02/21/2004 12:00AM

Magna 5 handle highest yet


ARCADIA, Calif. - With short-priced favorites scoring in the first and last legs, the $2 Magna Pick 5 returned $8,960 to 53 ticketholders on Saturday, the second highest payoff in the four-week history of the bet.

The bet requires players to pick winners from five races at tracks owned by Magna Entertainment.

Saturday, the bet was made easier for many players with the success in the first leg by Gelli ($2.80) at Laurel and in the last leg by Kitten's Joy ($3.20) in the Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

In between, finding winners was more difficult, with short-priced favorites failing at three tracks. Morine's Victory ($16.80) won the second leg at Gulfstream, Why Have a Plan ($31.80) won the third leg at Golden Gate Fields, and Third Half (8.60) scored in the fourth leg at Santa Anita.

Saturday's handle of $608,823 was the highest in the bet's history and easily surpassed the $500,000 guaranteed by Magna. The handle has grown each week, beginning with $460,400 on Jan. 31, the day it was launched. It has surpassed $500,000 on the last three Saturdays.