Forget about who Jimmy the Greek likes--or doesn't like--in the Super Bowl.
In case the Greek doesn't recover from a virus in time to make his prediction for CBS Sunday, the man the network ought to get as a replacement is Grady Van Hooser.
A disabled oil-rig worker, Van Hooser, 57, isn't a national name, but he's the hottest handicapper in town right now.
Wednesday, he hit the Pick Six at Santa Anita and collected $11,762.60.
Then Thursday, he took $1,152 of that payoff and bet it on the track's Pick Nine.
There were only two winning tickets, and Van Hooser held both of them, for a total return of $1,449,623.60, minus the 20% that goes to the federal government.
The payoff for one of Van Hooser's winning tickets--$724,811.80--was the fourth biggest for a Santa Anita Pick Nine since the bet was installed as an antidote for the state lottery at the Oak Tree meeting in the fall of 1985.
The record is held by Craig Phillips, the Hacienda Heights man who has made himself into an industry, selling his selections, since he hit a $1.9-million Pick Nine last year.
A scratch of a horse in Thursday's sixth race resulted in Van Hooser's holding both winning tickets.
He had Rufjan, the favorite who won the sixth race, in one of his combinations. But when Don's Irish Melody, another horse in the sixth, was scratched, Van Hooser, because of Pick Nine rules, was automatically given the favorite for the other ticket.
The Pick Nine pool had been building since opening day at Santa Anita, and no one had picked all nine winners for 21 days until Van Hooser succeeded.
The Pick Nine pool is heavily taxed--the state gets more than 20% of the bets as its commission. Santa Anita distributes 30% each day to the bettors who come closest to winning, with the remaining 70% carried over until somebody picks all nine winners.
Although Van Hooser was a Pick Nine winner last March, collecting $8,333, it is not one of his favorite bets.
"I don't bet it real often," he said. "I just felt that after making the Pick Six hit, I'd give it a shot."
On Thursday, Van Hooser also hit the daily double and the ninth-race exacta.
The $2 double paid $66.60, and the $5 exacta was worth $130.
"I was waiting in line to cash my exacta ticket when the announcement came that there were two winning Pick Nine tickets," Van Hooser said. "I knew I had them both."
The last four winners Thursday were favorites. The first race was won by the second favorite, and there were three fourth choices that won and one third choice. The longest shot of the day was the fourth-race winner, which paid $18.40.
Van Hooser's key horses--horses he singled with other combinations--were Forever Blue Jeans in the first, Live by the Sword in the second and Val de Roi in the ninth.
Live by the Sword was a 6-1 shot who won by three lengths. "I felt real good about that filly," Van Hooser said. "She had made a big move in one of her earlier races."
Asked if he had any immediate plans for his money, Van Hooser said: "I'm just going to hang in, and keep fighting those hayburners."
By the way, Van Hooser likes the Broncos in the Super Bowl.