ticket last Sunday at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – No one hits the pick six on a ticket that costs only $20.

The pick six is won by big bettors that play big tickets. For the rest of us, the pick six is too steep, with too many combinations to cover. It costs too much. The losing streaks last too long.

The pick six is not a good bet, for most of us.

But horseplayers are dreamers. So occasionally, we take a stab. Who knows? Maybe today is the lucky day. Sure, it is.

The pick six Feb. 12 at Santa Anita started tough – a turf-route claimer for nonwinners of two, a filly-mare sprint claimer, and a turf sprint for statebred maidens. Geez, a bettor would need to use lots of horses – spend lots of money – just to stay alive halfway.

The carryover was $135,446; bettors wagered another $831,146. Apparently, many still consider the pick six a good bet. Fools like me say it is not, and then we bet it anyway. This story is about one such guy, a small pick-six bettor taking a $20 shot.

Restricted claiming races are a curse, and in the first leg, race 4, the bettor narrowed the nine-horse field to five contenders. There goes most of the $20. His ticket was five deep and two deep, followed by four singles. Who plays the pick six like that? What an idiot.

Leg one was a “spread,” and whenever a “spread race” includes a Marty Jones trainee, it is a good idea to include that horse. Jones works horses slowly, which inflates the odds they often outrun. Eight of the past 16 years, Jones runners produced a flat-bet profit.

Jones trained the longshot Long Legged Lovely, returning from a one-year layoff with leisurely works. She was a trainer-angle longshot in a difficult race, nothing more. When jockey Hector Berrios guided her to victory at $33.20, the pick six was off to a good start.

The second leg, race 5, was a claiming sprint for fillies and mares, with obvious favorites Classy Attraction and All the Love. The bettor used both; bet-down Classy Attraction paid $6 winning in a romp under Chantal Sutherland.

Two races into the sequence, the bettor’s small pick-six ticket was live. All he needed was to win the remaining four races with four singles. Good luck with that.

The best-bet designation on the Daily Racing Form analysis page can be a misnomer. It should be called most probable winner. “Best bet” is often a favorite at low odds, and not necessarily a reasonable horse on which to wager. But occasionally, the term “best bet” does apply. It did for leg three, race 6. The pick-six bettor noticed.

Abella, 4-1 in the program, was making the second start of her career after a respectable debut. Tom Blincoe trains Abella. Blincoe also trained her siblings Jet Set Girl and Bell Zone. Both won maiden races for Blincoe the second start of their career. Interesting.

Perhaps, Abella would follow the pedigree-trainer pattern and also win her second career start. Best bet, indeed. Abella and jockey Martin Pedroza waltzed home at a big, fat $7. The first of four singles had landed. The pick six was halfway home.

Small-ticket pick-six bettors always face a decision – use logical contenders (favorites) in each leg and hope to merely cash for any amount, or key longshot runners and go for a home run. Who doesn’t like to swing for the fences?

My Brite Caroline was an 8-1 longshot in race 7, up in class following a first-off-the-claim win for trainer Gerard Piccioni. Andy Harrington, clocker for National Turf, noted that her jockey, Corey Nakatani, worked her between starts. Harrington liked what he saw.

Analyzing a Feb. 4 work, Harrington wrote this about My Brite Caroline: “C. Nak up, filly is really going well finishing with purpose.”

My Brite Caroline was “outclassed” by the 2-1 program favorite Melissa Rose. But the odds discrepancy made My Brite Caroline a reasonable gamble. She was a sharp horse up in class, always a potent angle. Nakatani gave My Brite Caroline a fantastic ride. He saved ground, cut the corner, and won by a neck at a bet-down $12. Four down, two to go.

The Sweet Life Stakes for 3-year-old fillies was next, and anyone who saw Indigo River win her U.S. debut for trainer Jeff Mullins a month earlier on the same downhill course had to be impressed. Indigo River reproduced the win, bursting clear late under Joel Rosario to win by a 1 1/2 lengths at $5.20. Now it was five down, one to go.

The pick six is not a good bet for most players.

But here was one small bettor on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, holding a $20 pick-six play that was 5 for 5. Daily Racing Form ’s handicapping tool Formulator suggested he was on the right horse in the final race, a starter allowance around two turns.

Mike Mitchell is one of those high-percentage trainers that make one wonder – why bother with Formulator? Mitchell wins often, at all levels, with many angles. You don’t need Formulator to see that.

Mitchell’s recent maiden sprint winner Pulpit’s Express was the speed of the race. On numbers, he was the fastest horse based on a bias-aided sprint win last out. But he faced a double challenge – winners and two turns, both for the first time.

It is a tough combination. Not so tough for Mitchell, according to Formulator.

The past five years, Mitchell was 6 for 12 with maiden sprint winners stretching out against winners.

At the first click of the tote board, Pulpit’s Express opened at even-money. That is always a good sign for a Mitchell runner. The gelding looked terrific in the post parade. He was dry and on his toes. Meanwhile, the pick-six bettor quietly washed out.

Only one of the first five winners in the pick six was a program favorite. A mythical $2 win parlay already exceeded $5,000.

Now, it all came down to one horse. Pulpit’s Express was 4-5 when the gates opened, and Rosario put him on the lead. The pace slowed on the backstretch as Rosario sat still.

At the top of the lane, in the blink of an eye, it was over. Pulpit’s Express opened up. He was in front by two lengths, by three, by four at the eighth pole, 4 1/4 at the wire. It was not even close.

No one hits the pick six on a ticket that costs only $20. But horseplayers are dreamers, and occasionally we take a stab.

That is the true story of what happened Feb. 12, 2012, at Santa Anita.

It was, in fact, my lucky day.

The pick six paid $41,418.40.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brad - sorry for the mistake earlier I had a2$ super bet aaa2 when victor backed off chrome at the wire -
Johnny More than 1 year ago
Mr free- I posted a comment to Marsha adragna I was hopeing u would read & comment on - your insight & wealth of knowledge has helped me n many races- I played a pretty big bet n the 2014 Belmont -with all due respect the greatest of writers & handicappers like yourself probably don't no whats its like to have 5k bet n the Belmont & then for good measure throw n a 2$ educated super bet 2aaa & then have victor espanosa stand up on cal chrome way before the finish line - to b caught for fourth by wicked strong - only insane gamblers like myself would go as far to play chrome fourth on a ticket that big- I just wonders how u would feel if that happen to u- j the greek
Marsha Adragna More than 1 year ago
Well Brad I have to disagree that the pick 6 is for big money betters. I have been handicapping for a long time and decided to try the BC Pick 6 in Nov. last year. I hit the Pick Six on a $16.00 tickets using just nine horses! Hitting the two long shots with a single pick! I had three single legs! People may say that it was luck , but of course I say differently. I studied for two weeks, made a excel spread sheet, had a folder for each race and gave a rating scale for all my factors to come up with the ticket!! Hard work and just the right situation made me a winner! So, my advice is to keep trying! And you too may win $448K on $16.00!!!
Johnny More than 1 year ago
Marsha- for years I was a casual better like yourself & then I was very lucky n business & was able go past the edge of the envelope & make bigger bets - my first big bet was n 2005- I had a 3 k win ticket on affleet Alex - along with hitting the tri 13times- along with 4 super tickets 9 a a a all 1$ tickets - I can't describe what its like to hit a race that big but I had to walk to my car after the results & I just leaned back n my seat & figured up on paper what I had won- Marsha I wish I could go back to the days when I played normal bets- but those days are over for me- I only play big bets 10 or 12 times a year but with my past experience & being able to draw from the genius of people like brad free I've done fairly well - my friends call me j the Greek due to the way I wager - my wife prefers to call me insane - it makes me feel good when I c someone hit a big race like yourself on such a small educated wager- good look n the future - j the greek
Zhou Xiaoming More than 1 year ago
That's pretty remarkable by itself, but when you consider Free's ticket cost him a measly $20, then it gets downright epic. mastiff
Patricia Houser More than 1 year ago
That's cool. Here's the problem I have with it: http://www.santaanita.com/sites/default/files/sa1pg0212.pdf
Chris Mathieu More than 1 year ago
Brad, mark my program.
John More than 1 year ago
"There is probably no Pick Six out there with my name on it" Brad Free. p xv, Handicapping 101, 2007. DRF.
DavidH More than 1 year ago
Here's a story - My friend and I are late 40's now. Keeping it short...I get a call around 9am on an August Saturday. Mike says you are never going to believe this but I hit the DelMar P6 yesterday TWICE!! Of course I said impossible, you dont' even play it for $100. But I knew he was telling the truth because Mike is a straight up, religious kinda guy. My next question was, did you cash them yet? He says no, so I ask him to copy them. How did he do this? $18 ticket hit all 6 for $8000...and the $2 he has left from $20 he played staight and that ticket hit too! I said he is quite lucky that there wasnt a massive C/O because if he was cashing $250K+ the FBI would be at his door!
George Campbell More than 1 year ago
I have a story about the pick 6 wager. It was in 1990 when Hasting Park was named Exhibition Park in Vancouver, BC, Canada and the bet was named Sweep 6. It was a Friday and I picked my horses at home $2 bet. When I get to the track I do what many horse players do, look at the tote board and don't like the odds on my horse and of course it is the first leg. So I change my bet and what happens; well my first choice wins and I get the rest of last five legs with no consolation payout. 1 winner of $106K that I could have shared. I pick up the DRF for the next day and pick my horses at home as usual. Next day I go to the track, looked at the changes and scratch board, all my picks are in, then I go straight to the wicket. play my Sweep 6 for $2 , pick 3 for $8 and pick 4 for $16. Looong photo for winner in the last leg but it doesn't matter I had already won the pick 3 and pick 4 which weren't very much but I still won, win photo? my horse wins and I collect a little over $14k I am the only winner of the sweep 6. This is a true story and I wish I can handicap like I did back then. Good Luck $2 pick 6 players.
Vincent Condeni More than 1 year ago
Hi Brad, Thanks for the interesting and informative personal Pick 6 Score! I only have one major concern. Your boss, Steve, who signs your paycheck every two weeks, is hungry for Pick 6 action. Why didn't you ask Steve to buy in on your $20 ticket? The cost was only $10 and you and Steve would have shared rthe $43,000 ticket. If I'm Steve, I'm asking this morning if you a loyal DRF Employee or an Independent Contractor? With your handicapping skill and racetrack generoisity, I hope to see you on the next episode of the great HBO Series LUCK! Seriously, Congrats on your amazing score! Diceman