Feb 2, 2021
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Between The Hedges: Inside the Cross Country Pick 5

by NYRA Press Office

  • Between The Hedges: Inside the Cross Country Pick 5
  • Bi-weekly stat pack
  • The Big Ticket: Cross Country Pick 5 returns $62,515
  • A look back…a look ahead
  • NYRA Bets upcoming promotions

The Cross-Country Pick 5 wagers were conceived with the idea of collaborating with other tracks to showcase the best races that the industry has to offer.

The wager also serves as an opportunity to shine the spotlight on events the larger racing public may not be aware of, like the Far Hills Races, which offers a stakes-laden card each fall highlighted by the Grade 1 Grand National Hurdle. The success of the Cross Country Pick 5 wager is not necessarily measured by pool size as much as it is by increased exposure for our partners and the good of our industry as a whole.

The Cross Country concept really picked up speed during 2018 with Cross Country Pick 4s running from February through late October. During 2018 there were 11 wagers averaging $96,852 per pool. Heading into 2019, it was clear the trend in Pick Ns [multi-race sequences] were shifting towards the Pick 5, so the decision was made to shift the Cross Country wager from a Pick 4 to a Pick 5, as well as keeping the pool retail.

Most customers were in favor of the lower takeout [15 percent] and the bigger payouts allotted by the shift to a Cross Country Pick 5 format. A total of 36 Cross Country Pick 5 pools were hosted in 2019 averaging $94,215 per pool with the largest pool boasting $250,764, when partnering with Keeneland Race Course on April 6th for an all-graded sequence anchored by a trio of Grade 1 races, including the Carter Handicap from Aqueduct and the Madison and Ashland from Keeneland. The smallest Cross Country Pick 5 pool was $17,637 held on Kentucky Derby Day in partnership with Oaklawn and Woodbine.

The Pick 5 pool continued in 2020 with the only real change being a commitment to hosting one every Saturday for the sake of consistency. Much like post times [a topic for later] and race day schedule, it is critical to the wager’s success that our customers know there will be a Cross Country Pick 5 offered each and every Saturday.

In 2020, the Cross Country Pick 5 wager extended into November for the first time and was offered on each race day that month when racing from both Aqueduct and Churchill Downs was offered with the full sequence being televised on the NYRA produced America’s Day at the Races broadcast.

The average pool size jumped to $124,853 over 39 pools in 2020. The largest pool of $318,478 was on June 27th in partnership with Churchill Downs and Thistledown that featured an all graded-stakes sequence which included the Grade 1 Just a Game and Grade 2 True North from Belmont along with the Grade 2 Stephen Foster and Grade 3 Regret from Churchill and the Grade 3 Ohio Derby from Thistledown.

The smallest pool was $43,843 on the rescheduled Kentucky Derby Day of September 5th, in a pool partnering with Monmouth Park, Woodbine, and Delaware Park. Not surprisingly, the two smallest pools over the past two years were on Kentucky Derby Day.

Tracks participating in the Cross Country Pick 5 in 2020 included Churchill Downs, Delaware Park, Del Mar, Ellis Park, Keeneland, Monmouth Park, Oaklawn Park, Tampa Bay Downs, Thistledown, Turfway Park, and Woodbine Racetrack. In 2019, the Cross Country Pick 5 also partnered with Charlestown, Far Hills, Finger Lakes, Lone Star Park, Parx Racing, and Penn National.

Free past performances were offered in 2020 for all broadcasted races in addition to all Cross-Country Pick 5 wagers through a partnership with Equibase. That partnership has been extended for 2021. Past performance downloads reached 11,500 per week during the peak of the racing season and certainly contributed to the 31 percent increase in daily average pool.

When constructing the wager, the first step in creation of the sequence is a review of the NYRA stakes schedule, as well as the nationwide stakes schedule. With the potential stakes races selected, I reach out to the individual tracks to see if they would be interested in participating. I work with the racing offices at each partnering track on race placement as well as post times with the ideal sequence taking under an hour from start to finish, which helps put money back into circulation and generate churn. Races are chosen based on their competitiveness, field size, surface, and race order. I try to add variety along the way with all turf sequences, five tracks, all graded stakes, and occasionally some standardbred or steeplechase races.

A lot of our customers ask why certain tracks do not participate, and the reasons vary. Some states have restrictions that in order for them to participate, they must host the pool. Other tracks, on certain days, offer pool guarantees that could be in jeopardy if their marquee races are involved in other wagers.

The Cross Country Pick 5 wager has been lucrative both due to competitive racing in a stakes-rich sequence and the fact that it is a retail-only pool. Cross Country Pick 5 payouts in 2020 ranged from $57 up to $88,940, with an average of $9,233. In 2019, the highest payout was $43,159, while the lowest return was $160, with an average payout of $8,110. The wager almost always outperformed the parlay.

For more information on the Cross Country Pick 5, visit

Send your questions for Between The Hedges to [email protected]


Bi-weekly stat pack

The bi-weekly stat pack provides a snapshot of who's hot over the past two weeks at the Big A versus year-to-date, including Top Trainer by ROI; Top Jockey by ROI; and Top Jockey and Trainer Combination by wins.

Also featured in this report is a listing of the highest mutuel payouts of the past two weeks versus year-to-date, as well as a look at NYRA's bi-weekly handle, including average field size; number of race days; and daily average handle.

Over the past two weeks, jockey Eric Cancel and trainer Linda Rice have combined to win four of seven starts for an ROI of $3.63. The Cancel-Rice combo could be a profitable one over the remainder of the Big A winter meet with news that Jose Lezcano – often first call for Rice – will be out for up to eight weeks to have knee and shoulder surgery.

Trainer Robert Klesaris stands out with an ROI of $10.53, having won 3-of-8 starts over the period January 16 – 31. Winners for Klesaris over the past two weeks include Cadeau de Paix [$39.60], Joycee Haz Pizzaz [$4.40] and Seven Lilies [$40.20].

For a closer look at the bi-weekly stat pack, please click this link


The Big Ticket: Cross Country Pick 5 returns $62,515

On January 30, 2021, the Cross Country Pick 5 returned $62,515 for a $0.50 wager as one of the more memorable wagers of the season thus far. This single winning ticket, which cost $256, was constructed as follows: 1,4,6,7/1,3,4,5/2,7,8,10/5,7/5,7,9,12

Aqueduct kicked off the wager with a big-price score when Seven Lilies defeated fellow New York breds in a six-furlong allowance contest in Race 8. Trained by Robert Klesaris and ridden by Luis Cardenas, Seven Lilies returned $40.20 on a $2 win wager, besting a six-horse field as the 19-1 longest shot in the six-horse field.

The sequence’s lone stakes race saw Will’s Secret win the $200,000 Martha Washington, a 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Oaks qualifier for 3-year-old fillies going one mile in Oaklawn’s Race 5. Will’s Secret, conditioned by Dallas Stewart and ridden by Jon Court, drew away by 5 1/4 lengths at odds of 8-1 ($18) to best odds-on favorite Coach.

Tampa Bay hosted the third leg when 7-1 shot Captivance won by a nose against mutuel favorite Rastafara in a maiden special weight for 3-year-old fillies in Race 8. Although the winning ticket had both horses in the photo, the winning debut by Captivance, trained by Christophe Clement with Hector Diaz, Jr. in the irons, was a profitable result returning $17.60.

A nervous moment for the winning horseplayer came in the penultimate leg when one of his two selections – No. 5, Five Tool Player – was scratched at the gate in Race 9 at the Big A. While the post-time favorite Clemenza prompted the pace and faded to fifth, the ticket stayed alive with its second selection – No. 7, Mystic Night – who rallied to a 2 3/4-length score to provide Manny Franco his fourth win on the card in the one-turn mile for maidens. The Chad Brown trainee returned $7.30.

With four horses alive to complete the ticket in Race 6 from Oaklawn, the favored The Mary Rose posted a 1 1/2-length allowance win. The player’s three other selections ran seventh through ninth. The Mary Rose, trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Martin Garcia, paid $6.40.

The minimum bet for the multi-track, multi-race wager is 50 cents. Wagering on the Cross Country Pick 5 is also available on track, on ADW platforms, and at simulcast facilities across the country. Every week will feature a mandatory payout of the net pool.

The Cross Country Pick 5 will continue each Saturday throughout the year. For more information, visit


A look back…a look ahead

American Power captured Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Toboggan, a seven-furlong sprint for older horses on the main track paying $9.80 to provide trainer Rob Atras his first graded stakes win. Read the full recap here:

On Sunday, Hello Hot Rod dug in gamely to capture the $100,000 Jimmy Winkfield, returning $4.80 in the seven-furlong sprint for sophomores. Read the details here: 

Next weekend features a return to Kentucky Derby qualifying at the Big A with Saturday’s card headlined by the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers at nine furlongs offering 10-4-2-1 points to the top-four finishers.

On Sunday, sophomore fillies take center stage in the seven-furlong $100,000 Ruthless.

For FREE TimeformUS analysis and selections for races from Aqueduct Racetrack, visit:

FREE daily NYRA selections are available from analysts Andy Serling and Anthony Stabile. Watch Serling and Stabile discuss the card each live race day from The Big A on Talking Horses:

Check out NYRA Notes for insights into recent races and the inside scoop on contenders for upcoming events with quotes from the connections:


Aqueduct winter meet Week 8 stakes probables

Saturday, February 6
$250,000 Withers (G3)
Probable: Capo Kane (Harold Wyner), Donegal Bay (Todd Pletcher), Eagle Orb (Rudy Rodriguez), Overtook (Pletcher), Risk Taking (Chad Brown),Royal Number (Michael Trombetta), Shackqueenking (Gary Capuano) 

Sunday, February 7
$100,000 Ruthless 
Probable: Dealing Justice (Ray Handal), Gulf Coast (Rodolphe Brisset), Little Huntress (Brittany Russell), Miss Brazil (Anthony Dutrow) 
Possible: Charge Through (Michael Pino), Hybrid Eclipse (Linda Rice)


NYRA Bets promotions

Over the course of the 2021 season, NYRA will offer six NYRA Bets live-money handicapping challenges featuring a $3,000 buy-in with each event offering cash prizes, a seat in another 2021 $3,000 NYRA Bets contest and two 2022 NHC seats.

The $3,000 NYRA Bets handicapping challenges will kick off on Saturday, March 6 with the Gotham Challenge.

Need to flex your handicapping muscle ahead of the Gotham Challenge? Each Saturday throughout the racing season, NYRA Bets will offer a $300 live-money handicapping challenge ($200 live bankroll / $100 prize pool). Cash prizes go to the top seven finishers, while players that land eighth through tenth in the standings will receive an entry in next week’s contest ($300 value).

NYRA Handicapping Challenge entrants will be able to register and compete online in all contests via NYRA Bets. To learn more, visit

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