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Off-Track Pick Six Hit Was Off the Charts

Two South Dakota men turned an $8 Breeders' Cup ticket into more than $2.7 million.

October 29, 2003|Bob Mieszerski | Times Staff Writer

Before Saturday, Graham Stone hadn't bet on a horse race since the Kentucky Derby.

He and partner Will Dixon -- they have split numerous bets over the years -- didn't fare well that day, since neither of his key horses, Empire Maker and Ats-whatimtalknabout, won the Derby.

Things went a whole lot better on Breeders' Cup day. In a truly amazing handicapping feat, Stone, 40, had the only winning ticket in the Breeders' Cup ultra pick six. For an $8 investment, he and Dixon, 39, cashed for $2,687,611.60, before taxes, plus a pair of consolations worth $18,663.80 apiece.

Stone, a wholesale jeweler in Rapid City, S.D., married and the father of three children, singled four of the winners: Six Perfections, who took the Mile at 5-1; Islington, who won the Filly and Mare Turf at 5-2; High Chaparral, who shared the victory in a dead heat with Johar in the Turf; and Pleasantly Perfect, the 14-1 upsetter in the Classic. He then doubled the Sprint to get 22-1 shot Cajun Beat and the Juvenile to come up with 26-1 outsider Action This Day.

Introduced to horse racing by his sister Donna, who used to manage an off-track betting facility in Rapid City, Stone has been a fan since picking Alphabet Soup the day that horse surprised Cigar in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Woodbine in 1996.

He also won a few thousand dollars on the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in 1999, but what Stone did Saturday was a bettor's bonanza.

Living far from any tracks, Stone has never seen a race in person. Still, he said, until his mother-in-law became ill last year, he had frequently visited the Time Out Lounge, a local restaurant-bar and off-track betting parlor. He used his home computer to get information from various Web sites, including past performances from the Daily Racing Form.

On Saturday, he and Dixon spent another $36 apiece on some rolling pick threes. Stone placed the bets, then went home to watch the races on television.

He was watching while coloring with his 5-year-old son when he saw Six Perfections win the Mile. Then Cajun Beat took the Sprint, Islington won the Filly and Mare Turf, and Action This Day rallied from far back in the Juvenile.

"I told the kids they had to go upstairs," he said. "I had to be by myself, and then I started pacing."

Next was the Turf, the dead heat. He thought High Chaparral had won the 1 1/2-mile race, but he had to sweat the photo finish.

"I just about had a stroke waiting for the photo to come down," he said.

It was 13 minutes before it was determined that High Chaparral and Johar had tied.

Then, after Pleasantly Perfect had won the Classic, Stone went to the Santa Anita Web site on his computer, looking for the pick-six results.

"I saw $18,000 and I was a little disappointed," he said. "I thought some people would have it, but I didn't think it would be that many."

Then he realized that payoff was for five of six winners. He scrolled down and saw the next figure -- $2,687,611 -- and called his wife.

"She was shocked," he said.

Saying that he doesn't expect the windfall to change his life and that he plans to put most of the money away, Stone revealed how he came up with the horses he used.

"I was looking for a closer in the Mile because there was a ton of speed in the race," he said. "I chose Six Perfections because of Jerry Bailey. I think he's the best jockey in the world.

"In the Sprint, I used [favored] Aldebaran because I thought he was the class of the race, but I wasn't sure about six furlongs being his best distance.

"I saw on the Daily Racing Form Web site that [Washington Post columnist] Andy Beyer had picked Cajun Beat, and that's the only reason I used him as my second horse in the Sprint.

"I liked Islington because I thought, by far, she was the best horse in the race last year and should have won.

"Tiger Hunt [who finished third] was the horse I liked best in the Juvenile, but ... Action This Day looked like he was improving and he would like the distance. I was going to use Falbrav [who finished a close third] in the Turf, but, and I don't know why, I decided to use High Chaparral instead.

"I picked Pleasantly Perfect because I like horses in their second race after a layoff, and I kind of liked him last year when he was supposed to run in the Classic and then didn't."

Given the pick-six scandal of a year ago that led to the imprisonment of three men, Breeders' Cup officials did a thorough check into the authenticity of Stone's ticket.

Stone understood the scrutiny, saying he'd been bothered by what transpired a year ago. Those successful pick threes he bet Saturday were worth an additional $4,200 to Stone, who says he may live one dream with his winnings.

"I've always wanted to go to Saratoga," he said, indicating he will visit there next summer.

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