09/03/2006 11:00PM

Spa Stakes play for Monday

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I was not, alas, one of the nine people who had Sunday's double-carryover pick-six for $111k. Stayed alive for three legs, then took what felt like a tough beat at the time with Devil's Preacher against Rock Lobster, but got blown out in the finale to render that tale of woe less woeful.

If Ydy, the only uncovered pick-six horse in the finale, had somehow managed to stretch her early lead into a victory, we'd be looking at a $3 million pool today. Instead, it will be less than 10 percent of that, but still a healthy non-carryover pool because of the closing-day/mandatory-payout provision. So let's dive back into the pick-six pool in an attempt to close out Saratoga 2006 on a winning note.

The following grid shows how I rank the horses in races 5-10 along the lines of the A/B/C/X methodology spelled out in "Exotic Betting." Basically I group the horses into these four categories of declining preference, and create a matrix of pick-six tickets that allows me to go deeper in some races if I'm right with my A's in others:

Race A Horses B Horses C Horses X Horses
5th 5 --- 1,8,9 2,3,4,6,7
6th 4 5,9 6,7 1,3,8
7th 3,4 2,5,9 1,6,7,8,10 ---
8th 8 --- 1,2,6,7,9 3,4,5,7
9th 3,5,10 --- 1,2,7 4,6,8,9,11
10th 7,8 9,11 --- 1,2,3,5,12

Here are four different pick-six plays that might flow from such a set of opinions, one for $24, one for $132, one for $684 and one for those with $3360 to burn.

THE $24 PLAY

This is simply an all-A play for someone who wants a little action. I don't recommend such plays, because it's very tough to be this precisely right six times in a row, but for $24 it's a little entertainment and maybe you'll get 20-1 to 40-1 if it hits and pays between $500 and $1,000:

AAAAAA $2 pick six: 5/4/3,4/8/3,5,10/7,8=$24

THE $132 PLAY

Here we put in the all-A ticket above but then add three "backup" tickets, each consisting of five A's and one B. Note that on this play, we still have two singles that must win: Iron Goddess (5) in the 5th and Pure Incentive (8) in the 8th.

AAAAAA $2 pick six: 5/4/3,4/8/3,5,10/7,8=$24

ABAAAA $2 pick six: 5/5,9/3,4/8/3,5,10/7,8=$48

AABAAA $2 pick six: 5/4/2,5,9/8/3,5,10/7,8=$36

AAAAAB $2 pick six: 5/4/3,4/8/3,5,10/9,11=$24

THE $684 PLAY

Here we put in a "main ticket" combining all our A's and B's, then five backup tickets each consisting of five A's and one C.

All A+B $2 pick-six: 5/4,5,9/2,3,4,5,9/8/3,5,10/7,8,9,11=$360

CAAAAA $2 pick six: 1,8,9/4/3,4/8/3,5,10/7,8=$ 72

ACAAAA $2 pick six: 5/6,7/3,4/8/3,5,10/7,8=$ 48

AACAAA $2 pick six: 5/4/1,6,7,8,10/8/3,5,10/7,8=$ 60

AAACAA $2 pick six: 5/4/3,4/1,2,6,7,9/3,5,10/7,8=$120

AAAACA $2 pick six: 5/4/3,4/8/1,2,7/7,8=$ 24

THE $3360 PLAY

On this expensive variation of the $684 play, I elevate one horse from C to B status in the two races where I singled with no B's, and elevate my B's to A's in the second and third legs:

All A+B $2 pick-six: 5,8/4,5,9/2,3,4,5,9/1,8/3,5,10/7,8,9,11=$1440

CAAAAA $2 pick six: 1,8,9/4,5,9/2,3,4,5,9/8/3,5,10/7,8=$ 540

ACAAAA $2 pick six: 5/6,7/2,3,4,5,9/8/3,5,10/7,8=$ 120

AACAAA $2 pick six: 5/4,5,9/1,6,7,8,10/8/3,5,10/7,8=$ 180

AAACAA $2 pick six: 5/4,5,9/2,3,4,5,9/1,2,6,7,9/3,5,10/7,8=$ 900

AAAACA $2 pick six: 5/4,5,9/2,3,4,5,9/8/1,2,7/7,8=$ 180

Personally, I'll be making the $684 play with perhaps a few small elements of the more expensive one to keep my total investment under $1000.

Finally, I would like to thank those of you still reading who have read and suffered along with these plays for 35 days. We had a couple of nice hits but most of them tanked. This was an experiment I didn't entirely enjoy. I would prefer to share my opinions and let people make of them what they want rather than to lock myself into specific tickets hours before a race goes off. What happens if you have a change of heart an hour or two later, or the weather changes, or there's a late scratch that changes the dynamics of a race, or you just belatedly notice something about a horse you had eliminated earlier? I'm sure that responsible public handicappers wrestle with these issues every day, and if nothing else I have a newfound respect for what they do.

I also have a reinforced respect for the kindness of our readers and customers, not one of whom in the last six weeks has written to call me a moron leading people straight to the poorhouse. On the contrary, people have been nice enough to thank me for the few winning plays and even to tell me they did well in an exacta or trifecta with the two or three horses I used in one leg of a pick-four where I wasn't close in the other three races. Thank you for your patience and your generosity.