11/15/2007 12:00AM

Crafting a pick six score

EmailAs most players know, the principal appeal of the pick six is the carryover provision that seeds the pot the next day after no one picks all six. Large carryovers generate more play and minimize the effect of the 22.5 to 25 percent takeout. This often translates to generous payoffs for winning tickets.

For example, at Aqueduct on Nov. 1 there was $743,000 wagered into a pick six pool that had a $243,000 multiple day carryover. In California this year there have been several multiple-day carryovers reaching beyond $500,000 and one that reached a staggering $3.2 million at Hollywood Park on the July 4 weekend, when no one hit it for six straight days.

As I wrote shortly after that pick six, I was within a few millimeters of nailing a $250,000 payday when that carryover inspired a pool in excess of $10 million. Unfortunately, my $250,000 horse lost a four-length lead on the wire to a horse whose name I have conveniently forgotten out of safety to my mental health.

In the three months since, I unsuccessfully pursued five more pick sixes that offered generous carryovers, or million dollar pools. So, last month I finally got one. It paid $106,000, which certainly pleased my betting partners as much as it exorcised a brutal defeat. The details cited below may be of interest to players who have sufficient bankroll to attack these mutual monsters. As previously stated here and elsewhere, playing the pick six for more than a throwaway bet - playing it seriously on a regular or semi-regular basis - requires many thousands of dollars. Occasionally, on a very lucky day, it may be hit on a ticket costing $144 or less. But most successful pick six bettors usually commit to a combination of tickets worth $1,000 to $5,000 a pop and still feel exposed in one or two races in the mix.

Consider this: If you believe that a ticket that goes four deep in each race should nail a pick six on a regular basis, you would not be prepared for two simple facts.

* Such a 4x4x4x4x4x4 ticket would cost $8,192.

* You are not likely to hit it.

If you do not believe me, try this experiment: Make out a series of hypothetical 4X4 pick six tickets for 10 days. Count up the imaginary total cost and the hypothetical money won. Prediction: You will be in the hole.

Playing the same number of horses in each race is a silly way to lay out a good ticket. For another experiment, you might use half the money of the previous 10-day trial and set up a series of hypothetical tickets that reflect the following expectations.

* You need to use as many, or as few horses, in each race that will give you anywhere between 50 percent to 80 percent (or more) of the win contenders in that race. Preferably, you will try to get closer to 80 percent, or even 100 percent with just a few horses, but sometimes you may have to buy the majority of the field, or use "all" to be safe.

* You should reserve your pick-six capital for sequences where at least one race includes a heavily supported public favorite that has clear-cut, exploitable flaws. While this criteria is fundamental to most betting situations, it is logarithmically more valuable in pick sixes (and pick fours).

On Oct. 8 at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, a carryover of more than $560,000 was on the table and the total pool reached $1.8 million. I was handicapping the sequence in the Kansas City airport and my flight was delayed two hours, a blessing in disguise.

Looking at the third leg, a maiden race for fillies at one mile on the turf, the 4-year-old Rushen Heat emerged with some appeal as a pacesetter or stalk-n-go type in a race that lacked much competing speed after an important scratch. Rushen Heat appealed despite no wins in 11 turf races and trainer Barry Abrams's failure to win a race in 15 tries at Oak Tree. She also was to be ridden by a jockey in a slump (1 for 30). Furthermore, Rushen Heat had a relatively poor outer post position (9) and faced the risk of suffering a wide trip in the one-mile turf race if the slumping rider did not get her out quickly into a stalking position before the first turn.

The fact that the slumping rider was Corey Nakatani, a longtime ace on the grass, was a strong mitigating positive. Another positive was the improved speed Rushen Heat had shown when she ran her best lifetime race on the Del Mar turf at this one-mile distance in August. Of equal import was the 6 1/2-furlong prep race on the main track that set her up for this. Stats or no, Abrams had done everything right with this horse.

The probable favorite and consensus best bet was No. 5 Powerofvoodoo, a notorious bridesmaid with five in-the-money finishes in her previous seven outings. Here, she was still seeking a maiden victory in her 14th career start, having failed to win when in great position to do so. While finishing in front of Rushen Heat in their mile race at Del Mar, second money was becoming her birthright. Powerofvoodoo hardly was worth anything more than a minor back up alternative in any sensible pick six play.

Rushen Heat won this race at 10-1; Powerofvoodoo never got untracked and finished seventh at 2-1.

While several other decisions had to be correct to cash, this one race set up an inflated payoff and allowed for deeper spreads in more complex races.

The first leg seemed deceptively easy, so I used all nine horses in three tiers of three each. In the fourth leg, the seven-furlong Cavonnier Stakes for 2-year-olds, I added the winner, Native Worrier, in my last go-through based on his steady development through the summer.

The fifth leg was a $65,000 restricted stakes at one mile on the turf, and I could only see No. 1 Sweet Belle at 5-1 and No. 3 Double Trouble, the 9-5 favorite. Here is where I got lucky enough to make up for the Hollywood Park bad beat. While Double Trouble was nowhere, Sweet Belle edged two fit rivals in a very narrow victory that was in doubt right to the wire.

For the ninth and final race I spent an hour narrowing down the field to four horses for all tickets to give myself a realistic chance.

Beyond the wide-open first leg, the heavy use of Rushen Heat in the third leg, five horses in the fourth leg, a doubleton in the eighth, plus four in the ninth and final, the second leg was another tricky spot.

This was a seven-furlong $80,000 optional claiming sprint that included several experienced stakes performers, although I did not see the merits of Publication, the morning-line favorite. While he had talent, he was a deep closer with an erratic history and whose fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien was uninspiring. I settled on the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Heatseeker as a slightly preferred choice over three others. After a superb workout over the Cushion Track, No. 4 Heatseeker seemed likely to benefit from a turn-back in distance after tiring in his latest, a two-turn mile.

When the results came in just before I boarded a connecting flight in Dallas later that day, I hardly needed a jet plane, or wings, to fly back home.

Steve Davidowitz's pick-six tickets at Oak Tree at Santa Anita on Oct. 8.

Winning numbers are in boldface.

Ticket A: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6; with 4; with 9-8; with 3,4,6,7,8; with 1,3; with 1,4,8,11. ($960)

Ticket B: 4,5,6; with 3,6,7; with 9; with 4,6,7,8; with 1,3; with1,4,8,11. ($576)

Ticket C: 7,8,9; with 4,7; with 9; with 4,6,7; with 1-3; with 1,4,8,11.($288)

Ticket D: 4,5,6; with 4; with 5; with 4,6,7; with 1,3; with 1,4,8,11 ($144)

Total $1,968.