12/27/2007 12:00AM

Don't count on huge High Five carryovers

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - The seemingly auspicious debut of the $1 Super High Five on Wednesday at Santa Anita suggests the innovative wager might actually achieve its objective - create sizable carryovers that generate national interest and stimulate handle.

But first impressions can be mistaken. And if the Super High Five ultimately fizzles, the reason might be its lack of difficulty. The bet is simply too easy to hit.

The wager requires selecting the top-five order of finish on Santa Anita's last race. The bet is tough, but not impossible. When no one wins, the entire pool (minus takeout) carries over. No consolation payoffs.

Santa Anita got its wish opening day. A surprising $54,653 was wagered on the inaugural Super High Five, and when the second- and third-longest shots finished fourth and fifth, no one won the bet. The carryover into Friday was $43,350.

The rollover is just what track president Ron Charles hoped for.

"We think it's a bet that's going to catch on, grow, and with some serious carryovers, it's a bet that people are going to be watching," he said.

The size of the first High Five pool was strong, considering limited access. Software issues prevented the bet from being offered by advance deposit wagering outlets, Las Vegas, and Illinois; some rebate shops also did not offer the wager. Charles was prepared for a slow start, and expects momentum to build.

"The fact we're not up on a number of sites early, the pools will suffer," he said. "By the time the sites are up, we think that's when we'll grow, and probably surpass the superfecta pool."

It is an optimistic perspective, considering the popularity of the superfecta, a bet with a 10-cent minimum that requires "only" selecting the first four finishers in order. Superfecta pools exceeded $200,000 in the three races preceding the final race Wednesday. However, Santa Anita removed the superfecta from its last-race wagering menu to make room for the Super High Five, which has a $1 minimum.

It means the new wager must fill a sizable void, because the largest superfecta pool of the day often is on the last race. Charles admits the Super High Five is only in the experimental phase.

"We're in a learning process, and if the fans really don't want it, we'll be glad to take it out and put the superfecta back in," he said.

According to Charles, the new wager emerged from a series of meetings with horseplayers.

"For the last year or two, we've tried to think of a new wager," he said. "We're known around the country for the pick six, and we thought there might be one other wager that might attract national attention."

Officials presented four ideas to handicappers and focus groups. They included a twin trifecta, which requires choosing the one-two-three finish in two races; a triple trifecta (three races); cross-country wagers that would link exactas between Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park; and the Super High Five.

The fan groups were asked which wager was most attractive.

"Without a doubt, the number one pick was [the Super High Five]," Charles said. "And we understand that it's not a bet for everyone."

For sure, the Super High Five is an expensive proposition. The last race usually is a 14-horse field, with 240,240 possible orders of finish (14 x 13 x 12 x 11 x 10). It would cost $17,160 to wheel a key horse over the entire field (1 x 13 x 12 x 11 x 10).

There are other, economical High Five strategies that employ key horses, including:

$16 play: (A with BC with BCD with BCDE with BCDEF);

$32 play: (AB with ABC with ABCD with ABCDE with ABCDEF);

$81 play: (A with BCD with BCDE with BCDEF with BCDEFG).

Clearly, the Super High Five is not for the mathematically challenged, nor modestly bankrolled. It is an attempt to create a massive carryover.

And by establishing a $1 minimum, more carryovers are likely. If the minimum bet was 10 cents, more combinations could be covered, with less chance the pool would carry.

Yet despite a first-day carryover, the Super High Five is not likely to roll over nearly as often as the Southern California pick six, which generally carries about once a week.

A pick six ticket that includes one horse in each race - the favorite - would theoretically hit one out of every 729 times (based on 33 percent winning favorites).

A Super High Five ticket that includes one horse in each position - the lowest-odds runner - would theoretically hit one out of 243 races (based also on 33 percent win rate).

In theory, it is three times more difficult to hit a $2 pick six, than a $1 Super High Five. It will be surprising if the new bet carries over more than once every two weeks.

With or without a carryover, the Super High Five might succeed, if single-race jackpot potential is its main attraction.

But if the success of the new wager depends on carryovers, then the Super High Five may be doomed before it gets off the ground.