08/13/2006 11:00PM

Saratoga Stakes Play for Monday, August 14

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Be careful what you wish for: I've been wishing for a pick-six carryover for a week, finally got one for today, and now am completely flummoxed how to play it.

The problem is the first leg, a race which has everything I don't like rolled into one: 2-year-olds. Fillies. New York-breds. Turf. Five and a half furlongs. Firsters. You could spend all your money using all nine of them and watch the 5-2 favorite win. You could shave the nine down to four and die right out of the gate. With two hours till the close of pick-six betting, I have no idea what to do. My impulse is to spread here and narrow later, because I think there's a good chance the late races will be very chalky.

I'll have to play those late races that way by spreading in the opener, so I'll back up my pick six play with a pick-four play that allows for one wacky result later on. If I'm alive in the pick-six, I'll probably be alive only to the chalk later in the card and rooting against myself in the pick four, but by doing both I'll have some insurance and a chance to recoup my pick-six investment through the pick four.

Race 6:

Main: Delmarva(2), Captive Bay(1)

Backup: Dean's List (5), Royal Opportunity (6)

Race 7:

Main: Chowder's First(5), Organizer(8), Naughty New Yorker(9)

Backup: Don't Knock America(2), Rogue Agent (6)

Race 8:

Main: Weigelia(2)

Backup: Second in Command(3), Pisgah(5)

Race 9:

Main: Hunsa(10)

Backup: Royal Irish Lass(3), Grand September(6), Nunnery (8)

So let's be optimistic and say I'm alive in the pick six after the first two legs with a ticket that ends 1,2/5,8,9/2/10. I won't rebet that same sequence in the pick-four, but would make the following tickets where I can go to the backup once. For each $40 unit:

$1 pick-four partwheel: 5,6/5,8,9/2/10= $6 (Backup leg A)

$1 pick-four partwheel: 1,2/2,6/2/10= $4 (Backup leg B)

$1 pick-four partwheel: 1,2/5,8,9/3,5/10=$12 (Backup leg C)

$1 pick-four partwheel: 1,2/5,8,9/2/3,6,8=$18 (Backup leg D)

I would buy those tickets more than once each, and smaller units of the following six tickets where I go to the backups twice rather than once:

$1 pick-four partwheel: 5,6/2,6/2/10=$4 (Backup legs A&B)

$1 pick-four partwheel: 5,6/5,8,9/3,5/10=$12 (Backup legs A&C)

$1 pick-four partwheel: 5,6/5,8,9/2/3,6,8=$18 (Backup legs A&D)

$1 pick-four partwheel: 1,2/2,6/3,5/10= $8 (Backup legs B&C)

$1 pick-four partwheel: 1,2/2,6/2/3,6,8= $12 (Backup legs B&D)

$1 pick-four partwheel: 1,2/5,8,9/3,5/3,6,8 = $36 (Backup legs C&D)

Note that these tickets add up to $120, which allows me to buy the single-backup ones in larger denominations while still spending less than the $240 that a partwheel of all the horses would cost (1,2,5,6/2,5,6,8,9/2,3,5/3,6,8,10). If for some reason I'm alive with a $100 horse after the first two legs of the pick-six I might buy $1 worth of that big partwheel just for insanity insurance, but over the long haul you shouldn't be spending $240 on pick-four partwheels where you think there's a very good chance that two of the races will be won by horses at even-money or less.