11/05/2003 12:00AM

More than one way to attack four-leg bet


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The pick four, known as the win four at Canadian tracks, may be a relatively new bet in the United States but it has been one of the most popular wagers at Woodbine for nearly 20 years. For many handicappers, the four-leg wager's main appeal is that one can make a lot by betting a little.

The record win-four payoff at Woodbine came on June 15, 1988, when the $1 base bet returned $123,372.30.

Woodbine lowered its win-four takeout on live racing this year to 14.75 percent from 23 percent. Not surprisingly, the average win-four pool size has increased by about 25 percent, as many bettors have decided to put more of their bankroll into the wager.

There are numerous win-four strategies, and here a few used by several local horseplayers.

Trainer David Borsk said he always looks to key a horse on his win-four ticket.

"I try to find one key, one 'all' race, and I might use three or four horses in the other legs," Borsk said. "Sometimes, I'll come up with several keys, but chances are it won't pay as much, if you key two horses that are both short prices. I find that the horse I key is almost always the favorite, or close to being the favorite. I wouldn't single a horse who's 10-1, because I'd be better off betting $60 or $80 to win on him, to make $600 or $800."

Handicapper Adam Goss said he has been playing the win four more aggressively this year because of the lower takeout. He said his approach is to try and use as many horses as economically possible.

"I just load up and see how much it costs, and see if I have enough money to play it," Goss said. "I think I'm pretty good at sorting through which ones are contenders, and which ones don't have a shot. With the takeout here this year, you can take a chance playing a big ticket, with the possibility of getting a good return."

Goss said he rarely uses a single. "I don't like to let it all hang on one horse," Goss explained. "If I do, it will probably be on a secondary ticket."

Darryl Kaplan, managing editor of Trot Magazine, said he seeks out the not-so-obvious key horse, and then builds a ticket around that runner, in an attempt to land a four-figure payoff.

"Generally, I don't like singling horses that are at low prices, especially on the morning line," Kaplan said. "I like to single horses who are going to be mid-priced. I find that horses who are 3-1, 4-1, or 5-1 are the best singles, especially if they're at a decent price on the morning line. I don't mind singling a low-priced horse if he's 6-1 in the morning line, instead of 6-5. The masses will almost always throw in the 6-5 morning line horse, even if they don't like him."

Kaplan cited Breeders' Cup Mile winner Six Perfections, who was 6-1 in the morning line, as a prime example of the type of runner he loves to single in the win four.

"She was 5-1 in a race, where there were four or five other horses at that kind of price," Kaplan noted. "I think it's a really good single, if you find one like her to take a stand on in a 13-horse field, because nearly everyone goes deep in those [big] fields. If you single in big fields, and take multiple horses in small fields, it's going against the grain of what everybody else does."

I prefer the single-all-spread-spread approach in my win-four wagers, especially when I play a simulcast track with which I'm not totally familiar. Woodbine's turf course often produces bizarre results, so you can rarely go wrong by hitting the "all" button in those events, especially in races containing maidens trying the grass for the first time. Possessing turf breeding is not a prerequisite for success over Woodbine's expansive turf course.