Updated on 09/16/2011 7:47AM

Play pick four with multiple tickets


ELMONT, N.Y. - The highlight of the weekend for pick four fans is Calder's "Summit of Speed" quartet of the Smile Sprint Handicap, Azalea Breeders' Cup, Carry Back, and Princess Rooney, where a guaranteed $250,000 pool is on the table.

Calder brass need not worry about meeting the minimum. To recall, $350,250 was bet on last year's sequence - which was the same except it began with the Turf Sprint Championship instead of the Smile - at a time when the pick four had just been introduced and was still gathering momentum.

Last year's results were Texas Glitter ($8.80), Hattiesburg ($10.80), Illusioned ($9.40), and Dream Supreme ($3.20). The bet paid $215.20 for $1, or $430.40 by the conventional $2 payoff, which represented a bonus of about 20 percent over a $2 win parlay ($357). In the 12 months that have since elapsed, such generous payoffs have been the norm rather than the exception.

The key to profitable pick four play is not so much in selecting contenders, because any reasonably proficient punter with a Daily Racing Form can do that. More important is structuring your bet in a way that reflects your opinion about their relative strengths.

Making these crucial distinctions is not possible by going up to a mutuel clerk and calling out one ticket. A better approach is to fill out multiple tickets that differentiate between contenders on your "A" list, and those on the "B" list deemed to have a lesser chance.

Let's go over preliminary rankings for the four races and see how the process takes shape. In each leg one horse makes my "A" team and the rest are relegated to the "B" team. (Remember last year's Summit of Speed card was contested on a day when the rail seemed the deepest part of the Calder surface. Be sure to observe the early races to see whether a noticeable path and/or running-style bias exists).

Smile Handicap: Gus the Monkey could dope this out as a three-horse race among 2-Crafty C.T., 6-Echo Eddie, and 7-Orientate.

Crafty C.T. makes the A-list after a five-wide duel in the Met Mile, in which he held on bravely for third. Behind him that day was Left Bank, a track-record setter in last week's Tom Fool Handicap.

Azalea Breeders' Cup: Things get more complicated in the second leg, where cases can be made to varying degrees for 1-Respectful, 2-Copper Belle, 5-Bold World, 7-Willa on the Move, and 9-Nice Boots Baby.

Bold World is the lone filly to have Beyered in the 100's, and she has done it three times. But two of them came at five furlongs, and the other came against suspect opposition in the OBS Sprint, a non-betting race at the Ocala Training Center.

My A-list filly is Willa on the Move, who was three weeks removed from a lifetime top figure when she pressed multiple Grade 1 winner You in the Acorn and earned a relatively strong pace figure. She's turning back, adds blinkers for a trainer who's profitable with that move, and may get a good trip stalking a pace duel.

Carry Back: Another competitive field that offers the chance for a good-priced winner. The main contention looks to be 2-Kingmaker, 3-Captain Squire, 6-Day Trader, 7-World Trade, and 8-Royal Lad.

Picking an "A" horse is a challenge: Captain Squire has risen from maiden claimers to win a Grade 2 stakes race most recently, but he has never raced at this short a distance. B-list.

Royal Lad has won five of his last six on fast tracks, and his lone non-exacta finish at six furlongs came in the Hutcheson on a very slow track at Gulfstream on opening day. Mike Welsch noted in DRF Simulcast Weekly that he ". . .looked like a tired horse down the stretch" when upset at 2-5 in the Marco Bay, but he has since been freshened.

Day Trader gets the "A" call, however, after taking part in a cut-throat duel in the Grade 2 Riva Ridge, out of which Gygistar came back to repeat in last week's Dwyer. The keys are the class drop and the turnback to six furlongs.

Princess Rooney: 3-Xtra Heat and 4-Gold Mover were just a neck apart in last month's Vagrancy Handicap, and they have an identical weight spread for the rematch. The leather-tough Xtra Heat is the "A" of course, but Gold Mover has run well at Calder in the past. I would like to be alive with her if at least two of the first three legs go according to plan.

A single 3x5x5x2 play on all these horses covers 150 combinations, but the pick four would then have to pay 150-1 just to break even.

But with the aid of the charts in Barry Meadow's "Money Secrets At The Racetrack," which is available through DRF Press and a must-have for any semi-serious player's library, I can fill out 11 tickets and reduce the cost to $54 by insisting that two - any two - of my "A" horses win:

11 6-7/1-2-5-9/6/38

Total cost: $54

Win or lose, this will be a good warm-up for Saratoga, where the pick four pools are guaranteed at $500,000 on five Saturdays, and $1 million on Travers Day.