NATURALLY, our first reaction, on reading Tuesday's Mark Six winner had failed to collect the $38 million prize, was to recheck the numbers. Sadly, as you will immediately realise, the Week Ending family ticket did not carry the winning combination. If it had been the winning ticket - if, for that matter, it had won us even second or third prize - we would hardly be broadcasting the news to you lot, would we? Of course, if it had been you, Joe Punter, winning the jackpot, we would expect your name to appear in the newspapers. But we journalists are entitled to a little privacy. It did, however, set us thinking. What sort of person or group would let that kind of money slip through their hands? And we realised Week Ending, for one, would certainly fit the description. Now, before you get the wrong idea about Tuesday's winner, we do not wish to jump to conclusions. Just because he or she had not collected the money by Thursday night does not mean the same will be true by the time you read this. Even if the winner has not come forward two weeks from now, it means nothing. The deadline is 60 days. The winner may be out of town or sick or simply someone who, like Week Ending buys a ticket for 10 draws and sometimes waits a couple of weeks before heading off to the Jockey Club to check the results. But 60 days from now, it is perfectly possible Punter X will still not have checked his or her ticket and the money will simply be forfeit and passed on to charity. According to the Jockey Club's media secretary, Cheng Kwok-ming, many winning tickets are not cashed in. This year alone, $51 million had yet to be collected. The winner of the $31 million Christmas Superjackpot in 1996 would be mad, if only they knew. But it might just be you. Or your husband. Or it might be Week Ending. It is not a question of not finding the time to check or forgetting to check. What normal person would forget to check if they thought they had the remotest chance of winning $38 million? The awful thing is that in order to forget to check, you have to have stopped believing you will win. There has to be a profound cynicism about you, a deep-seated lack of faith in Lady Luck. Ten years of doing the Mark Six fairly regularly and all we have won is $100. Once. Years ago, when it was still possible to win just $100. Apparently, they have raised the minimum since then. Yet that was at a time when we would still make that special journey to the Jockey Club with a spring in our step. We would be planning to buy a couple of extra tickets because, well, because we just felt lucky that day. We do not seriously believe that kind of juvenile stuff any more. As a Capricorn, Week Ending was born under the influence of Saturn. That is supposed to make us mature and sensible and not prone to flights of wild fancy. We are permitted to believe in astrology, but not in outrageous good fortune. And after a decade of disappointment, it is hard to convince old Saturn to take a back seat and not be such a killjoy. And so the visits to the Jockey Club to check the ticket have become fewer. Sometimes, we even forget to renew our 10-draw ticket and walk around with a dud, out-of-date ticket in our wallet. And if the Week Ending numbers do come up, we will not notice. Or it will be just our bad luck because the ticket will be out of date. But the numbers will not come up. So there is nothing to lose, is there? At this point, you might be forgiven for asking the obvious question. Why, if we are so pessimistic, do we keep buying tickets? All right. You win. It is all a front. We just put on a show of cynicism to protect that innocent child-like soul within, the incurable optimist who still believes he will pocket $38 million just by marking off six random numbers on a card. The same numbers every draw, because statistically (oh yeah?) they have to come up one day. But we will still fail to collect our winnings. We cannot quite bring ourselves to say 'Get thee behind me, Saturn!' every Wednesday and Friday morning and check that losing ticket. It is just so much less painful to pretend that hope is for wimps.