Updated on 09/15/2011 1:07PM

You need right horses in the right places


ELMONT, N.Y. ? For chalk players reading this column, there is good news and bad news.

The good news is that, broadly speaking, form has held up well at Belmont's fall meet. More specifically, the bad news is that from the first dozen stakes, only two favorites, John Paul Too ($4.60) in the Gen. Douglas MacArthur Handicap, and Voodoo Dancer ($4.10) in the Garden City Breeders' Cup Handicap, have managed to win.

That's not to say that with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight the majority of stakes results haven't made at least some kind of sense. So much so, in fact, that horseplayers sometimes feel like kicking themselves for not cashing in big time. For example, the pick four on races 8, 9, 10, and 11 at Belmont last Saturday looks so easy now, doesn't it?

All you had to do was start out with an "all" on the five-horse Jerome Handicap. It was won by the 8-1 Express Tour, who, after all, had been good enough to beat no less a rival than Lido Palace in his first start of the year.

Then, in a field that scratched down to just six, you've got to have Tugger, with Jerry Bailey, wire to wire in the off-the-turf Noble Damsel. Right?

The third leg was the Vosburgh. Left Bank as the $9.50 second choice wasn't so hard to have, was he?

The fourth and final leg was a second-level allowance sprint for New York-breds. It was won by Misty Foxfire, an eminently logical 4-1 second choice.

Presto, a very have-able pick four whose $3,114 payoff substantially bettered the $2 win parlay ($2,311).

The ingredients sound simple enough. Take a talented horse like Express Tour (did I mention he beat Lido Palace the last time he returned from a layoff?) and mix him up with a third choice and two second choices. Serves $3,114.

I had 11 tickets of varying proportions on that pick four sequence, and used all the winners at some point. But because not enough of my key horses won, none of the tickets linked together the sequence 4-13-1-5, which was what you needed to do in order to redeem one of them for $3,114.

Just goes to show you don't have to pick horses like some kind of super-genius. You've just got to bet those opinions properly, with some kind of an inspired approach.

Thanks to an early entry schedule brought on by the observance of Yom Kippur in mid-week, Saturday's races were drawn on a 72-hour schedule, which afforded an extra day to juggle those pick four chess pieces around. As of mid-afternoon Thursday, pending any late scratches off the program, I have divided my keys ("A" horses) and peripheral contenders ("B" horses) as follows.

First leg (seventh race): Very competitive second-level allowance sprint features the return of the talented 3-year-old Voodoo, who has been idle since chasing Congaree in the Wood Memorial.

A horses ? Voodoo (No. 4), Wrangler (10), Nunzio (11).

B horses ? King's Messenger (7).

Second leg (eighth race): The Flower Bowl Handicap, in which the three most logical contenders come off lifetime-top efforts at Arlington Park, Saratoga, and Goodwood. Follow the bouncing fillies!

A horse ? England's Legend (1).

B horses - Lailani (2), Starine (5).

Third leg (ninth race): A comparatively weak renewal of the Turf Classic. King Cugat always looks like he should win, but often finds trouble and is still looking for his first Grade 1 win after five failed attempts.

A horse ? King Cugat (5).

B horses ? Slew Valley (4), Timboroa (7).

Fourth leg (10th race): One of the toughest entry-level turf allowance races you'll ever see.

A horses ? Double Cat (5), Langoureuse (9).

B horses ? No Deadline (6), De Aar (7).

Using four horses in the first and final legs, and three each in the two middle legs, a single 4x3x3x4 ticket, which makes no distinction about the relative strengths of the contenders, contains 144 separate combinations and requires an outlay of $144 to catch half a winning payoff.

That ticket looks like this: 4, 7, 10, 11 with 1, 2, 5 with 4, 5,7 with 5,6,7, 9.

But by designating key horses in each leg and insisting that at least two (any two) of them win, the total cost can be reduced to $96 without slicing any horses out of the play.

This requires me to fill out 11 tickets, which look like this:

Ticket Price Selections

First $6 4-10-11 w 1 w 5 w 5-9

Second 6 4-10-11 w 1 w 5 w 6-7

Third 12 4-10-11 w 1 w 4-7 w 5-9

Fourth 12 4-10-11 w 2-5 w 5 w 5-9

Fifth 2 7 w 1 w 5 w 5-9

Sixth 2 7 w 1 w 5 w 6-7

Seventh 12 4-10-11 w 2-5 w 5 w 6-7

Eighth 12 4-10-11 w 1 w 4-7 w 6-7

Ninth 4 7 w 1 w 4-7 w 6-7

Tenth 24 4-10-11 w 2-5 w 4-7 w 5-9

Eleventh 4 7 w 2-5 w 5 w 5-9

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