10/04/2001 11:00PM

Reach for the stars with four races and $54

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PHOENIX - Sunday's Four Stakes Pick Four, offered by Keeneland and Santa Anita, is more than just a wonderful gesture that will send commissions to the NTRA charities-New York Heroes Fund. It also gives bettors a chance to help themselves.

Four stakes - the Shadwell Mile and Spinster at Keeneland, and the Oak Tree Mile and Goodwood at Santa Anita - comprise the $1 wager, and as you would expect from four races with Breeders' Cup implications there are a number of ways to go here.

Maybe the best way to think of playing this particular exotic is to try to figure what scenario would bring the best payoff. There are a couple heavy favorites, most notably Tiznow in the Goodwood. Hap also figures to be a relatively heavy choice in the Shadwell Mile. Should either or both win, the payoff will be relatively low. In order to optimize an opportunity for a strong payoff - remember, in exotics you're looking for a good, not a fair, return - you may have to try to beat one or both of those heavy favorites. That doesn't mean don't use them; just use others with them.

Here's a look at each individual leg:

Shadwell Mile: Hap is no doubt the horse to beat. Though he finished second, his Arlington Million effort was beautiful: The ground was dreadful and 1 1/4 miles may be pushing it for him. That being said, a mile may be a bit short for him, but at least he comes into this sharp as a tack. Speaking of which, you can't get any sharper than Numerous Times, a Canadian horse whose Atto Mile win was his sixth straight. Now, he must deal with a new course, but he's passed every other test with aplomb.

Aly's Alley, who's run well here, may actually be at his best at a mile or so on the turf.

So, for the Shadwell Mile I'll go three deep: Hap, Numerous Times, and Aly's Alley.

Spinster: Lazy Slusan was tremendous in the winter and spring, but seemed to sour some in the summer. Trainer John Dolan did the right thing and gave her some time. She has worked well for this and if she can reproduce her spring form will be very tough.

Printemps, trained by Ron McAnally, came to the U.S. with a lofty reputation. She made a good first impression but a back ailment kept her from training. The back is said to be better, and McAnally knows when his South American imports are right. Also, he has done very well in this race with them.

Vivid Angel deserves ample respect because she's unbeaten at Keeneland. Royal Fair and Secret Status would have been tougher if this race were three months ago. Secret Status still figures to attract considerable money since she has some heavyweight Kentucky connections. If you can beat Secret Status, you will help your payoff immensely.

Again, three deep: Lazy Slusan, Printemps, Vivid Angel.

Oak Tree Mile: There's no War Chant to hang your hat on this time. In fact, it's in this race, or the Spinster, where you may get that midrange price that can take the Pick Four payoff from good to a signer. Thady Quill, trained by Bobby Frankel, can absolutely blast home. That being said, he has never beaten this caliber of competition and he will need clear sailing. Still, he may be good enough to beat these and head next for the BC Mile. He's a must-use.

Redattore, trained by Richard Mandella, won the Grade 1 Eddie Read at 1 1/8 miles, then was a good third in the 10-furlong Arlington Million. Here he will run what may be his best distance: a mile. He's not Breeders' Cup-eligible, so he's not prepping here; he's after the whole thing.

I've Decided, trained by Wally Dollase, could be your knockout punch. He's developed beautifully and while this represents his toughest test, he may still have more growth and improvement left in him.

Again, I'm three deep: Thady Quill, Redattore, I've Decided.

Goodwood: Here's where you have to make a decision. It's reasonable to single Tiznow. He's the best horse. He's Horse of the Year. His Woodward return run was excellent. That would make your ticket $27.

But if Tiznow wins, the payoff won't be much, because the line to single Tiznow is going to be crowded. I'm certainly going to use him, but I'm also going to go the extra yard and use Skimming. Sure, this isn't Del Mar, where he's unbeatable. But he's a nice horse regardless, and it's plausible he's a better horse now than he's ever been. Can the same be said of Tiznow? Not likely. Skimming will use his speed, and remember, Tiznow is prepping for the BC Classic; Skimming needs to win this to be considered for the BC Classic.

Skimming figures to be on the lead with Tiznow chasing. Skimming will surely be second choice and if you can hit this Pick Four with him, the payoff will improve appreciably.

Tiznow may very well win; he's a beast. But if you get three decent prices in the first three legs, do you want to blow a huge payoff because you weren't willing to fork over another $27 bucks?

So, in the Goodwood I'll use Tiznow and Skimming. That takes my Pick Four ticket to $54. Now surely if both Tiznow and Hap win their respective legs, and say, Thady Quill and Lazy Slusan win the other two legs, I'm definitely not going to get rich. But this ticket provides ample coverage - you get the horses covered you need to have covered, and yet you take a shot at making a nice hit.

And isn't that what money management is all about?

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