06/07/2001 11:00PM

Stakes-rich pick six could play to small bettor


Saturday's $1 million guaranteed pick six at Belmont offers sufficient temptation for both big and little fish to break rules they otherwise should observe.

For serious and well-financed pick six players, who generally should only play when there is a carryover, this is a case where a carryover is unnecessary. The guaranteed pool and the presence of so many amateurs in the Saturday crowd will provide sufficient value to exploit.

For smaller players, who are usually setting their limited bankrolls afire by making moderate investments against the sharks, the races in Saturday's sequence are sufficiently manageable that an overlaid payoff for unimaginative results is a distinct possibility. The stakes-rich sextet of races includes no maiden races where you have to use six first-time starters or similarly skull-busting propositions. If you and three friends can agree on two horses per race, it might be worth ponying up $32 each and putting in a small play that could easily offer unusual value.

If the pool turns out to be $1 million, even 200 winning tickets would mean a payoff of $2,750 (only 55 percent gets paid out on the front end after takeout and consolations). That would mean better than 20-1 for you on your $128 investment, and only 6-5 for me on the $1,200 or so I intend to invest.

Below is how I would play the bet if I were limited to just two horses per race, along with the additional horses I will be using on backups and other tickets in an attempt to be one of, say, 20 winners at $27,500.

Leg 1 (race 6): The True North for older sprinters at six furlongs drew a field of just eight, but there are few absolute throwouts. If forced to go only two deep, I would use Say Florida Sandy and Hook and Ladder, second and third in the Carter Handicap last time out. Four others, however, could win on their very best day. I will probably allow myself to be knocked out by Explicit or Istintaj, both awful and without excuses at Pimlico last time out, and back up instead with Men's Exclusive and Wake at Noon.

Leg 2 (race 7): The Just a Game Breeders' Cup at a mile for grass fillies may not be as wide open as it first looks. The field of 13 includes 11 who have run a Beyer figure on grass between 95 and 101, but there's a pretty clear line between the legitimate graded-stakes fillies and those who can't compete at that level. License Fee, the highweight, is perfectly logical but the next two favorites face obstacles: Front-running Song for Annie drew the outside and Collect the Cash has not raced in eight months. Limited to two, I would use License Fee and Starine, who overcame a slow pace to finish strongly for second in her last.

Leg 3 (race 8): Like the True North, the Riva Ridge for 3-year-old sprinters drew just eight starters, but few can be eliminated with utter confidence. Flame Thrower and City Zip are the likeliest winners and the obvious, logical duo to use, but I will be adding two others on backup tickets: Burning Roma, whose route numbers are a tad slow but who may love the turnback to seven furlongs, and Put It Back, who might get loose from the outside post and forget to stop. I can't disparage anyone who wants to make a case for Express Tour turning back off the Kentucky Derby or Windsor Castle making his second off a layoff, but you can't use them all.

Leg 4 (race 9): The Manhattan Handicap at 10 furlongs on the grass is a race you would probably rather watch than bet if it weren't part of a pick three, pick four, and pick six. Perfect Sting, last year's champion grass filly, is a legitimate favorite against a weak group of males for a Grade 1 race. King Cugat and Tijiyr are clearly the best of the rest, and if pressed I'd take King Cugat as my second horse. All three are stretch-runners and there's a troubling lack of pace in the race, but it's a stretch to argue that Carpenter's Halo or Turnofthecentury are good enough to wire this bunch. Forbidden Apple looked like he was getting this good last fall, but makes his 2001 debut here and has not proven himself at the distance.

Leg 5 (race 10): Despite my whining, stubborn loyalty to Dollar Bill, I will not be singling in this spot. I will be going three deep with him, Monarchos, and Point Given on every ticket because I truly believe this approach makes me better than 80 percent to survive the race. I just can't see anyone else improving so dramatically to threaten either of the favorites' very best shots, and if neither fires I'll take my chances with Dollar Bill against the rest. Limited to two, I would be a conservative weasel and eliminate Bill.

Leg 6 (race 11): An anticlimactic ending to a sequence that should have started one race earlier and ended with the Belmont, this one-other-than allowance race at 10 furlongs on the grass has five candidates for victory. My top two would be Saddlespur and Deputy's Legacy, who have been the distance and run a bit faster than the others, with smaller chances afforded to Sharp Performance, Gasparillo Daze, and Curlew Flyer.

I will be perfectly happy if I have made it this far and am alive only with my top two selections. I won't be thrilled if another 200 of you are in the same position, but wish us all the best of luck nonetheless.