10/17/2002 12:00AM

If you hit a pick four, at least show a profit


ELMONT, N.Y. - Sometimes, even when you win, you lose. That's what happened in Calder's "Festival of the Sun" pick four last Saturday. Two late scratches in the grass races brought the play down to 5x1x3x6, but that still meant an investment of $90 was required to reel in a chalky gizmo worth $59.10.

Meanwhile, Saturday's washout at Belmont scratched the fields down to a total of just 26 runners in the pick four races, but the exercise was much more lucrative for those who persevered. A lot of players didn't, and only $298,657 was bet into the $500,000 guaranteed pool, so the New York Racing Association had to make up the difference for the first time since instituting the guarantee.

The $534 (for $1) payoff was considerably more than the parlay ($331), and was eminently hittable for Daily Racing Form readers who consulted the Tomlinson ratings for wet tracks and noticed that Gail's Drive (390), Smolder (440), Fisher Pond (430), and Love Less (435), all had the top rating in their respective fields.

The weather is supposed to be better for New York Showcase Day. If the weather cooperates, this pick four pool will surely surpass the $500k level, because the Hudson, Ticonderoga, Mohawk, and Empire Classic are all scheduled to go with full fields.

Let's take another crack at the Showcase Day pick four, and see if we can't build up some kind of a bankroll for next week's Breeders' Cup, or at least recoup that 30 bucks from Calder.

Hudson: The big decision is what to do with Say Florida Sandy, the all-time winningest New York-bred earner, who was up the track as the even-money favorite in the Douglas MacArthur Handicap on opening day of the meet. He ran again a month later in a weak renewal of the Forest Hills Handicap and wound up a non-threatening fourth. Now, Say Florida Sandy shoulders 123 pounds and gives this field anywhere from three to 12 pounds.

That's a tall order for a horse who's not in very good form, especially because MacArthur winner Well Fancied, who was a close third in this race last year, appears ready to fire on all cylinders. Can Well Fancied produce another triple-digit Beyer to follow up a career-best 104 in the MacArthur? His previous form cycle, which began with a 102 followed by a 100, says yes.

Along with Well Fancied, I plan to use Tom's Thunder, whose five starts at Belmont this year have produced three Beyers of 102 or better; and A One Rocket, a speedball who was cooked in a duel with subsequent stakes winner Thunderello last time out.

Ticonderoga: Shopping for Love and Eventail, who won divisions of the Mount Vernon Handicap on this same inner course at 1 1/8 miles back in June, are obvious inclusions. Eventail may handle rain-softened footing a bit better, judging from their respective form this year.

The "B" team will consist of Rhum, who is the field's second-leading money winner on turf; and Wake Up Kiss, who won all three of her turf races last year.

Mohawk: The usual suspects - defending champ I'm All Yours, Celtic Sky, Reluctant Groom, et al - meet yet again, but their task is made more difficult due to the presence of Whitmore's Conn and Finality, each of whom has won a Grade 2 stakes on Belmont's inner turf course this year. Those are the two I will use.

Whitmore's Conn actually beat With Anticipation despite coming seven wide into the stretch of the Turf Classic, his first start in seven weeks.

Finality, who overcame the outside post to win the Jamaica Handicap over Calder Derby winner Union Place and Secretariat winner Chiselling, scratched from last week's Lawrence Realization. The firmer the course, the better for Finality.

If Finality doesn't run, substitute I'm All Yours, who is 7 for 10 at the distance.

Empire Classic: Gander, who was scratched from the recent Meadowlands Cup after banging his nose in his stall, will be favored and must be used after running Lido Palace to a close decision at equal weights.

But Gander has no significant edge in terms of figures on Sherpa Guide and Thebigapple if those two bring their "A" game, and either one might pull a minor upset given the right trip.

Sherpa Guide failed to threaten behind Gander in the Woodward, but that was his first start since winning the Evan Shipman, and his lifetime top Beyer (102) came second time back from a layoff.

Thebigapple reportedly "held his breath" when eased at Saratoga at even money on Aug. 19, but he has rebounded on this track with a pair of big-figure allowance victories, and gets 13 pounds, the equivalent of a medium-weight bowling ball, from Gander.