02/16/2006 12:00AM

Field correspondents file their notes


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Readers responded to the last three editions of "Handicapper's Corner" with some pertinent accounts of betting experiences, follow-up questions, and observations of their own.

In response to "Pick right pool, or get drowned" from Jan. 21, came this e-mail excerpt: "Your win pool analysis was totally consistent with my experience. The problem was, the horse I would bet at 2-1 went off at 3-5, my 3-1's went off at 3-2, and the only horses I bet were high-odds horses that happened to be overlooked. The following week I handicapped the Sunshine Millions races and saw that Santa Anita had a pick four. I had assigned odds of 5-2 to Da Stoops, 5-1 to Hot Storm, 5-1 to Moscow Burning, and 3-1 to Lava Man. All of them went off at lower odds than my target, and I wouldn't have bet any of them to win. I wouldn't be writing except for the fact the pick four paid $136.50 [for $1]. I calculated what I would have made if I had parlayed the winning horses [$82.50], and it was considerably less. When I checked other pick fours and pick threes, I found the same thing. Why do you think the multi-race payoffs are larger? Without knowing the payoff, can we assume the odds will continue to be more favorable? In what situations would we want to avoid pick threes and pick fours?"

The Sunshine Millions pick four paid generously, a common occurrence largely attributable to the fact that while the takeout is higher, it is spread out over several races. The 25 percent takeout on pick fours effectively works out to 6.25 percent per race.

Another factor is that the pick four cannot be properly played on a shoestring. When all results are logical enough to wind up on $12 tickets, there is little if any value to be found. That was the case at Aqueduct on Feb. 8, when four winning favorites in the late pick four linked for a $91.50 number that was less than the parlay of $115.

There is no point in playing a pick four when your choices match everyone else's, but even one small deviation can be handsomely rewarded. The four winners in Aqueduct's early pick four last Friday returned $7.10, $6.40, $3.80 and $9.70, yet the pick four payoff of $401 was nearly twice the parlay of $209.

The reason? The 5-2 shot that started it off beat out an odds-on favorite. It's worth keeping in mind that in the win pool, $7 horses who beat 3-5 shots are worth exactly as much as $7 lukewarm favorites. But in multi-race exotics, the $7 horse who beats a 3-5 has more profit potential than the $7 lukewarm favorite included on every small ticket.

Also remember you don't have to be a wise guy every race. It's okay to single a 3-5 shot in a pick four, as long as you have some opinions in other legs that are not as obvious.

In response to the "Up or down? How young horses Beyer second time out" column from last week, one eagle-eyed handicapper wrote in to reinforce the notion that horses who run a Beyer Speed Figure of 90 or better first out may feel the effects soon afterward.

"Check out Reigning Court, who fit the spirit of the law by winning his debut at Churchill with an 89, followed by a bounce to a 60 at Gulfstream two months later, when he was sixth by 11 lengths at even-money. Also, Sharp Humor won first out with an 88, then bounced 25 points and got beat 13 lengths a month later."

Another reader pointed out that if a big debut figure of 90 or better doesn't produce a bounce, a second such figure probably will. He cited Master of Disaster, who went 97-95 to start out as an early season 2-year-old, and returned in the fall to go 39-77-59.

Finally, any longtime horseplayer will appreciate this. It was inevitable that when the "Big A favorites hard to beat now" column appeared in the Feb. 4 edition of Daily Racing Form, the toteboard at Aqueduct would be rocked early and often.

Naturally, the card featured eight winners at double-digit mutuels, including boxcar payoffs of $66, $43.40 and $29.40, and a late pick four that was worth $189,016. Some healthy doses of sarcasm were predictably communicated in the wake of that impossible card, to which I could only respond, "Hey, I told you the pick four was good!"