08/18/2005 11:00PM

Pacific Classic Day card offers playable pick four

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Swaps winner Surf Cat deserves key-horse status in the Pacific Classic leg of the $500,000-guaranteed pick four.

PHOENIX - When tracks present their marquee days, such as Del Mar does on Sunday with the Pacific Classic card, you almost always get big, competitive fields loaded with opportunity. Even if you don't have an opinion in the big race itself you can still maneuver your way around the parimutuel minefield and come up with a play. In this case, the Pacific Classic is merely another piece to the puzzle, as Sunday's card seems to present a wonderful pick four opportunity.

The $1 pick four, on the last four races of the day, comes with a $500,000-guaranteed pool on Sunday - a guarantee that should be exceeded with ease.

I like to put together four pick four tickets using my key horse in each race to all my contenders in the other races. The positive: If more than one of my key horses win, I can cash multiple times. The drawback: One of my key horses must win. But, hey, you have to have faith in your handicapping, so I expect to hit with at least one of my keys.

Race 7

A very difficult one-mile allowance race. More Dust invades from Brazil with gaudy credentials but an equally troubling lack of racing since November. Still, trainer Bobby Frankel is calling the shots and when Frankel brings them back they're usually ready to go. Despite the layoff, despite the new surroundings, he is my key horse. My other contenders are Shedabad, a solid second in a similar spot here a few weeks ago; Drake's Victory, who drops out of stakes to a much easier level after a freshening; and Rush Country, on the also-eligible list and who comes off three straight strong races. Should Rush Country not go, I'll use Saint Chrisjon, a fine third behind Shedabad at big odds, running as if he has a new lease on life.

Key: More Dust.

Contenders: Shedabad, Drake's Victory, Rush Country or Saint Chrisjon

Race 8

The Pacific Classic looks chalky. If Lava Man can repeat his Hollywood Park form, he wins. But I'm going to key Surf Cat. I love his development and the aggressive style he used to dominate the Swaps can translate to an ideal trip here, stalking the pace. I'll use Lava Man as one of my contenders as well as Choctaw Nation. His San Diego win here wasn't dazzling, but it was a nice progression after a so-so return race. He looks to be coming up to his best, though his style means he's got his work cut out for him. I'll also use Borrego as a potential bomb in case this race falls apart.

Key: Surf Cat.

Contenders: Lava Man, Choctaw Nation, Borrego.

Race 9

Proposed was supposed to be a monster last year at 2. In fact, in the Del Mar Debutante it was because of her presence that she and her entrymate were so heavily backed. Proposed failed to fire, as it turned out she was injured, but her then much less well-known stablemate Sweet Catomine won. Sweet Catomine merely turned into a champion. Well, Proposed might well be ready to deliver on her promise. She has looked super since coming back from injury and can take another step forward here as my key horse. Guidebook just defeated lesser in dazzling fashion and is a must-use, as is Simply Because, who earned a gaudy 100 Beyer Speed Figure in defeat, no less, sprinting here a few weeks ago.

Key: Proposed.

Contenders: Guidebook, Simply Because.

Race 10

Sea Harbor has done his best work here; two of his three career wins have come on this turf. He wasn't sharp last time here, but that start was his first in four months. Trainer Bob Hess Jr. saw fit to claim him and adds blinkers, so this might be the spot for him to turn back the clock. Primerica was once a real tough customer and he's always been versatile. He can handle this distance and this surface. Now it's just a matter of whether he is ready for a top try in his first start since December. Right Proof was a bit dull last time, but he was facing much tougher and should appreciate this drop. This is a much easier level. Ditto Direct Male.

Key: Sea Harbor.

Contenders: Primerica, Right Proof, Direct Male.

On each of the four tickets, I'll take a key horse from one race and hook up that horse with all others. So, ticket No. 1 is 1x4x3x4 ($48). Ticket No. 2 is 4x1x3x4 ($48). Ticket No. 3 is 4x4x1x4 ($64) and ticket No. 4 is 4x4x3x1 ($48). To play one ticket with all the horses (4x4x3x4) adds up to $192, but if it hits I cash only once. With the multiple-ticket system, I spend a bit more ($208), but if all four singles hit I cash four tickets. If three singles hit, I cash three times, and so on.

Big days provide big opportunities. Swing away.