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Monday, August 12, 2013
Group Therapy

By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com

It makes decent sense to go in with some others when a big pick carryover is available -- to create a consortium of astute handicappers that would provide all invested parties with a better opportunity to win a bundle.

Few outside of the retired, and anthropologists, are apt to quit the horse races thirty bucks ahead for the day. Most are after the big bonanza. It's why people play fifty cents worth of combinations on single penny slot spins. In the day and age of three-buck coffee, who is thirty dollars going to help? They give away His and Her cars at the casinos, not His and Her skateboards.

So four of us went after a giant Pick Six carryover, each putting in $500, my thinking in particular being that if I lost, all I would have to do was cut out the lattes for five months, cancel the subscription to People Magazine, or stay a day less at the ocean this fall.

My Pick Six hunt team consisted of somebody who knew everything and everybody and talked like the only time he ever lost was when he didn't really care; somebody who loved every favorite ever born; and a doomsday man who expected the worst (That's the jockey who hit his head on the gate and cost me three grand).

Whereas you can pick up a delightful little Pick Six ticket with two horses covered in each race for right at a hundred and a quarter, it's the addition of the next half a dozen possibilities that can give you the gulps.

The mathematics of an exotic ticket can turn dizzying fast. Whereas you can pick up a delightful little Pick Six ticket with two horses covered in each race for right at a hundred and a quarter, it's the addition of the next half a dozen possibilities that can give you the gulps.

Our first run-through ticket had three horses picked in each race for almost our limit of $1,500.

The problems were obvious and numerous.

The short-field races looked like six- and seven-horse dead heats waiting to happen. The fuller fields sported several cheap heavy favorites, none of which had a history of showing well back to back.

My ideal ticket would have cost $10,216; leaving out four strong contenders.

You can't order a cup of tea and sit out a big Pick Six carryover.

You have to pick and play.

The one who loved all favorites great and small, wise and wonderful, and scruffy and bug-eyed, quoted obscure stats of success over the track that had occurred farther back than the Form showed; like a 7-5 shot needed that much scrutiny. Had the mock card that he brought from home hit, we would have lost around $300. He threatened to take his money and leave if two of his favorites weren't included on our ticket.

The member of the team who had owned horses back before the big divorce had heard good things about two animals, one at 15-1. As a syndicate ticket is the perfect place for live long shots, one of these appeared to be sinking fast. This partner also threatened to back out of the group and win big on his own if both "tip" horses weren't on the ticket. Rather than look at the "wise guy" horses as expensive late additions, we were asked to think of the long shots as the first couple of horses to go cheaply onto the ticket. They still looked like money vacuums to me.

The one whose memories of races past consisted primarily of tedium, mayhem, and delirium, liked two horses that he had never seen run before but still reminded him of one that hit a rail, and one that had lost all career photos.

My suggestions reeked of obviousness.

My nickname for this group became Granny, as one partner's picks sent by his grandmother closely resembled mine.

Horse handicapping is such a private place.

Some misses belong in isolation.

The first race on a Pick Six card is tension-filled. Get that one and it can be downhill from there, a real chance to win hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A first-time starter caught late money, broke like it was jet-propelled and won so easily it wasn't nerve-wracking at all.

If only, if only and if only -- we lost the first race and hit three of six overall, two short prices and one that paid $16; that I couldn't bet because all the cash had gone into the group effort.

The Pick Six went from huge to huger, as nobody hit it.

And it was back to the safe havens of our secret places.

Have we spoken since?

Barely.

Having somebody know how bad you can be seems invasive.