06/09/2006 12:00AM

Two hunch plays pivotal in $1.5M score

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The Las Vegas bettor who won $1.5 million on June 2 on the Hollywood Park pick six prefers to remain anonymous, but the story of how he hit the bet still has race books here buzzing.

The only winning pick-six ticket sold on the bet was purchased in Las Vegas at the Barbary Coast race book.

The build-up to the huge jackpot began when the May 3 card produced a one-day pick-six carryover of $128,803. That usually puts the syndicate players in a "go" mode for the following program. On June 1, the Hollywood pick-six pool rose significantly. It came down to the final race on the card, where only one horse could force the pool to carry over again. That horse, You Don't Owe Me, got up in the shadow of the finish line at $122.60, leading to a Friday night pick-six frenzy and a two-day carryover of $526,158.

In steps Barbary Coast race manager John Druzisky to give a play-by-play of how the bet was hit.

"You would never know that this guy was alive going into the last race," said Druzisky, who has worked at the Barbary Coast for more than 20 years.

Druzisky said the player is a regular customer of the race book - at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo - from Santa Barbara, Calif. Druzisky explained that the customer bought the ticket about 7:10 p.m. Friday, then ventured into the casino before returning to watch the races.

Druzisky said that while the syndicates and well-heeled players were putting together monster combinations, Mr. Santa Barbara spent a total of $192 on his winning ticket. As the horses approached the starting gate for the pick-six opener, the third race, he sat cool and collected. For good reason. He hit the "all" button for the third race, and was rewarded like any good clairvoyant with an $82.40 shocker in Getnhotnhere. Victory by the longest shot on the board put most tickets in the consolation mode.

In the fourth race he was two deep. When Unusually Chic reported home at $11.80, he was still alive. In the third leg, our player was three deep. Although the only favorite in the pick-six sequence won the fifth race, the player confessed afterward to Druzisky that the only reason he included the winner, Bullet Train, was because there is a bullet train that passes by his home.

It gets better. Now alive through half of a difficult pick six, Mr. Santa Barbara singles the winner of the sixth race. A beauty, too. Unbeatable East took the fourth leg at $21.60. A $21.60 single!

Not done. Coming into the seventh race, our player is now on the threshold of cashing something. If not the six, a consolation five. He is two deep in the race, and Santa Fe reports home at $21.40. Have you guessed yet? Oh yes, the bullet train that passes by his home is owned by the Santa Fe Railroad.

By this time, everybody throughout the track, simulcast centers, Internet, and phone-betting networks are getting ready for a blockbuster Saturday. Even on the TVG network, handicapper and horse trainer Nick Hines "guaranteed" a three-day carryover. Next-day copies of Daily Racing Form were selling out. Fans were heading home to burn the midnight oil handicapping. But, before the final pick-six race was run, the payoff possibilities displayed, unbelievably, three tickets that were still alive. And Mr. Santa Barbara had singled the appropriately named Investingold.

At $17, the eighth-race winner left the Barbary Coast patron as the only winner, taking down $1,540,401.60.

The buzz in the room spread fast. But, the winning ticket was not presented for payment until Saturday morning. Calm and collected, the player requested $40,000 in cash, receiving it upon completion of all the necessary paperwork. After taxes, he collected $1,198.375, less the $40,000 cash, and picked up the balance check after the transfer from the track the following Wednesday.

Espinoza, O'Neill in town Monday

The South Coast will host a meet-and-greet with jockey Victor Espinoza and trainer Doug O'Neill at 9 a.m. Monday in the race book.

Espinoza and O'Neill will sign autographs and participate in a question and answer session. There will also be a free $1,000 handicapping contest on the first five races at Calder.

Ralph Siraco is turf editor for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the Race Day Las Vegas radio show.