On Track with Johnny D: That Deafening Sound

Have no fear. That deafening sound you heard around 3:17 pm Saturday wasn’t an alien invasion. It was, instead, a collective howl emanating from throats of investors financially involved in 22 million Gulfstream Park Rainbow Six combinations. An $8.2 million mandatory payout pool–juiced by good weather and a deep, challenging card–attracted hordes of wagering hopefuls. Most didn’t last long.


A first-round knockout punch by 58-1 Pappa Y and jockey Marcos Meneses for trainer Juan Avila sent horseplayers scurrying to scrounge up sufficient funds to submit Pick 5 wagers before the next race. Those that succeeded in locating additional capital and selecting 5 consecutive winners received $1,086.40 each. That payoff may have comforted some—like salve to a wound—but, in comparison to a hefty $100,919.88 6-for-6 Rainbow payoff, it had to feel like a frustratingly meager consolation prize. What a difference a winner makes!


This writer enjoyed no such close-calls. His adventurous Rainbow ticket was pronounced DOA after the first leg, and his desperate Pick 5 sheet met a similarly rapid demise. Deceased Rainbow Six and Pick 5 sheets included the next 4 winners, but were about as worthless as Rams/Over Super Bowl parlay wagers.


Long ago, this writer was given the following advice from a veteran Pick 6 player seated in a Hollywood Park box, “The ‘All’ button never loses.” Since then, through decades of wagering, I’ve come to understand two things:


First, that the ‘All’ button may never lose, but it sure declaws a ticket when the favorite wins.

Second, whenever I use the ‘All’ button, the favorite always wins!


Full disclosure: That last part’s not completely true. I once hit a $30k Rainbow Six by using ‘All’ in the first leg–a Gulfstream Park maiden turf race–and catching a $60 winner! So, it can happen. At least once, anyway. There are successful horseplayers that disdain the ‘All’ button because the practice ‘wastes’ bullets on ‘dead’ players–horses you don’t think can win. It makes perfect sense as a solid wagering tenet, however, sometimes the only way to have certain horses is by hitting the ‘All’ button. If a bomb should explode it will significantly thin the competition.

There’s no way I’m going to have the winner of the first leg of the Rainbow Six Saturday unless I use ‘All.’ Even after the race I couldn’t have soberly included Papa Y in the Rainbow Six without using everyone else, too. The colt was 0-for-4 and had been beaten by more than 21, 5, 18 and 8 lengths, respectively. His highest Beyer Speed Figure had been a 23 in August. He was being ridden by a 6% jockey for a 10% trainer. On the bright side, he had shown some speed in three of his races. The 0-3 favorite also had shown speed, against better competition, but had been beaten by more than 10, 8 and 5 lengths. He had posted Beyer Speed Figures of 40, 47, 51. He certainly was no single. The race required ‘spread’ tactics. Unfortunately, this writer and many others didn’t cast a wide enough net. ‘The ‘All’ button never loses!’


Playing the Rainbow Six is similar to a horserace. There’s only one way to win, but thousands of ways to lose. We’ve all experienced it. It’s an unforgiving wager. Make a mistake along the way and it’s ‘curtains’ for your investment. Ticket construction, therefore, is as important as handicapping…maybe more so. A player can make any number of errors while building a ticket—those of commission (wasting too many ‘empty’ combinations) and omission (not including enough ‘live’ runners), so the practice demands attention.


Saturday, my Rainbow Six play included a ‘spread’ in race 12–the final leg–where winner Café Americano ($4.80) was a Chad Brown first-time starter. That colt easily could have qualified as a ‘single.’ Of course, he was on my ticket, but so were too many empty wagers wasted on other runners. These poor strategical decisions make it nearly impossible to beat a difficult game.


My winning single came in the tenth race, Global Campaign ($3.40). Chad Brown trained Clause ($8.40), another first-time starter on turf, took the ninth. Add in the Mike Maker-trained Hembree ($7) as winner of the eleventh and, in hindsight, you’ve got the final four legs of a $100k Rainbow Six payoff that look fairly uncomplicated. Leg B of the wager was a bit tricky—before and after the fact. Winner Trilby ($26.60) was haveable, but only if a player went about 6 or 7 runners deep. Combos on my sheet that were wasted in the final race would have come in handy there, instead.


A reasonable rumor suggests that one Rainbow Six player, at Treasure Island in Las Vegas competing in the National Horseplayer’s Championship, had a winning sheet with the final three winners singled. Now, that’s a well-constructed ticket! Three singles at 20-cents a throw make it financially palatable to go ‘All’ in 1 or even 2 legs, if needed.


It’s critical for players to accurately assess the overall personality of a race. In other words, players must ask: Is this race Steve Martin or Queen Elizabeth? In other words, is the result liable to be ‘Wild and Crazy’ or as traditional as the Royal Family?


If a player incorrectly identifies a ‘Steve Martin’ as a ‘Queen Elizabeth,’ his chances of cashing a significant Rainbow Six ticket are significantly damaged. Cashing lucrative multi-leg wagers is difficult. Don’t ever believe otherwise. Wasted combinations almost always mean insufficient coverage elsewhere.


It’s going to take some time for the Gulfstream Park Rainbow Six carryover to grow into a similarly juicy mandatory payout pot–possibly March 30, Florida Derby day? A week ago, on the left coast, Santa Anita featured a nearly $2 million Rainbow Six carryover into a mandatory payout that was expected to reach a total of $10 million. Unfortunately, due to inclement weather, that card was disfigured by surface changes and scratches. The total pool for the wager stopped short at $5.2 million. Winning tickets were as plentiful as raingear and returned just $296.30 each—minus a deafening sound.


Race On!

On Track with Johnny D: That Deafening Sound

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