03/10/2005 12:00AM

How to hit pick six? Any way you can

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One put $1,260 into the bet; one put $8. Both had Leroidesanimaux.

ARCADIA, Calif. - If the object in betting the pick six is to "stay alive," one horseplayer at the Ventura County Fairgrounds was assured to be in good shape halfway through the $1 million guaranteed pick six on the Santa Anita Handicap card.

No matter which horse won the first three pick-six races March 5 at Santa Anita, the bettor would be holding a perfect ticket. He used every starter in the first three races of the sequence - all 10 runners in the first leg, all seven in the next leg, and all nine in the next. It's a wacky way to play a multi-race exotic wager - all, all, all.

It is expensive, too. Because the cost of multi-horse wagers increases exponentially, they rapidly become unmanageable - the number of horses in each leg is multiplied by the number in each other leg. Multiply that by the cost of the bet - the pick six is a $2 bet in California - and it is easy to see why marking the "all" box is not cost-efficient.

The Ventura bettor playing the Big Cap card already was up to 630 combinations (10 x 7 x 9) after only three races of the pick six. That was as far as he went. Or maybe, it was as much as he could afford.

Following the first three legs, there would be no margin for error. The bettor went from one extreme to the other. After going all-all-all, he went single-single-single by using only one horse in each of the last three legs of the wager.

Is this any way to play the pick six? Would anyone play a $1,260 pick three using one horse in each race? That is essentially what the bettor had done. In singling the last three legs of the pick six, the bettor wagered that he could nail the last three winners.

By then, he was positioned well, because favorites were 0 for 3, and most tickets already were dead. The bomber Verkade ($52.40) knocked out many by scoring a nose victory in the first leg. In the next race, improving 3-year-old High Standards ($16.60) drew away in the off-the-turf Baldwin Stakes. In the next, Power Boy ($9.60) rallied to a decisive come-from-behind allowance win.

The $1 pick three linking those three paid $1,560. It was a tough start to the pick six, and surely few tickets were still in the hunt. The all-all-all strategy was working - the simulcast bettor had overpowered the first three legs by sheer economic might.

And yet, halfway through the pick six, things were looking even better for a husband-wife team that had wagered a thrifty pick-six ticket that cost a mere $8. They singled longshot winner Verkade in the first leg, used High Standards and favorite Chandtrue in the Baldwin, and singled Power Boy in the third leg. But unlike the $1,260 ticket, the $8 ticket still had room to wiggle. Two singles remained, but they doubled the Santa Anita Handicap by using two horses.

Is this any way to play the pick six? Who plays an $8 pick-six ticket with any hope? The margin for error is negligible. In a super-exotic such as the pick six, small bettors are overpowered by large bettors. It takes money to make money.

But on Saturday afternoon, halfway through the pick six, and with two Grade 1's remaining in the final three races, the $8 ticket was actually in a stronger position than the $1,260 bet.

Apparently, there is more than one way to attempt a super-sized score. Sometimes, small bettors slice it just right - through good handicapping or sheer luck - and gain an equal foothold with the big guys. That is where it stood Saturday afternoon heading into the Frank E. Kilroe Mile - the big bettor at Ventura and the husband-wife team at Santa Anita, both of them live to the favorite in the Kilroe.

Leroidesanimaux sped to the lead while racing along the inside and hounded by pace rivals throughout the mile turf race. He won by a length at $5. Four down, two races to go.

Saint Liam was the even-money favorite in Santa Anita Handicap, a speed-figure standout shipping to California after a Grade 1 victory at Gulfstream. But neither the big bettor nor the husband-wife team used the chalk. The only horse on the big bettor's ticket was Strub winner Rock Hard Ten. The smaller ticket used the one-two finishers from the Strub - Rock Hard Ten and Imperialism.

In the Big Cap, both Saint Liam and Imperialism misfired. Rock Hard Ten drew off late and paid $9.60 as the second betting choice. Five down, one race to go.

It was a familiar position for the guy from Ventura. When you are betting $1,260 into the pick six, it is not the first time you have made the bet, nor the first time you have been in line for a score.

As for the husband-wife team, their situation was enviable. Their $8 ticket was on the brink of a bonanza. When you are betting that little, expectations are conservative.

Both tickets were down to one final horse in one last race. Deep into Saturday afternoon, both tickets were still alive.

It was a mile turf race for fillies and mares, nonwinners of one other than. The 3-1 favorite was Saxony. She steadied and was eliminated at the quarter pole. Five Nickels, running for the first time since July, took the lead into the lane and opened up two lengths on the field.

Danclare had dead aim, and from Ventura to Santa Anita, you could almost hear the cheers.

She was the only horse remaining on pick-six tickets at opposite ends of the cost range, and when Danclare ($13.20) got up by a nose, she anchored two major payoffs - a $292,931.40 jackpot for the $1,260 ticket, and the same size payoff for the $8 wager.

Is this any way to play the pick six?

Well, what do you think?