How Darin Zoccali scooped Indiana Grand's Pick 5 July 26

July 27th, 2021

I had a horse running Monday afternoon at Indiana Grand, and she happened to kick off a Pick 5 sequence. This marked an opportunity to turn a Pick 5 into a Pick 4, because I always single the horses we own.

How the Indiana Grand Pick 5 sequence was built

First Leg

When looking at the sequence, our horse, Threatlevelmidnite, was going to be longest shot on the board in a field of six, but that didn’t bother me. We believed she was going to do her best work on turf as opposed to the synthetic surfaces she had been running over recently, so if we were right, maybe she could wire the field. Of course, I bet her to win, too.

Second Leg

The second leg was an Indiana-bred allowance where I felt there were four win contenders that I had a hard time separating. I didn’t mind including the favorite because if ‘Midnite won the first leg, I would be alive with the longest shot in that field. So I used 1, 4, 5, and 7 to try and advance.

Third Leg

Race 7 marked the third leg. It was a difficult race that, so I put a decision on hold as I decided I needed to see what the last two legs looked like before making any choices. I'm glad that I did.

Fourth Leg

The fourth leg of the sequence was a two-year-old maiden special weight for Indiana-breds in which eight of the 12 runners were first-time starters. This was clearly a spread race. After looking at the race, I decided I needed to use six of the runners. I used the favorite because, in the back of my mind, I knew I didn’t like the chalk in the third leg. This race was the most difficult on paper and demanded using as many horses as I could, and he was logical facing restricted company for the first time.

Fifth Leg

The last leg was another puzzle -- maiden claimers on the turf -- and it needed coverage. I ended up including five of the eight runners with no strong opinion.

Further Pick 5 Strategy

Back to the third leg. I now realized that every horse I used in this race would cost $60. As I looked at the race, I liked one horse a lot and several others I deemed contenders. It was either single the horse I really liked, or spend $360 on this ticket. I decided to single Heaven’s Escape because I am a man on a budget, and I wouldn’t let fear of losing dictate how I played the ticket. I trusted my handicapping.

The races begin. Threatlevelmidnite wins wire-to-wire, and as an owner I'm euphoric. Then the objection sign illuminates. As an owner, I knew what a disqualification would have meant. As a bettor, I had no clue at this point. After about five minutes, the announcer declares no change. Whew!

One of the four horses I used wins the second leg without any drama. Now we get to the third leg. Heaven’s Escape, on the class drop, sits a stalking second, moves to the lead, and wins by a long neck at 9-1. Things are getting interesting after three winners at 12-1, 7-2 and 9-1.

Now we get to the two-year-old maiden race. At the quarter pole, any concerns were alleviated. The first five horses were all on my ticket and nobody was really closing, but lightning struck as the longest of my six, Metallic Man, won at 21-1, and I am alive to five horses. The will-pays come up and I have the only ticket alive, for nearly $54,000, regardless of which horse wins. This can’t be happening.

The race goes off without any real drama. Two of my horses are battling down the stretch, and one of them, Dreamful, begins to pull away as a clear winner and completing a day you can only dream about. An allowance win as an owner and a $54,000 Pick 5!