Updated on 09/15/2011 2:19PM

You may not need to go too deep

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ELMONT, N.Y. - There are years when playing the Breeders' Cup Pick Six seems more of an obligation than an opportunity: The races look inscrutable, you don't trust your singles, and you feel like you're playing only on the off chance that you guessed right six times in a row.

Then there are years like this one, where the races just don't look entirely daunting and it seems clear where you need to spread and where you can narrow with a high likelihood of success.

There's not necessarily a correlation between how the races look going in and how they ultimately turn out, but there's no question that it's more fun to play when you feel like you're making an intelligent investment rather than a ritual sacrifice.

Here's how this pick six devotee would recommend playing this year for both a modest and a more ambitious investment.

Mile

Keys: Noverre is the best of the Europeans and must be used. Val Royal's Oak Tree Breeders' Cup came up the best of the regional preps and he might be the best of the stateside bunch. Irish Prize had a useful prep in the Atto Mile and previously won three stakes photos.

Backups: Brahms has lost seven straight but may be cycling back to his best 2000 form in his third off a layoff. Numerous Times is undefeated and made a huge move forward to win the Atto.

Play-againsts: Forbidden Apple was lucky to get through and win the Kelso. Affirmed Success keeps knocking on the door but never gets in and always takes too much money.

Sprint

Keys: Kona Gold, who is going to look like the overlay of the century if he wins at his morning-line odds of 7-2; El Corredor, who might be better at seven or eight furlongs but who will get plenty of pace here; and Swept Overboard, who has the best closing kick if the race sets up for a true deep closer.

Backups: Bet on Sunshine also has a furious finishing kick if the race falls apart. Delaware Township has been beating weaker in New York but loves Belmont Park and appears to be peaking right now.

Play-againsts: Xtra Heat, Caller One, Five Star Day, and Squirtle Squirt are all admirable speedballs. How can any of them clear the others and have anything left in the stretch?

Filly and Mare Turf

Keys: Lailani, England's Legend, and Starine all ran very well running one-two-three in the Flower Bowl, a race that towers over this field.

Backups: None.

Play-againsts: Volga and Spring Oak emerge from what looks like a subpar E.P. Taylor. Banks Hill was an intriguing Mile possibility but looks shaky at 10 furlongs.

Juvenile

Key: Officer. Plenty of huge pick six payoffs include an odds-on winner, and this colt looks like the most likely winner on the card. In addition, his prime competition is shaky: Came Home is very fast but stretches out after missing a prep, and Siphonic caught a gold rail and a weak field in the Breeders' Futurity.

Backup: None.

Turf

Keys: Fantastic Light was good but not great here last fall. He seems to have improved but can't be trusted off his American form. With Anticipation is as honest as they come and keeps winning.

Backups: Milan appears to have had a rough trip in the Arc and looks like the second-best European in here, which may be enough if Fantastic Light isn't as good at 12 furlongs. Hap is very questionable at the distance but his best race can win this if he stretches out.

Play-againsts: Timboroa beat a bad field setting a slow pace in the Turf Classic. Mutamam and Quiet Resolve were close in this race last year but enjoyed soft trips and should face a stronger pace this year.

Classic

Keys: Aptitude's Jockey Club Gold Cup looked better than it was but still comes up a strong performance under these conditions. Include is the season's forgotten horse and can compete at a big price off a sneaky-good Meadowlands Cup prep.

Backups: Tiznow beat a much better field last year and could be set for his best despite his heavily chronicled attitudinal issues. Guided Tour is a solid citizen whose best race puts him right there.

Play-againsts: Albert the Great is tailing off and his camp has no excuse for his Gold Cup debacle. Gander was lucky to win the Meadowlands Cup and never beats the best of the best.

The accompanying tickets illustrate how these opinions might be applied to a moderate and a larger pick six play. The main ticket might suffice for a token "just in case I'm right" investment, while those willing and able to make a larger investment might want to put in the additional backup tickets as well, which would raise the cost from $216 to $936.

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