09/16/2004 11:00PM

Go for score using superfectas


PHOENIX - A little more than a month from now we all make our voices heard. No, I'm not talking about the presidential election. I'm talking about the Breeders' Cup Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park. And while it's too early to start serious handicapping, it's not too early to start developing a game plan.

Let's face it, you can't play everything - and with the pick six, two pick fours, rolling pick threes, doubles, exactas, trifectas, and superfectas, the menu is extravagant. The question is whether you go buffet style, meaning you dabble in each, take a nibble of all the items, or do you key on one or two main dishes and dive in?

The buffet style can leave you spread too thin to make much money. Unless you come in with a huge bankroll, there's no way you can effectively use your money to take the swings you want to take. So, if you put in a minimal pick six ticket and token pick four plays and spread all over in the exotics, odds are you're going to come up empty.

Unless you can bankroll a significant pick six ticket you should leave that to the big players and the syndicates.

A look at last year's results might help you with a plan of attack. If you're a traditionalist and still like the win, place, and show pools, there's a chance to win a nice dinner. Last year at Santa Anita, the win payoffs were $83.40, $6.60, $12.60, $47.60, $7.80, $55.60, $13.60 and $6.40 (dead heat), and $30.40. Those are nice, but even those numbers don't really get you near pick six territory.

The rolling pick threes and pick four offer a greater chance of getting close to a career hit. Last year's pick three payoffs were: $2,112, $658, $627, $2,220, $376 and $1,046 (dead heat), and $1,017 and $1,966 (two payoffs with the dead heat in the Turf). The pick four paid $9,801. Nice, but none of those will likely send you into a higher income tax bracket.

My money will be focused on bets contained in one race. Trifectas and superfectas pay off handsomely and give the bettor a chance for the brass ring.

Last year, for example, the superfectas paid $1,981, $2,995, $39,233, $31,146, $18,834, $9,123, $1,116 and $1,905 (dead heat), and $4,931. That's real money, and hitting only one can make your day. Hitting two is enough to send your head spinning. Hitting three could lead to paralysis.

The best part about the superfecta is a short-priced winner can still lead to a huge payoff. Halfbridled won the BC Juvenile Fillies, paid a modest $6.60, and still keyed a near-$3,000 super. Islington paid only $7.80, but the super came back $18,834. You didn't have to be a genius to have them in the top slot. It took some imagination to come up with the supporting cast, but the $1 superfecta wager gives you the ability to spread without killing your bankroll.

Previous years show similar big payoffs, particularly when you focus on the races that routinely see the biggest fields and deepest competition, namely the Mile, Sprint, Filly and Mare Turf, Juvenile, and Classic.

In 2002 at Arlington, for example, superfecta payoffs in those races were $4,352, $23,663 (even with favorite Orientate winning), $1,319, $2,886, and $28,603. The year before at Belmont, those races - excluding the Mile because it offered no superfecta - produced payoffs of $27,799, $44,331, $56,927, and $24,496. Those payoffs came despite the fact none of the winners was double-digit in odds. The winners were: Squirtle Squirt (9-1), Banks Hill (6-1), Johannesburg (7-1), and Tiznow (6-1).

Superfectas give you a chance to hit a big payoff without a pick six-like investment.

For example, a superfecta wager of 3x4x6x6 is only $108. Now that's taking the same three horses on top, then adding one more to the second spot, two more to the third spot then the same six in the 4-hole. That gives you plenty of coverage underneath. Say you feel confident one of two horses will win a race. A ticket of 2x4x6x8 is just $120.

Let's not kid ourselves. Five wagers like the ones above still come to a $580 investment. But you don't have to be invest so much. A 2x4x5x6 ticket is a mere $54. And if you're not comfortable trying to fill the four-hole, the trifecta option is always viable.

You don't have to be 100 percent correct to win a super or a tri, and with some good handicapping and decision-making, it's certainly within reach to hit one or maybe more. The payoff probably won't be $3 million, but wouldn't hitting a couple of those supers last year have made you a happy horseplayer?