Sunday might have been my worst Pick 6 mistake of all time. But in the end, it led to my biggest Pick 4 score ever.
After a bad day on Saturday, I managed to hit a couple races early in the day. So I was feeling good and decided to go in on the Aqueduct Pick 6 carryover. I played a sizeable ticket, especially considering I keyed the 2-1 co-favorite in the first leg. That one came in, but then in race after race where I spread deep, I watch favorite after favorite roll home. I did manage to have some excitement as I was alive to the 5 and the 8. The 5 ended up going off at 12-1 and had a $12,000 payoff, but the 8 was the chalk and the payoff was only $600 and change. In the end, it didn't matter, because Ramon Dominguez owned the Big A turf course, took the 7 horse back and coasted to victory with ease. At least I got two consolation 5 of 6 payoffs - worth a whopping $34 each!
But armed with the powerful new TimeformUS PP's I am Beta testing, the Longshot Report - a new product we are building for HorseRacingNation, and some picks from my brother I was ready to trudge on.
The Longshot Report scored with an 18-1 longshot who rolled up for third in the Big A feature, and added a couple hundred to the bankroll, and later nailed 14-1 winner Posh Sox at Woodbine. Next, my brother chimed in with an awesome pick in the 6th at Woodbine. He suggested keying the 3 (8-1) and 8 (30-1) in all three trifecta spots. I liked what he saw and I was in. The pace was hot and both horses closed nicely and finished 1st and 3rd - meaning every one of my trifecta wheels came in. I ended up hitting the 20-cent trifecta seven times, and juiced up the bankroll in a meaningful fashion.
As the Big A Pick 6 winded down unmercifully, I had been avoiding handicapping the larger double-carryover at Hollywood Park. But time was running out, it was now or never. My brother sent over his ticket - and it was a bit of a whopper. He had to run out, so my choice was simple. Go in and split it, build my own ticket or sit out.
Since sitting out obviously wasn't a choice, I started handicapping furiously with my now trusted TimeformUS PPs at my side.
But as I got through race after race, a strange pattern was developing. I kept coming up with longshots that seemed to have a real shot. And while my brother and I usually see these things the same way - this time he didn't have any of the same horses. Especially since I was rushing this at the last minute, I preferred his judgment to mine and started to erode my confidence.
But a few things kept nagging at me:
Race 5 - It was a wide-open maiden race that required going 3 or 4 deep, but none of them seemed like winners. I thought the Richard Baltas firster by Candy Ride had a shot here at a big price. But was I really in the mood to add an unlikely firster to what would be an expensive P6 ticket?
Race 6 - This was a wide-open $40,000 claimer on the turf, and five horses ended up at 5-1 or less. But there didn't seem to be much speed, and the TimeformUS pace figures clearly showed that #1 Rock This Way had the right numbers if he could get clear on the lead.
Race 7 - This was an ultra-deep Maiden Claimer with a 3-1 firster as the eventual favorite, and three others at 7-2, 9-2 and 5-1 in this 12-horse field. But the TimeformUS figures and detailed troubled lines pointed to #12 Limited Response as having a real shot in here at 15-1.
Now it looked like the P6 ticket could balloon to just about any size. So I made one good betting decision, at least I think so. I decided to take a stab in the Maiden Claimer finale. This would save me from having to go 6-deep, and I could at least hedge a bit if I was alive. So I singled the #14, Bull Time at 5-1.
Then I went back to the first leg, a two-turn $10,000 Claimer where I would make my fatal P6 blunder. I didn't see that much pace and I didn't like my ticket that much anyways... so I went with two mid-priced horses - #4 Power Series and #5 Royal Encounter - who I thought would press the pace a bit. I decided to leave off the 9-5 chalk in Low Gear Power. Maybe I just wasn't up for another chalky Pick6 lesson.
So, I put together this $432 ticket. It wasn't my best ticket ever, but I was down. I had a shot.
And wouldn't you know it, just like that, right in the first leg Power Series gets stuck on the rail and Trevor calls out for him a couple of times on how he's looking for room, but the favorite Low Gear Power rolls by to win by 3/4 of a length by Power Series. I'm out already. $432 down the drain. Not a wonderful feeling.
But then something funny happened. That 25-1 Candy Ride firster? He gets up in leg two by a nose. How much did I bet on the race? $0. I was about ready to pack it in for the night. But now all of a sudden I was alive, however remotely, to a pretty good Pick 6.
But since hitting three more legs and a P6 single was extremely remote, it was time to dive into the Pick 4. And that was where the magic happened.
If I had one conviction, it was that I really liked the #12 Limited Response in Race 7.
So I built some extra tickets around him like this:
And the longshots continued to roll. In Race 6, #1 Rock This Way took the turf field of 8 wire-to-wire paying $33.80, and really was in full control the entire time. A beautiful start to the Pick 4.
In Race 7, Limited Response needed every last stride to get up by a nose, but that made all the difference. The $31 winner was the third bomb in a row, keying a $1 Pick Three worth $16,310. As you could imagine, I was now sick to my stomach. If I had just played for a little bit more and tossed in the chalk in the first leg, I might have held the only live P6 ticket in a massive $730,000 pool. But I had hit my P4 single and I was ultra-deep in the last two legs. It would be all or nothing with the Pick 4.
I was fairly confident in the 8th. I went five deep here, even through the TimeformUS figs really isolated Christmas Candy as best in the field. She won like a good thing at 9-2, and this one was never really in doubt for me as I had the next two finishers covered.
And after Trevor Denman announces the results, he announces that there's already a Pick 6 carryover. That's right. If I hadn't been a moron and tossed the 9-5 favorite in the first leg, I'd have the only alive ticket with one race to go.
But there was no time to think about that. They were flashing up the Pick4 Will Pays, where I had 9 of 13 horses covered, with some amazing payouts:
Wow, I thought. I was shaking as I wrote some of those down. There were some massive scores in there, including a $17K 5 of 6 payout on #14 Bull Time, along with the Pick 4 four times. (note these were total payoffs of all my tickets)
So now it was time to hedge. And hedge I did. I hedged furiously on #7, a Malibu Moon firster that was bet all the way down to 7-2 in this wide-open event. I took him in exactas, on top in all-all trifectas and even some to win. I was pretty nervous about the payouts, so I know I didn't hedge properly, but what the heck.
The broke from the gate and I was a nervous wreck. My heart was pounding and all I could think about was don't miss. But I couldn't do anything about that now. Some of the mega-longshots controlled the early pace, and as they came into the stretch, they were led by #8 Green Dolphin, a 69-1 remote longshot that I didn't have. He was clear by nearly two lengths in the stretch. Could he really hold on and I would miss this thing? Was I really so stupid to spend a lot of money hedging on a 7-2 shot without hedging just a little bit on a 69-1 shot? Could I really have 9 horses in the 13-horse field and miss? Fortunately, my P6 single Bull Time was hard on his heels and moving to the lead. He was going by and looking great and I was eyeing that fat $43K payoff, but then all of a sudden he started to get leg-weary in the last 100-yards and they were coming from every direction! Yikes!
At this point, I was scanning for who was coming. The 2-1 favorite #5 Marv was coming up the rail in his green saddlecloth and might get the Bull on the wire. I didn't really want him to win but beggars can't be choosy and at least he was a covered square! And on the outside was the #15 Suancessong flying, and I knew he had to pay great, but here was one more horse coming through in between and he put his head down right on the wire with the 15. Who was it? I was scanning the field for the 8, the 7, the 1 and the 6... the four that I had left off. I was reasonably sure they weren't there, but actually I wasn't sure at all. Thankfully, Trevor called out the #10 Unusual Mystery, and he was a covered square.
There it was. Three horses on the wire. I really had no idea who had won, and I really didn't care all that much. It was a horseplayer's dream. I had hit the Pick 4 and hit it good! Here were the payouts I was staring at:
#5 Marv - $15,000 (3 tickets total)
#10 Unusual Mystery - $21,000 (3 tickets total)
#15 Suancessong - $21,000 (3 tickets total)
When the photo went up, it was #10 who had won and I had a massive score and a great ending to an up-and-down day at the windows.
Oh, and the Pick 6? I didn't think about that at all. But I did go back and check a few hours later only to find... That five of six only paid $83,000. Maybe I should have added that 9-5 shot after all. Oh well, there's always the Thanksgiving Day carryover!
- Mark Midland