07/10/2007 12:00AM

Little guy's unbelievable score


TUCSON, Ariz. - Some days are better than others - for the horses, who can't tell us which are their good days until it's too late at the windows; for the big guys, who spend fortunes for yearlings, figuring - like our president with Putin - that they can look into their eyes and fathom their future actions; and for the little guys, who squirrel away hard-earned sawbucks to go tilt with the windmills of cheap claimers.

Last week one of those little guys - a former mechanic from Boston, retired in his 60s and living in Orange County, Calif., with his daughter Lyn - had his very best day.

You may have read about Jack Ford stopping by Los Alamitos a week ago Monday and buying $20 worth of pick six tickets on the big hubbub at Hollywood Park.

You most likely read Andy Beyer's essay that said huge pools like the giant Hollywood pick six carryover a week ago Monday - bettors plunked down $7.59 million on it on an ordinary eight-race card - are the future of racing.

Walking with a cane in one hand and Lyn on his other arm, Jack Ford does not ponder the future of racing. He and Lyn enjoy the simple pleasures of life. They go out to Los Al a couple of nights in summer, when the weather is warm, and sit outside, watch the horses, and play the races.

"We come to the track with $20," Jack explained, "and that's what we play with. If we win, then I play the pick six. If we lose, then we go home and we had a good time."

Last week, Ford and Lyn drove to Los Al on Monday morning and bought a few tickets on the huge Hollywood carryover pool.

Ford had played the pick six the day before, with no luck, but when it carried over with more than $3 million on Monday, he decided to drive the five miles from home to Los Al and plunge again, with a few $2 and $4 sixes.

"I made the bets and went home," he said, "and I didn't bother to check the results right away because I didn't expect to win with a $2 or $4 ticket."

When he did check them - all but the fifth leg, which he missed - he found he had two winning tickets with five winners, worth a total of $4,480. He asked Lyn to check the fifth race on the computer and write down the winning number without telling him what it was.

Why do that? Is he superstitious?

He told Los Al's veteran publicity-marketing man Orlando Gutierrez: "I was too nervous to look. Winning is great, but a near miss can leave you with an excruciating feeling. I didn't want that feeling."

So he waited until he got to Los Al to cash his five of six When he asked his daughter for the missing fifth horse number she told him it was 1.

"Holy cow!" was his reaction. He and Lyn, along with 12 others, had hit the pick six, swollen by Monday's betting to $10.87 million. They hit it not once, but twice.

Their pick six tickets were worth not $4,480, as expected, but $576,064.40, each. When you tossed in another $2 ticket with 5 of 6 winners, their haul was $1,154,321.

How did Jack Ford win the pick six?

"I really liked my horses in the first three races," he said. "I was going with the 8-4-4. I remembered that on Sunday the first three winners were 10-4-4, and I thought my numbers were too close to Sunday's, but heck, I liked my horses, so I wasn't going to change them. The 18-1 longshot in the final race wasn't that big of a price when I was looking at him in the program. He just ended up being a longshot. I guess I got lucky with that one."

I guess, Jack.

But what about that rigamarole of having Lyn write down the one missing number without telling him? What was that all about?

"If I had known that I had six of six," he said, "I would have crashed the car driving to Los Al."

Jack Ford said one other thing, which explains why Beyer thinks the pick six may be racing's long-term hope.

"The best thing about this," Ford said, "is that now I know that when I'm gone Lyn will have financial security. That's all I care about."

That's all anyone should care about, and it's why Hollywood Park's huge carryover won't be the last one.