06/13/2001 11:00PM

Second bomb blew up in double


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Last week's daily double linking the Acorn Stakes and the Belmont Stakes offered a hard lesson regarding exotic wagers. It takes only one wagering blunder to erase the self-satisfaction of handicapping genius.

The Acorn, first half of the double, featured an evenly match field with several qualified to win. Victory Ride was the high-figure filly, and bettors stuck on speed figures had only one decision to make - bet or pass. On numbers, no one else was even close.

Two starts into her career, Victory Ride had posted Beyer Speed Figures of 108 and 101. Brilliant, but at odds of 1.45-to-1, she offered scant wagering value. No surprise. High figs are overbet everywhere. From California to New York, bettors can't get enough of fast.

Victory Ride was the fastest filly entering the Acorn. No argument. It is sheer futility, however, to attempt to grind out a profit by wagering on high-figure favorites. While high-figure runners must often be recognized as the most likely winner, value-oriented handicappers usually find themselves wagering against the number. This was not difficult in the Acorn.

There were a number of "value" possibilities among the seven other starters. One embodied an angle that, year after year, produces staggering payoffs. The simple technique applies to all levels, but tends to be most effective in stakes:

Bet high-odds horses moving up in class following a loss at lower odds, on condition the maneuver is reasonable and executed by a winning stable.

On every inspection, the angle makes sense. The high-odds guideline allows a comfortable margin for error - win percentage decreases, payoffs increase. The up-in-class criterion addresses the issue of form. Horses rarely move up without accompanying form, or cause for potential improvement. And because defeats often are interpreted as failure, there is greater possibility that bettors will abandon ship at the wrong time.

The "lower-odds in last start" adds further assurance to the issue of condition. The "reasonable-maneuver" warning must be loosely interpreted. Bettors must determine individually if a move is sensible. An in-the-money finish last out, for example, gives horse and trainer license to move on. Finally, it must be done by a reputable stable. This weeds out starry-eyed dreamers with insufficient credentials.

The procedure does not attempt to address the criteria of the favorite, it simply offers a longshot alternative. There are numerous Grade 1 examples.

* Dare and Go paid $81.20 in the 1996 Pacific Classic. In his previous start, he lost a Grade 2 by a head at 3-5. Trained by Richard Mandella.

* Spain paid $113.80 in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Distaff. In her previous start, she finished second in a Grade 1 at 7-1. Trained by Wayne Lukas.

* Marquetry paid $56.80 in the 1991 Hollywood Gold Cup. In his previous start, he finished third in a Grade 1 at 9-1. Trained by Bobby Frankel.

There were, of course, other reasons to like the three listed examples, and reasons for the inflated odds. Dare and Go faced Cigar; Spain faced Riboletta; Marquetry faced Farma Way.

In the Acorn Stakes on June 8, Forest Secret faced Victory Ride. No horse is invincible.

Forest Secret was 50-1 and moving up in class following a second-place finish at 6-5. The maneuver made sense. Aside from speed figures, her past performances mirrored Victory Ride. Both scored runaway debut victories, and followed with sharp efforts versus allowance foes. Finally, Forest Secrets was trained by John Ward. Remember him? Only five weeks earlier, he won the Kentucky Derby with a high-odds horse (Monarchos) moving up in class after a loss at a lower price.

Forest Secrets did not have to win the Acorn, but she did. Forest Secrets paid $102.50.

Genius? Hardly. The score was nothing more than reasonable application of a tried-and-true wagering angle.

The celebration lasted only until the Acorn-Belmont will-pays were posted on the Daily Racing Form web site. From a 50-1 winner in the first leg, the $2 doubles were paying as follows.

* Point Given: $417

* Monarchos: $600

* A P Valentine: $710

* Balto Star: $748

* Dollar Bill: $903

* Invisible Ink: $973

* Thunder Blitz: $992

* Dr Greenfield: $1,184

* Buckle Down Ben: $1,923

In shopping for a price, this bettor keyed the wrong longshot - Belmont starter Balto Star at 12-1. Although it turns out that front-runner was never going to beat 6-5 favorite Point Given, expectations were for a larger discrepancy in doubles payoffs. Balto Star went to post at nearly nine times the odds of Point Given, but the daily double will-pay was less than twice as much as to the favorite.

When an exotic wager is made up of two longshots, payoffs typically are far less than expected. So it happened in the Acorn-Belmont double. Bettors creative enough to find Forest Secrets needed only to accept the obvious in the Belmont. Their parimutuel reward was 70 percent higher than the parlay.

Others were left with a $2 win ticket on a $100 horse, and a daily double story about the one that got away.