That Moment When Pick 6 Mania Swept Over Ak-Sar-Ben

Profile Picture: Ed DeRosa

Ed DeRosa

March 22nd, 2016

On Friday, June 21, 1985, no one picked 6 at Ak-Sar-Ben, and the $725,327 (Ak-Pic-Six) pool carried over into Saturday.

This was such big news (just watch that reaction 45 seconds into the video below) that the sportscast on the Omaha nightly news led with the Pick 6, reporting “nearly twice as many people showed up today [Friday] trying to find the right combination for the Pick 6.”

Ross Jernstrom was live on site and said, “It looked more like a Saturday at Ak-sar-ben; the Pick 6 attracted a crowd of more than 20,000.”

Before the news went on to detail the winners of all eight races with their payouts, Jernstrom signed off from Ak-sar-ben telling people, “Ak-sar-ben says they will open the mutuel windows at 12:30.”

I’m not afraid to admit that everything about imagining this scene gives me chills. From the crowd (31,630), to its reaction, to the news covering it, and to the reminder of how exciting gambling on horse racing can be.

This was the second-largest crowd in track history (short of the 31,969 who attended on July 10, 1982), but what it lacked in record numbers it made up for in handle, however, betting a record $3,519,883.

This was before the era of simulcasting, so all that money was on track, and I’d like to think that some wagering syndicates sent a lieutenant or two in an attempt to raid that kind of pot. Heck, maybe even Warren Buffet himself tried to take advantage of the overlay as he is wont to do.

When the dust settled Saturday, there were nine winners who cashed for $145,123 each. One of the winners, Willie Woloridge, described his handicapping methods before adding that he planned to buy his daughter and son houses.

“I use post positions, past performance, and the jockey—you know, the way the horses performed last time, but my system still working, though!” Woloridge said. “I’m overjoyed, very overjoyed.”

Sadly, neither Willie, who died 20 months later, nor Ak-Sar-Ben, which closed in 1995, are with us anymore, but kudos to Joe Anania, who helps their legacy live on through a Youtube channel that also includes footage of Who Doctor Who winning the 1989 Nebraksaland Handicap (and unless my ears deceive me, that’s Terry Wallace on the mic).

For more great Ak-Sar-Ben memories, visit