01/27/2006 12:00AM

Pick 3 solo kills 35-1 winner


PHILADELPHIA - It was just going to be one of those casual racetrack lunches where every 20 minutes or so you would look up and see precisely how long it would take the usual Philadelphia Park fare to make it around the racetrack. I was there a few Mondays ago with one veteran horseplayer and one novice.

The money was pooled. I was in charge of all selections and all decisions.

I explained to the novice that this would be a high-risk, high-reward venture without really risking all that much or expecting much of a reward.

There were only two horses I really liked on the card. Neither would be a big enough price to consider a win bet so I constructed exotic bets around the two horses.

The second race, a $4,000 claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs for horses that had not won two races in six months, was interesting for one reason. It appeared as if every contender but one had early speed. So the question became: was the only live closer, Royal Siphon, good enough? The answer appeared to be yes.

Jayne Vaders, one of the best at the track, trained Royal Siphon. It was going to take around a 70 Beyer Speed Figure to win the race. In his last race, Royal Siphon had missed the break in a 12-horse field and managed to come rolling by all but one horse, losing by a neck and earning a 71 Beyer.

If I had the read the race correctly, this was the horse.

And even if I had not read it right, I still thought Royal Siphon could win. As recently as the summer, he was running in $12,500 claimers. He got a Beyer of 91. He fit the conditions perfectly and, perhaps, he was on his way back up the Beyer scale.

Now, I just had to construct a bet around Royal Siphon, a horse that figured to go off anywhere from 2-1 to 4-1. Without taking a ton of time, I locked in on a pick three, starting with the first race, going through Royal Siphon in the second, and ending with the third.

The first was a $4,000 claimer at six furlongs for fillies and mares that had not won a race in six months, one of those races that just about any horse can win. I was searching for horses that could get a 40 Beyer, the number it looked like it would take to win. I found six such horses and used them all.

The third race was an open $5,000 claimer at 1 1/16 miles. It was another race with no clear-cut choice. I used five horses.

Thus, the bet was 6x1x5 or $30 for each $1 bet.

As the horses in the first began to sort themselves in the stretch, it was clear we were going to have one of the right numbers. That it turned out to be No. 5, Pharmacy Wedding, did not really seem to have all that much significance - until I looked at the toteboard. Pharmacy Wedding was 35-1.

I definitely had not anticipated that, and really did not notice her odds in the run-up to the race. When I explained the bet to the novice, I told him we wanted a longshot at some point in the sequence. When I noticed the winner's odds, I explained that we now had a chance to make some real money.

Still, I had an immediate feeling of dread, bettor's remorse. Why didn't I use another horse in the second leg? If I had known this, I would have risked more. You know the drill.

The key to the second race was the speed. Was there as much as I thought? The concern was Brendan Mac, a Scott Lake-trained speedball.

Was he the speed of the speed? In his last six starts, he had one win and four seconds. His last three Beyers were 67-77-67. Still, my read was that he would get caught in a speed duel. My read was wrong.

I explained to the novice that the only thing we did not want to see was Brendan Mac loose on the lead.

Which, of course, is exactly what we got.

Royal Siphon broke nicely and was in great position. Still, I had seen this race before. I knew Brendan Mac was long gone. Royal Siphon tried hard, but tired in the stretch to finish third.

Now, even though we were out, I had to wait to see the pick-three prices, knowing there would be some big ones. There were. One was $4,000, another $2,500. All of them were four figures with one exception.

I turned the page and started the next pick-three sequence with my five horses. One of them was Sheperdsville. The three with him paid a mere $803.60. That would not be quite as painful. And that was the result.

You take your victories where you can get them, even if you win nothing. But that's better than the alternative of having to deal with how much more you could have won.

A few minutes after we got alive in the next sequence, it was announced that the rest of the card had been canceled. I would not get to the second horse I liked on this card, which was probably just as well. We got our consolation pick-three cash and turned our attention to simulcasting at Gulfstream Park.