12/06/2007 12:00AM

Inside speed path to cash at Big A

EmailOZONE PARK, N.Y. - Steve Davidowitz struck a key point in a column entitled "Game still the same" that ran in the DRF Simulcast Weekly issue dated Dec. 2, when he wrote the following: "Armed with a computer, today's player can reach numerous websites that provide sophisticated concepts and tools beyond the imagination of anyone who played this game in the 1960s. Yet, today's player too often seems intoxicated by the unprecedented access and the increasing sophistication of the tools at his or her command."

Indeed, handicapping can become an exercise in complexity if we let it. But simple methodologies can be equally valid, especially for weekend warriors who have a limited amount of leisure time.

The switch to Aqueduct's inner dirt track serves as an annual reminder of the potential power of KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) systems. Turf racing is over. Except for the occasional race at 5 1/2 furlongs, all sprints are six furlongs; the vast majority of two-turn routes are at a mile and 70 yards or 1 1/16 miles.

To win on the tight-turned winterized oval, horses must typically do two things: stay close early and save ground on the turns. Rarely will a horse win without doing at least one of those things, and the majority will do both. This leads to a two-step program that is simple, yet amazingly effective:

1. In sprints and routes, eliminate any horse breaking from post 8 or farther out.

2. Favor the horse most likely to get the early lead.

Short or long, the inner track's well-documented history shows you're not going to miss many winners by tossing the outside horses. This built-in bias held up nicely during opening week: Sprinters from posts 1-4 were a collective 14 for 88, those from posts 8-12 were 2 for 27; routers from posts 1-4 were 12 for 76, those from posts 8-10 were 0 for 19 (there were no route fields larger than 10).

After focusing your attention on the favorably drawn runners, all that's left to do is determine who will make the top at the first call. Skeptics may ask, "How can such a simple approach possibly work - what kind of results can I expect by expending such minimal time and effort?"

How does 40 percent winners and more than double your investment sound? Here's the rundown of first-call leaders who got the money during week 1:

Wednesday: 3 winners, $16.20; $15; $7.90

Thursday: 3 winners, $12.60; $12.40; $7.90

Friday: 4 winners, $31.20; $12.40; $7.10; $3.20

Saturday: 2 winners, $15.80; $6.80

Sunday: 4 winners, $20.80; $7.10; $5.90; $3.60

Total races on inner track: 40

Winning first-call leaders: 16

$2 flat bet to win - Invest $80; return $185.90

Results from the first 40 inner-track races (there were five turf races) weren't too shabby: a flat-bet profit every day; no long losing streaks; half the winners paid double-digit mutuels, averaging slightly more than $11.60.

All this is not to suggest you can quit your day job and turn the Big A into your personal ATM, because there will be many races where a) it's difficult or impossible to tell who's going to be on the lead, or b) a mishap at the break radically alters the expected pace scenario.

What it is meant to suggest is that on the inner track, the first and foremost thing to determine is the probable first-call leader - and to consider that horse for a potential bet whenever the price is right.

See if you agree with this first pass through Saturday's card:

Race 1: The speed is concentrated inside in the form of Graynumberfive, Sonvida Red, and Red Crusader. Red Crusader appears quickest among the trio, a big reason he has won 4 of 10 on the inner.

Race 2 - A handful of second-time starters make this a tough call, but Hedgefund Investor stretches out off a duel at six furlongs and figures as a dead-send from the rail.

Race 3 - Squeeze Now stretches out after dueling in a sprint first time back from a layoff.

Race 4 - Nine of 12 in the main body of the race are first-time starters. No clue.

Race 5 - Tough call between Show of Colors, who sometimes breaks slowly, and Gold Shamrock, who steps up off a maiden win in the slop.

Race 6 - Treacherous $7,500 sprint where the two fastest are poorly drawn, I Can't Dance (post 8) and Explosive Count (post 11). Triplethepleasure (post 5) may try to take advantage of the situation.

Race 7 - Likely donnybrook up front brings together Tater Tutt (post 3), Southern Prince (6), Running Dog (7), and Americanus (9), who all show recent wire-to-wire wins. The pace picture is too competitive to project with any confidence.

Race 8 - Three words: Barcola, Barcola, Barcola.

Race 9 - Lyke a Hurricane may blow them away early.