One of the strongest New York Racing Association Cross Country Pick 5 offerings of the year awaits horseplayers this week. It presents an all-graded stakes sequence featuring two Grade 1s, two Grade 2s, and a strong Grade 3.
And Kentucky Derby trail watchers, this wager is for you. Two of the five races in the sequence are Derby preps: the Grade 2 Wood Memorial from Aqueduct and the Grade 1 Blue Grass from Keeneland. A third is the Grade 3 Gazelle, Aqueduct’s major Kentucky Oaks prep.
The Wood Memorial is the second race of the five-race sequence and one of three from Aqueduct. The 100-40-20-10 Derby points up for grabs will guarantee at least the first two finishers spots in the May 7 Derby. Eight 3-year-olds are vying for those points.
Three of them come in unbeaten, including Morello, Early Voting, and Barese. Steve Asmussen’s Morello won the Grade 3 Gotham last month. Chad Brown’s Early Voting captured the Grade 3 Withers in February, and Mike Maker’s Barese fattened up his resume in two state-bred races.
Blue Grass gives you three unbeaten choices
The next race is the Blue Grass where 12 more sophomores will vie for those 170 Derby points. This deep field features Smile Happy, seeking redemption after his first career defeat in three races — a second in the Risen Star last month.
Waiting for Smile Happy is Rebel Stakes runner up Ethereal Road and Smile Happy’s stablemate in Kenny McPeek’s barn, Rattle N Roll. The latter seeks redemption for his fourth in the Louisiana Derby in his first start in four months. El Camino Real Derby winner Blackadder, recently transferred from Bob Baffert’s barn to Rodolphe Brisset’s, will also be in the mix.
The final two legs return to Aqueduct, starting with Leg 4 and the Grade 1 Carter Handicap. This eight-horse field of older sprinters offers race favorite Speaker’s Corner coming in off a strong victory in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Mile. But there’s Todd Pletcher’s Mind Control, improving Green Light Go, and Reinvestment Risk who returned with a solid victory in a February allowance.
Venti Valentine shows plenty of heart
The final Cross Country Pick 5 leg is the Grade 3 Gazelle, which offers 100-40-20-10 Oaks qualifying points to the top four finishers in the 1 1/8-mile race. Matters start here with 7/5 favorite Venti Valentine, fresh off a victory in the Busher Invitational last month.
They continue with Classy Edition who finished second to the impressive Kathleen O in the Grade 2 Davona Dale at Gulfstream. Kathleen O stamped herself as a serious Kentucky Oaks contender when she won the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks in her next outing. Morning Matcha and Shotgun Hottie are stakes-placed and could also figure.
This week’s Cross Country Pick 5 opens at Keeneland with the Grade 2 Shakertown. Because this 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint is at Keeneland, all eyes are on Wesley Ward’s Golden Pal. One of the top horses from Keeneland’s top trainer makes his 4-year-old debut after winning his second Breeders’ Cup race in as many years. That was last fall’s Turf Sprint.
NYRA Cross Country Pick 5
|Wood Memorial (G2)
|Blue Grass (G1)
|Carter Handicap (G1)
He will be challenged by multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire Diamond Oops who was last seen finishing second to Speaker’s Corner in the Gulfstream Park Mile. Diamond Oops hasn’t won since taking a Gulfstream Park handicap last June — six races and 10 months ago.
Also factoring in the mix will be The Lir Jet, who makes his 4-year-old debut coming out of a victory in the Grade 2 Franklin-Simpson at Kentucky Downs last September.
The Cross Country Pick 5 comes with a minimum 50 cent wager and a 15% takeout. Each week features a mandatory payout of the net pool. The wager is available on ADW platforms and simulcast facilities.
Free past performances for the Cross Country Pick 5 are available here.