02/21/2008 12:00AM

Carryovers a horseplayer's best friend


NEW YORK - Horseplayers like complimentary baseball caps and umbrellas as much as the next freeloading sports fan, but they showed again this past week that what they like even better is free money.

The Presidents Day holiday was a coast-to-coast orgy of pick-six carryovers, prompting six-digit pools at Aqueduct and Bay Meadows and a seven-digit whopper at Santa Anita. The three sequences turned out to be radically different, illustrating the broad range of ways the bet can turn out, but in all three cases the carryovers attracted serious action.

At Bay Meadows, it took four carryovers from Thursday through Sunday to hit the national radar. Betting increased from $11,106 on Thursday to $19,204 on Friday, $40,337 on Saturday, and $90,765 on Sunday to start the holiday with $91,989 in the kitty. That attracted Monday pick-six bets totaling $298,878, nearly 30 times more than the Day 1 pool.

Monday's Bay Meadows sequence turned out to be a chalkfest ($5.60, $11.60, $4.20, $5.60, $9.80, $6), yielding a below-the-parlay payoff of just $1,732. That can happen when four winners pay 2-1 or less, but there had to be a lot of happy small players who nabbed the sequence on investments of less than $100.

It only took Aqueduct one carryover to generate similar Monday handle numbers. A one-day $52,878 carryover attracted $266,112, triple what had been bet the day before. There were 5-1, 6-1, and 8-1 winners early in the sequence, so even with the last two winners paying just $5.10 and $4.30, the 6-of-6 payout was $20,255 to 10 winners.

The mother of all carryovers was the three-day accumulation at Santa Anita. Betting spiraled from a no-carryover pool of $168,963 on Friday, to $589,083 on Saturday, and $1,532,684 Sunday. When that card ended without a winner, there was a $1.26 million carryover into Monday, which drew an additional $3,337,881 in bets.

That included the $4,320 ticket purchased at the Meadowlands by a horseplayer who has identified himself as "Mr. D," who bought a single ticket that went 8x1x6x5x1x9. It turned out to be a brilliant strategy, since his two singles won at $4.40 and $8.40, and he included the $29.60, $47, $11.60, and $69.60 winners in his four spread races. That left him with the lone winning 6-of-6 ticket, worth $3,120,256.80, not to mention an additional 24 5-of-6 consolation tickets (one for each "miss" on his ticket) at $7,786.60 apiece.

He essentially turned a two-horse parlay that would have returned 8-1 into 800-1 by getting winners at double-digit odds in three of the four races he deemed wide-open. Had the favorites won those three races, he might have had 200 fellow winners at around $15,000 each. That's why they call it gambling.

The magic of carryovers is twofold. First, money attracts money so players know there's a chance for a life-changing payout. Also, value-conscious players wait for carryovers to jump in because they recognize that they're getting a unique bonus: More money is being paid out that has been wagered that day, so instead of a takeout, there's an effective "put in" for those who stayed out of the previous days' pools. Monday's $3.3 million in fresh bets at Santa Anita was reduced 20.68 percent by takeout, but that amounted to just $689,653, far less than the $1,269,223 carryover that was added to the pool. Only one person benefitted from that this time, but if there had been 200 winners, each would have gotten $15,000 instead of $9,000 thanks to the carryover.

The carrying wasn't quite over. Santa Anita's new Super High Five wager, a pentafecta on the last race of the day, went unhit both Sunday and Monday, so Wednesday's pool began with $274,952 in free money. That attracted a record $459,335 in new bets Wednesday. A very chalky outcome rewarded more than 300 winners to the overlaid tune of $2,042 for those who selected the first, fourth, fifth, sixth and second choices - all 8-1 or less to run 1-2-3-4-5 in a 10-horse field.

Some traditionalists fear that carryovers and high-risk bets will bankrupt players and turn thoughtful parimutuel wagering into a pull of the slots handle, but such fears appear unfounded. The most exotic bets - pick fours, superfectas, and pick sixes - are the only growth segment of the wagering menu, and there's no evidence that people are playing them at random. My impression is that horseplayers are studying harder than ever, trying to combine a series of opinions into something vastly more interesting than a prudent win bet at 2-1 and just maybe, some day, a score like Mr. D's. Carryovers may not produce as many turnstile spins as hats and umbrellas, but there's nothing like them for attracting the business that counts, the handle that fuels the whole show.