The New York Racing Association keeps its Cross Country Pick 5 in-house this week, including races exclusively on Belmont Park’s Man o’ War Day card.

Bella Sofia-Cross Country Pick 5 Vagrancy
Bella Sofia and Luis Saez pointed the way to the Grade 1 Test Stakes winner’s circle last summer at Saratoga. She is one to watch in the Cross Country Pick 5’s opening leg — the Vagrancy Stakes. (Image: NYRA Photo)

All five races are graded stakes events, the five on Belmont Park’s Saturday card. That card features 11 races total and is the center of this weekend’s North American racing universe in the weekend between the Kentucky Derby and next Saturday’s Preakness Stakes from Pimlico Race Course.

This week’s Cross Country Pick 5 opens with Belmont’s third race: the Grade 3 Vagrancy. That 6 1/2-furlong sprint on the main track is for fillies and mares 4-and-up and its contenders start with Bella Sofia. Last year’s winner of the Grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga, Bella Sofia opens her 2022 campaign six months after finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Del Mar.

She may be pushed by Miss Brazil, who seeks her first graded stakes score. Coming in off an April allowance win, she does have a black-type victory, in the Ruthless Stakes 16 months ago at Aqueduct. But Miss Brazil’s lone graded stakes outing produced a third in the Grade 3 Victory Ride at Belmont last July.

Three stakes winners sprint for supremacy

Three Aqueduct stakes winners headline the second leg: the Grade 3 Runhappy Stakes. The six-furlong race features Officiating, the Grade 3 Tom Fool winner tangling with Drafted, the Grade 3 Toboggan winner. Waiting for both is Chateau, who won the Gravesend last December and finished second to Officiating in the Tom Fool.

Officiating comes in off a fourth against fellow Florida-breds in the Tampa Bay Downs Sprint in April. Drafted arrives off a distant fifth in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap on the Wood Memorial undercard in April.

The day’s lone Grade 1, the Man o’ War, is the Cross Country Pick 5’s middle leg. The 1 3/8-mile inner turf race brings Eclipse Award-winning Yibir back to the US for the first time since he claimed the Breeders’ Cup Turf last fall. Yibir knows Belmont Park well, taking the Jockey Club Derby last September as a warm-up for his Breeders’ Cup victory. That victory carried him to his Champion Male Turf Horse title.

Gufo seeking Man o’ War redemption

Not to be ignored here is Gufo, who finished a nose behind Channel Cat in last year’s Man o’ War. The 5-year-old Declaration of War progeny missed the board once in 15 races (8-2-4). That came with an uncharacteristic 10th in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf. He comes in off a two-length win as the 7/5 favorite in the Grade 2 Pan American at Gulfstream Park in April.

The Grade 3 Peter Pan in Leg 4 figures to be a pivotal race in this week’s Cross Country Pick 5. This 1 1/8-mile race serves as the local prep for next month’s Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. And it figures to be a contentious race with Western RIver tangling with Rodolphe Brisset stablemate We the People.

A Tapit progeny and the full brother to 2016 Belmont Stakes winner Creator, Western River makes his graded stakes debut off a maiden-breaking Oaklawn Park outing April 2. That came on fifth ask with a career 98 Equibase Speed Figure. We the People, meanwhile, arrives off a miserable seventh in the Arkansas Derby. Complete Agenda will try giving Todd Pletcher his fifth Peter Pan score.

NYRA Cross Country Pick 5

Leg Race Track Time (ET)
Leg A Vagrancy Stakes (G3) Belmont Park 2:05 p.m.
Leg B Runhappy Stakes (G3) Belmont Park 3:06 p.m.
Leg C Man o’ War Stakes (G1) Belmont Park 4:46 p.m.
Leg D Peter Pan Stakes (G3) Belmont Park 5:19 p.m.
Leg E Beaugay Stakes (G3) Belmont Park 5:50 p.m.

Wrapping up this week’s Cross Country Pick 5 is the Grade 3 Beaugay Stakes. This 1 1/16-mile turf test for older fillies and mares features Group 1 winner Rougir, who makes her first start for Chad Brown. The winner of the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera last October, Rougir finished a distant seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf last out.

Waiting for her is stablemate Lemista, the runner-up in this race last year. She hasn’t run in nine months, or since her third-place outing in the Grade 1 Beverly D at Arlington Park.

The Cross Country Pick 5 comes with a 50-cent minimum bet and 15% takeout. It’s available on ADW platforms and simulcast facilities nationwide.

You can get free Equibase past performances for all Cross Country Pick 5 races here.

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