Why We Love This Game — Written by Kai Etheridge

Why We Love This Game — Written by Kai Etheridge

Turning $16 in $66,000


I am normal family guy with a normal full-time job, but I am also an avid horseplayer.  I focus on one track or circuit at a time and follow it on a daily basis and play when I see opportunity.  I play Del Mar in the summer and Turf Paradise (my local track) in the fall – spring.  I occasionally dabble in some night racing at Los Alamitos and Canterbury Park.  I focus mostly on win/place bets and multi-race wagers.  The highlights of my horse playing career are qualifying for NHC X and some decent pick 4 wins including $6000 in the early pick 4 of the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Saturday.  I have come close on a few pick 6 tickets but have never been able to string six winners in a row – until July 12, 2014.  This is the story of my pick 6 win at Los Alamitos that night.


The Itch

We had just returned from a family trip.  It was the weekend before racing was to begin at my regular summer track, Del Mar.  In preparation for Del Mar, I watch all the Southern California replays and keep detailed notes on charts.  So I had been keeping my “head in the game” but had not wagered in some time.  My mindset was to just wait a few more days for Del Mar to open.  However, I noticed there were pick 6 carryovers at Los Alamitos, both for the thoroughbreds during the day and the quarter horses at night, and I had the “itch” to play; a feeling I don’t need to describe to a seasoned horse player.  I made the decision to play the quarter horses that night because Los Al is a track that I used to play frequently. Additionally, it was the night of the Governor’s Cup Futurity Trials and the quarters take a little less time to handicap.


The Pick 6 Ticket

I will play the pick 6 only when there is a carryover, and then only if I have some strong opinions that I can use on a small ticket.  I dissected the Los Alamitos past performances and video replays, which I feel are an extremely valuable tool.  Handicapping 2-year-old quarter horse futurity trials is a fun challenge because many of the horses have not yet run at the increased distance (350 yd. in this case).   When I look at these races, I focus on the final ⅛ time and look for horses that made up ground in the final ⅛.  After I finished, I decided that I liked some live prices on the card and came up with a $16 pick 6 ticket.  Here is my thought process behind each horse and how I constructed the ticket:


Leg 1: I singled 4 Dash of Red 8/1 ML who I liked because he had been bet to 2.60 to 1 in his debut and made up ground despite a brutal trip.  He encountered trouble in his second start but still finished well despite being well beaten.  I really liked the fact that he was given a bit of a break off those troubled trips, during which he had a sharp workout in preparation for this trial.


Leg 2: I used 1 Chicanery 2/1 ML and 6 Durio 8/1 ML. Chicanery was another that was well bet in debut and ran great despite losing.  He was also given a break off that effort and showed a workout in preparation for this trail.  Durio ran great in his debut in a live race and was given some time off during which he had a decent workout.  He seemed pointed toward this trial.


Leg 3: I felt 7 Discontent 6/5 ML was a strong single.  He had finished very well in his most recent race and was the betting favorite in each of his efforts.  His times were at least 2 lengths faster than anyone else’s best times in this race.


Leg 4: I used 4 Hrh Walkonfire 15/1 ML and 7 He Walks Thru Fire 9/2 ML.  I like HrH Walkonfire because he had troubled trips in both his career starts and had finished as fast as many of the runners in this race and with Rodrigo Aceves listed to ride, I thought he would be able to get him out of the gate.  He Walks Thru Fire finished very well in his most recent races for solid connections.


Leg 5: I singled 4 Mystery Man 5/2 ML. He had troubled starts in each career race, but made up ground in ¾ of his races.  He also qualified for the Kindergarten Futurity in May.  I felt like he was just as fast as the favorite Fiery Kimbo and could win with a good break.


Leg 6: I used 2 Tavarua 9/5 ML and 5 Kickin Your Can 5/1 ML.  Tavarua was an undefeated, quick breaker that beaten Discontent in his most recent race.  Kickin Your Can was well bet in his debut and finished very well after a troubled start.

Here is the ticket:



The Rollercoaster

I drove to my local OTB (we don’t have ADW in Arizona) and played my ticket in middle of the afternoon, ran some errands and returned home to watch the races on TVG.  My wife and I put the kids to bed just in time to tune in race 4 to kick off the pick 6.


Leg 1: Starting off with a single, I would know where I stood right off the bat.  Dash of Red broke like I hoped he would and pulled clear to win at 9/1!  I was obviously excited because starting out any multi-race bet with a 9/1 single is huge.  But this is a pick 6, there was still a long way to go and I didn’t have that much coverage the rest of the way.


Leg 2: Durio was scratched after acting up in the gate.  As a result, I scratched into the favorite and Chicanery.  The two horses were stride for stride the last 1/16th with Chicanery winning a nose bob on the wire. I was excited because I beat the favorite who others could have scratched into and I was moving on to my most confident single of the night.


Leg 3: Discontent crushed like a ⅗ favorite should and I was on to the next leg. He would go on to win the Governor’s Cup Futurity.  I was halfway home and started to get a little nervous.


Leg 4: The drama began as Rodrigo Aceves was injured in race 6 and taken off the rest of his mounts.  His gate supremacy was one of the main reasons I used Hrh Walkonfire. There was nothing I could do to change the ticket now.  Late changes are one of the negatives of multi-race bets.   Rodolfo Arvizu picked up the mount and got Hrh Walkonfire out of the gate beautifully, winning relatively easily at 18/1. Now the possibility of me hitting this ticket started to get real and my heart rate began to quicken.  It seemed like an eternity until the next race.


Leg 5: Up until this point my wife had been half interested in the races.  She has been through years of the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” and the lost photos that would have yielded thousands in return.  Now that I was down to the last two legs of what could be a big pick 6 she started to get interested.  The third and last single of the ticket was Mystery Man.  He was bumped a bit coming out of the gate but got away well, as Ed Burgart said during his call “the best Mystery Man has ever come away”.  However, he had to battle the ⅗ favorite Fiery Kimbo all the way and got his nose down on the wire when Fiery Kimbo’s was up to win the photo.  I think I strained my calf jumping up and down during and after the race when the photo was revealed.  By now, the kids were sleeping, we couldn’t yell.  I advanced to the last leg and had ⅚ x 2 in the books.  I was too excited to sit, nauseous, and sweating all at the same time and there was another eternity until the next race.


Leg 6: When TVG came back from commercial Dave Weaver announced that there was only one ticket alive to the 2 & 5 and I was holding it!  It was unreal!  By the time the will pays came on the screen and showed that I had the only ticket alive to the entire pool, I was a nervous wreck, pacing back and forth through the living room.  My wife could not believe that I was alive to $66k but deep down she also wondered if this was going to be another epic “woulda, coulda, shoulda” moment.  I was focused on 2 Tavarua who was ⅘ as they went into the gate.  He was completely eliminated at the break as were most of the inside horses.  Kickin Your Can however, recovered from breaking in and bumping to win by a neck.  I did it! I hit the pick 6! My wife and I were jumping around the living room!


The Objection: On replay, I noticed the obvious contact during the race but there was no inquiry and Kickin Your Can had his photo taken in the winner’s circle.  I was home free!  However, after several minutes, Dave announced that there were two riders’ objections.  Unbelievable! As TVG showed slow motion replay, the 5 horse definitely made contact with the 4 horse but did the 6 horse who broke inward cause the chain reaction? I was sick.  I could see this going either way.  The ruling took forever the lights even went out at Los Al.  As all horseplayers know, the longer the ruling takes, the more likely a change will be made.  I felt like someone was sitting on my chest, I was even more nauseous than I was before.  After another eternity, you could hear Ed Burgardt announce, “There has been a double disqualification”… I dropped to my knees.  Nooooo!  “But the double disqualification does not involve the winner” Yeeessss!  My wife and I resume jumping around! Now I really did it!  What an unbelievable feeling!


Here is a link to a video of the sequence:

The Aftermath: What a wild ride.  I definitely got the most of my fifteen minutes of fame.  The next night, I did a phone interview on TVG during the quarters talking about the experience.  The following Sunday I was sitting in the Vessel’s Club at Los Alamitos with my family having an outstanding meal, preparing to take on Dave Weaver in a Sunday Night Smackdown.

The guys from TVG: John Nelson, Dave Weaver, Caleb Keller and Drew Tommer were awesome and made it a fantastic experience for me and my family.
The guys from TVG: John Nelson, Dave Weaver, Caleb Keller and Drew Tommer were awesome and made it a fantastic experience for me and my family.

I realize that it is unlikely to hit a pick 6 on a $16 ticket, but horse racing is the only game in the world that it is possible.  A bettor can turn a strong opinion into a fortune.  Not only did I turn a $16 investment into over $71k but I also got some priceless life experiences and memories along the way as well.  That is why we love this game!

We thank Kai for sharing his story on DanonymousRacing.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @Turf2Dirt.

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