Belmont Park’s two Grade 1s share the stage with the biggest day on Horseshoe Indianapolis’ schedule to create this week’s all-stakes Cross Country Pick 5.
The New York Racing Association starts this week’s Cross Country Pick 5 at home with the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational. The 10-filly field of 3-year-olds comes with a heavy European flavor, with half the field shipping in from across the Atlantic.
Leading the invaders is Agartha, who won two group events as a 2-year-old before finishing fifth in her last start, the Group 1 Irish 1,000 Guineas. Europe’s top trainer, Aidan O’Brien, has a presence with Group 1-placed Concert Hall. Chad Brown has a presence as well. He sends out the trio of Consumer Spending, McKulick, and Haughty. Consumer Spending won four of her last five, including the Grade 2 Wonder Again.
The second leg of the sequence is Big Sandy’s flagship event, the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational. The brother event to the Belmont Oaks Invitational, the Belmont Derby sends its 13 sophomores 10 furlongs on the grass. It’s the first race in the NYRA’s Turf Triple Series.
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It’s also a race that is staggeringly deep for horseplayers. The depth starts with European invaders Nations Pride and Stone Age. Trainer Charlie Appleby’s Nations Pride had his four-race winning streak snapped with an eighth in the Epsom Derby. Before that, he hadn’t missed the exacta in five races (4-1-0). O’Brien’s Stone Age had his two-race win streak snapped with a sixth in the Epsom Derby.
Todd Pletcher answers with graded stakes winners Grand Sonata and Emmanuel. Grand Sonata comes in off a third in the Audubon at Churchill Downs. Emmanuel comes in off a successful transition to the turf in the Grade 2 Pennine Ridge. And Kenny McPeek sends out Kentucky Derby expats Tiz the Bomb (who finished ninth) and turf newcomer Classic Causeway (11th).
That wraps up Belmont Park’s contribution to this week’s Cross Country Pick 5 and sends matters west to Indianapolis for the last three legs. The first of those is the Jonathan B. Schuster Memorial. This 1 1/16-mile turf test comes with a field of 12, along with two also-eligibles.
Ivar is back in an unfamiliar spot
The horse most eyes will gravitate toward is Grade 1 winner Ivar, who returns for the first time in seven months. The last time we saw Ivar was when he finished seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last November. If you want someone a little fresher, there’s Somelikeithotbrown, who arrives off a fifth in the Black-Type Kingston Stakes at Belmont Park in late May. The 6-year-old multiple-graded stakes winner went 2-2-1 in six races last year.
The fourth leg of the Cross Country Pick 5 is the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks. That sends its eight 3-year-olds 1 1/16 miles, led by two Brad Cox choices, Interstatedaydream and Patna. Interstatedaydream arrives off her sensational victory in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan held on Preakness weekend at Pimlico. Patna makes her stakes debut after winning a first-level Churchill Downs allowance by 3 1/4 lengths.
The Cross Country Pick 5 wraps up with the Grade 3 Indiana Derby, where we see the return of Grade 2 Rebel Stakes winner Un Ojo. The one-eyed gelding hasn’t run since finishing a disappointing eighth in the Arkansas Derby. He makes his debut for new trainer Robertino Diodoro, who inherited the horse after a bone bruise knocked him out of the Preakness.
Cross Country Pick 5
|Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1)
|Belmont Derby Invitational (G1)
|Indiana Oaks (G3)
|Indiana Derby (G3)
It won’t be an easy comeback. Not with Cox’s undefeated Best Actor going for his third consecutive victory. And not with McPeek audaciously bringing back Grade 1 winner Rattle N Roll a week after he won the American Derby at Churchill Downs. Steve Asmussen brings in Texas Derby winner King Ottoman as well.
The Cross Country Pick 5 carries a 50-cent minimum and a 15% takeout. Equibase past performances are available here.