The New York Racing Association will on Saturday host a Cross Country Pick 5 featuring races from Belmont Park and Monmouth Park, with the sequence including the New Jersey track's first graded races of the season along with the Paradise Creek, which marks Grade 1 winner Fog of War's return.
It begins with Race 9 in New Jersey, the Salvator Mile (G3), at 4:31 p.m. Et, and runs through Race 10 at Belmont Park, an optional claiming turf sprint at 6:24 p.m..
The Cross Country Pick 5 is a 50-cent minimum wager.
Once again, I will use one of my favorite cost-effective Pick 5 wagering strategies, the spread ticket formula. It would cost $480 to lump all of my contenders on one ticket, but the spread ticket formula knocks the price down to a more affordable $64.
Monmouth Race 9 (G3 Salvator Mile, 8f)
Primary - #2 Sunny Ridge, #3 Diamond King
Secondary - #4 Nanoosh, #8 Bal Harbour
Comments - #2 Sunny Ridge (2-1) is usually in the mix, but his 1-for-9 record in 2018 and 2019 is a concern. One mile is not his best distance, either, and he lost this race as the favorite last year. However, this race might set up for a two-time local winner. #3 Diamond King (5-2) exits a clear place finish in the Charles Town Classic (G2), and this shorter distance helps his cause. He reconnects with his winning rider Frankie Pennington and looks like a strong threat from start to finish. #4 Nanoosh (6-1) may not have cared for the bullring oval at Charles Town last time. I like his tactical speed, and this distance looks just about right. #8 Bal Harbour (4-1) does some of his best work at one mile and he runs well fresh for sharp layoff trainer Todd Pletcher.
Monmouth Park Race 10 (OC-12.5k/1x, NY-bred, 6f)
Primary - #5 Visionary Ruler, #9 Optic Way
Secondary - #1 Party On Prospect, #2 Smithwick’s Spice
Comments - #5 Visionary Ruler (3-1) won six races last year and hinted at that kind of form in a runner-up finish in a similar local spot May 4. He was claimed out of that heat and should make his presence felt throughout under Joe Bravo. #9 Optic Way (7-2) turned back and ended up a length and a half behind Visionary Ruler last time. The 4-year-old gelding might be better over a route of ground. #1 Party On Prospect (9-2) upset my top two choices that same day. He won’t be 15-1 this time. #2 Smithwick’s Spice (5-1) ran well in all three starts last year and projects an inner tactical trip. This is his first start in more than seven months.
Monmouth Park Race 11 (G2 Monmouth Stakes, 9T)
Primary - #1 Monarchs Glen, #2 Almanaar
Secondary - #7 Synchrony
Comments - #1 Monarchs Glen (8-1) probably found one mile too short in his first start in this country in the Opening Verse Stakes at Churchill on May 2. He was a decent turf runner in Europe, and two of his five wins were at this distance. #2 Almanaar (3-1) lost his way late last year but can certainly claim top honors if he rediscovers his sharp form from the 2017 Fort Lauderdale (G2) through the 2018 Arlington Million (G1). It looks like Joe Bravo chose him over #7 Synchrony (9-2). The latter removes blinkers and likes this course and distance, but he has lost four of his last five starts.
Belmont Park Race 9 (Paradise Creek)
Primary - #2 Fog of War
Secondary - #1 Strike Silver, #4 Pole Setter, #7 Mucho
Comments - #2 Fog of War (8-5) won both of his starts last year including a victory over War of Will in the Summer Stakes (G1). Chad Brown is a strong layoff trainer, and he figures to stalk the pace under Javier Castellano. #1 Strike Silver (6-1) is a turf sprint stakes winner trying one mile for the first time. Sharp turf rider Irad Ortiz Jr. takes the call. #4 Pole Setter (9-2) is back on turf for quality trainer Brad Cox. He graduated in his turf route debut at Ellis Park last summer. #7 Mucho (3-1) switches surfaces for Bill Mott and his dam has produced two turf winners.
Belmont Park Race 10 (OC-62.5k/2x, 6f inner turf)
Primary - #1 Fig Jelly, #7 Final Frontier
Secondary - #2 My Ty One On, #3 Pagliacci, #5 Battle Station
Comments - #1 Fig Jelly (7-2) finished second in his last three turf sprints at five panels. His last win was at this course/distance last summer, and Irad Ortiz Jr. takes the mount. #7 Final Frontier (3-1) turned back and dusted next-out winner Dirty at this distance at Aqueduct when last seen November of 2018. He could easily return running for Jose Ortiz and Tom Albertrani. #2 Mai Ty One On (15-1) had a very good year in 2018 and tries to pick up where he left off in his first start in more than seven months. Saturday's rider, Javier Castellano, was aboard for one of his turf sprint wins at Gulfstream last year. #3 Pagliacci (6-1) should get pace to chase and is not out of this for Bill Mott. #5 Battle Station (9-2) makes his first start since November 2018 for the productive John Velazquez/Wesley Ward team. He looms a pace factor at the very least.