11/06/2002 1:00AM

An excuse to print money squandered


PHILADELPHIA - As I contemplate my singles in the first four races of the 2003 Breeders' Cup Ultra Pick Six, one thought just won't go away. If what industry officials (and everybody I know) suspects happened with this year's Pick Six really did happen, there were actually some people who had a license to win money on command for the rest of their lives. And they gave away the secret by leaving footprints so obvious that only the president of the Catskill OTB and the chairman of Autotote missed them.

How hard would it have been to pick up a nice five-figure pick six from Finger Lakes every few months? Think anybody would have noticed or cared?

Why pick the one bet on the day when everybody is paying attention?

All pick six players, even those who might have otherwise had six, owe a debt of gratitude to trainer P.G. Johnson and Volponi. I was told that if favored Megaglia d'Oro had won the Classic, there would have been $36 worth of tickets with six winners. The $12 bet that was placed through the Catskill system may very well have escaped notice.

When Volponi won, there was only the $12 bet. It stood out like Sharon Stone's legs when she was being questioned by Michael Douglas in "Basic Instinct."

None of us know how long this may have been going on. We hope it can't happen again. We don't know the answers regarding the past or the future.

What we do know is that there are now questions to ask. To their everlasting credit, the Breeders' Cup and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association jumped in immediately and started looking for answers.

I could be wrong about this, but I think many of us could show a reasonable long-term profit if we knew the winners of the first four races in any pick six. Daily doubles have proved over the years to be considerably more predictable.

As someone who used two singles on my Ultra Pick Six, I really liked my play. It was not a novel approach to single Rock of Gibraltar and High Chaparral to make the bet into a pick four. With multiple choices in what I thought were the most unpredictable races, I had at least put myself in position to make a score.

You may not believe this, but before I chose Rock of Gibraltar and High Chaparral, winners of 10 Group 1 races between them, I had considered singling Domedriver and Starine, who had combined to participate in six Grade 1 or Group 1 races while winning one.

I did a lot of research on Domedriver and had a friend who loved him. Starine loved soft turf. Everybody knew that. That she hadn't won in three 2002 starts seemed irrelevant. Those two horses certainly seemed like logical singles in huge fields with quality from one end of the starting gate to the other.

I was really upset when both won, knowing I should have had them. I have to admit that I really didn't like Volponi all that much.

When Volponi won, everybody who loves the great stories in this sport and knew the history of the Johnson family in it had to smile. Those who play the game long enough at the highest level and deserve it eventually seem to get that one victory they will never forget.

But, if you don't deserve that one life-altering victory, the wagering gods somehow have a way of finding you too.