Stakes Advance
Apr 18, 2021
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Wellman has Turf Triple series aspirations with multiple Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners runners

by NYRA Press Office

• Wellman has Turf Triple series aspirations with multiple Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners runners

• Devious Mo earns 84 BSF in NYSSS Times Square score; Water White could target G2 Ruffian

• Hard Love points to G2 Pennine Ridge following Woodhaven triumph

• Belmont Park spring/summer meet opens Thursday

• Step Dancer targeting G2 Pennine Ridge

• Mean Mary targets G2 New York repeat for comeback

• Graded stakes winner Sharp Starr enjoying a freshening

• Cross Country Pick 5 pays $1.6K, posts total pool of $133K

• Belmont Park spring / summer meet Week 1 probables

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, a racing partnership started in 2012 by Aron Wellman, has NYRA’s Turf Triple series in mind for several of their talented sophomores.

Launched by NYRA in 2019, the Turf Triple series showcases the best 3-year-old turf runners.

The Turf Triple for sophomores begins with the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational at 1 1/4-miles [2,000 meters] on July 10 at Belmont Park. The series continues with the Grade 1, $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational at 1 3/16-miles [1,900 meters] on August 7 at Saratoga Race Course and concludes with the $1 million Jockey Club Derby Invitational at 1 1/2-miles [2,400 meters] on September 18 at Belmont Park.

The Turf Triple series for fillies kicks off July 10 at Belmont with the Grade 1, $700,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational at 1 1/4-miles [2,000 meters]. The series continues with the Grade 3, $700,000 Saratoga Oaks Invitational at 1 3/16-miles [1,900 meters] on August 8 at Saratoga and is completed by the $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks at 1 3/8-miles [2,200 meters] on September 18 at Belmont.

Unbeaten in three lifetime starts at Gulfstream Park, dual stakes winner Annex broke his maiden going one mile on January 16 and followed with a victory in the 1 1/16-mile Palm Beach on February 1, where he came from 22 lengths off a torrid pace for a head win over stakes winners Scarlett Sky and Chess’s Dream. He tracked a moderate pace from fourth in the one-mile Cutler Bay on March 27 en route to a neck win.

Annex, a son of third-crop sire Constitution trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott and owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners in partnership with LNJ Foxwoods, will make his next start in the Grade 2, $500,000 American Turf on May 1 at Churchill Downs en route to the Belmont Derby.

“He will run in the American Turf and from there hopefully go into the Turf Triple series,” Wellman said. “The pace was pretty fast in the Palm Beach but he made up all of that ground and deserves a lot of credit for making such a big run. The pace was against us in the Cutler Bay, so he had to show some versatility and overcome a slow pace, which he did.

“He’s naturally talented, but still a bit green and not focused,” Wellman continued. “As he matures and develops, I think you’ll see him get even better.”

Wellman said the ownership team has long considered the Turf Triple series a potential target for Annex.

“He’s a high energy horse and we’re hoping that he continues to progress to where we can still consider these races,” said Wellman. “Our goal all along was to point for these races. He’s certainly bred to handle the distance and everything points to him being able to excel going nine furlongs and beyond.”

While Annex has yet to race past 1 1/16 miles, recent maiden winner Avenue, owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners in partnership with Robert V. LaPenta, William Freeman and Michael Valdes, graduated at nine furlongs on April 8 at Keeneland by four lengths.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, the Quality Road colt finished second and fifth in two starts against maiden special weight company at Gulfstream Park, before shipping to Kentucky for his first career win.

Wellman said the decisive victory will propel him to graded stakes company in the Grade 2, $200,000 Pennine Ridge on May 29 at Belmont Park. The Pennine Ridge-Belmont Derby double has been swept recently by Oscar Performance [2017] and Catholic Boy [2018].

“From Day One we knew he would go two turns,” Wellman said. “At Gulfstream, the turf course is tight and on the speed-favoring side, so a mile and a sixteenth plays more like a mile. We had a lot of confidence in him going into his win at Keeneland, a course that he would be better suited for. We’ll likely point him for the Pennine Ridge and from there on to the Turf Triple series.”

Bred by Woodford Thoroughbreds, Avenue is out of the graded stakes-placed Dixie Union mare Magic Union who also produced graded stakes-placed Tizamagician. He was bought for $450,000 from the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Another rising turf star for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners is Aviano, owned in partnership with William T. Freeman and Valdes, who was third in an off-the-turf allowance event at Keeneland on April 10. After a trio of strong placings, the son of Medaglia d’Oro broke his maiden at fourth asking going 1 1/16 miles on February 28 at Gulfstream Park defeating highly regarded Alexander Valley by a neck.

“He’s definitely a quality horse,” Wellman said. “We tried facing winners and it got rained off the turf. He’s one that we would like to think could get into the series, but how we get there we’re still unsure.”

A $775,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale purchase, Aviano is out of the multiple-stakes winning Rockport Harbor mare Bryan’s Jewel.

In the 3-year-old filly department, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners color-bearer Con Lima is scheduled to return to grass after finishing fourth as the favorite in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks last out on March 27 on the main track.

Wellman said Con Lima, who is owned in partnership with Joseph Graffeo, Del Toro, Erik Nikolaus and Troy Johnson, will remain in Florida for and target the $75,000 Honey Ryder on May 1 at Gulfstream Park going 1 1/16 miles.

“We tried to see if she could be as effective on the dirt, but she proved that she is definitely superior on grass,” Wellman said. “She’ll stay in Florida for the time being and point for the first of May with the intention of possibly going to New York in the summer.”

Bred in Texas, the daughter of Commissioner previously raced for trainer Carlos David, for whom she broke her maiden by 5 ¼ lengths last summer at Gulfstream Park. Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners purchased a majority of the filly following the maiden score and transferred her to Pletcher.

Con Lima ran second in off-the-turf editions of the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga and the Our Dear Peggy at Gulfstream. She picked up three turf victories this winter in Florida, including stakes triumphs in the Ginger Brew on January 2 and the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride on February 27, where she was elevated to first via disqualification.

Spanish Loveaffair, who was disqualified from victory in the Herecomesthebride, is owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners in partnership with Michael Hernon and Gary Barber. The daughter of Karakontie enjoyed a successful 2-year-old campaign, which included a win in the Sharp Susan on August 29 at Gulfstream Park and a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Jessamine at Keeneland for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse.

Last out, Spanish Loveaffair was sixth in the one-mile Grade 2 Appalachian on April 3 at Keeneland

“She never lifted a hoof that day, but she was dealing with a sinus infection,” Wellman said. “Thankfully we put that behind her and it explained her race at Keeneland. We’ll see how she does in the near future.”

Mia Martina was eased in her dirt debut in the Grade 3 Gazelle on April 3 at Aqueduct. Trained by Graham Motion, the daughter of second-crop sire Not This Time won her first two career starts and made her stakes debut when a late-rallying fourth in the Grade 3 Florida Oaks on March 6 at Tampa Bay Downs.

Wellman said Mia Martina, owned in partnership with Gianni Fittipaldi, will likely point for the Grade 3, $200,000 Wonder Again on June 3 at Belmont Park, a key prep for the Belmont Oaks Invitational on July 10.

“The Gazelle was an experiment to see if she could be as potent on dirt as she is on turf, which didn’t work out. She could potentially come back in the Wonder Again,” Wellman said.

This year, past winners of Turf Triple series races for fillies are incentivized by a pair of lucrative bonus opportunities at the upcoming Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course meets.

The “New York Stakes Turf Bonus” will provide $315,000 to the owner and $35,000 to the trainer of any previous winner of the Belmont Oaks, Saratoga Oaks or Jockey Club Oaks who captures the 2021 edition of the Grade 2, $750,000 New York, a 10-furlong turf test for older fillies and mares to be held June 4 at Belmont.

The “Flower Bowl Bonus” will provide $300,000 to the owner and $30,000 to the trainer of any previous winner of the Belmont Oaks, Saratoga Oaks or Jockey Club Oaks, who captures the Grade 1, $600,000 Flower Bowl, an 11-furlong test for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up on September 4 at Saratoga. The Flower Bowl is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event offering a berth in the Grade 1 Filly and Mare Turf in November at Del Mar.

Eligible to cash in on the bonus this year are Godolphin homebred Antoinette, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who won the 2020 Saratoga Oaks and Lael Stables’ Magic Attitude, conditioned by Arnaud Delacour, who bested Antoinette in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks.

For more information on the Turf Triple series, visit

Devious Mo earns 84 BSF in NYSSS Times Square score; Water White could target G2 Ruffian

Repole Stable’s Devious Mo made a triumphant stakes debut on Saturday, besting Sinful Dancer by three-quarters of a length in the $200,000 New York Stallion Stakes Series Times Square for sophomores at Aqueduct.

After needing seven starts to break his maiden, trainer Rudy Rodriguez has seen his charge now win two in a row, building on an 8 3/4-length score in a maiden contest going six furlongs in a $25,000 maiden claimer on March 13 at the Big A. That effort netted the Laoban colt a then personal-best 79 Beyer Speed Figure. He set a new high by garnering an 84 for his forwardly placed effort going 6 1/2 furlongs on Saturday, with Rodriguez saying on Sunday morning that he came out of it in good order.

“He looked good and comfortable this morning,” Rodriguez said.

Claimed for $40,000 out of a fourth-place effort in November at the Big A, Devious Mo has already made four starts at Aqueduct for Rodriguez to start his 3-year-old campaign. After his maiden-breaking effort, Rodriguez, with Repole’s urging, decided to face him against more challenging competition, and he responded under a strong ride by Manny Franco to top a seven-horse field.

“We were just taking a chance since he was eligible for the race and it looked like it may have been a bit of a softer spot,” said Rodriguez. “We knew it was a big jump up to ask him to run in a stakes after being in for $25,000, and we were a little concerned breaking out of the one hole. But he did it the right way. Manny rode him great.”

Devious Mo, bred in New York by McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds, gave Rodriguez his second stakes win of 2021, adding to Pete’s Play Call in the $100,000 Gravesend on January 2.

Rodriguez could be aiming for greater stakes glory during the upcoming Belmont Park spring/summer meet, with E.V. Racing Stable’s Water White a possibility for the Grade 2, $200,000 Ruffian for older fillies and mares going one mile on Big Sandy Sunday, May 2.

Water White, who capped her 3-year-old campaign with a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Acorn on Belmont Stakes Day June 20, returned from a nearly 10-month layoff to best a five-horse optional claiming field by four lengths going a one-turn mile on a sloppy and sealed track on April 1 at Aqueduct.

Rodriguez said Water White could build off a successful sophomore effort, which saw her run second in the Busanda before winning the $250,000 Busher Invitational. In the Acorn, she earned in a black type in a race won by Gamine, the eventual Eclipse Award Champion Female Sprinter last year.

In January, Water White returned to the work tab for the first time in six months and took the next step with her victory earlier this month, earning a 72 Beyer. While Rodriguez doesn’t have a definitive next spot picked out for the Conveyance filly, the Ruffian could mark her third career start at Belmont, with both previous efforts coming at the one-turn mile, including a runner-up effort in her second career start in October 2019.

“She looks good. She came back real nice,” Rodriguez said. “We worked her a half-mile the other morning. We’ll nominate to the Ruffian but we’ll keep our options open.”

Hard Love points to G2 Pennine Ridge following Woodhaven triumph

Trainer Jonathan Thomas said Hard Love, who captured Saturday’s $100,000 Woodhaven at the Big A, will take the next logical step into graded stakes company in the Grade 2, $200,000 Pennine Ridge on May 29 at Belmont Park.

Owned by Robert V. LaPenta and George Strawbridge, Jr.’s Augustin Stable, the son of Kitten’s Joy was forwardly placed outside of pacesetter Original in the 1 1/16-mile inner turf test for sophomores. Hard Love, piloted by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano,, was coaxed in upper stretch and edged clear at the eighth pole to secure a 1 ¼-length victory. 

Hard Love, who registered an 82 Beyer winning the Woodhaven off five months rest, finished second in the Central Park on November 28 at Aqueduct in his previous effort. On debut, he won at 11-1 odds on October 11 going 1 1/16 miles at Belmont Park.

While the Pennine Ridge will be Hard Love’s next task, Thomas said the Turf Triple series will be the long term goal. Launched by NYRA in 2019, the Turf Triple series for sophomores begins with the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational at 1 1/4-miles on July 10 at Belmont Park.

“That would be the ultimate goal at this point,” Thomas said of the Turf Triple series. “Obviously, there are very good stepping stones that NYRA has put in place to get there. It worked out perfect yesterday, so now the idea is to get to the Pennine Ridge and determine what to do next. Every once in a while, you get to think big.”

Thomas selected Hard Love out of the OBS April Sale for $200,000, where he was consigned by Eddie Woods.

“He had a strong physical presence, but also I thought his gallop out was excellent,” Thomas said. “He finished the latter part of his work really well. That’s an indicator but it’s also an indicator of ability. A lot of horses can go quick in a short amount of time, but it’s the ability to carry that over a lot of ground that separates them. Also, Eddie Woods does a great job with his young horses. I have a lot of confidence buying horses off him.”

Bred in Kentucky by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, Hard Love is out of the Rock Hard Ten mare Hard Lovin Woman.

War Terminator, a 3-year-old New York-bred son of War Dancer, won on debut under Irad Ortiz, Jr. for McConnell Racing Stable on Thursday in a six-furlong state-bred sprint over a yielding outer turf course at Aqueduct.

Out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Sadie’s Song, War Terminator saved ground along the rail from fifth, made a four-wide move in upper stretch and took command inside the sixteenth-pole to secure a 2 ¾-length victory.

“We were really pleased with him. Irad rode him great that day and the horse did everything right,” Thomas said.

Thomas said War Terminator could move up a condition, potentially targeting the $150,000 NYSSS Spectacular Bid on June 19 at Belmont going seven furlongs on the turf.

Belmont Park spring/summer meet opens Thursday

The 48-day Belmont Park spring/summer meet, which will feature 59 total stakes races worth $16.95 million in total purses, kicks off on Thursday with an eight-race card. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.

The spring/summer meet, which runs through Sunday, July 11, will offer 11 Grade 1 events and seven races with purses of $700,000 or higher, with four of those contests coming during the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival from Thursday, June 3 through Saturday, June 5. The festival will encompass 17 total stakes, including eight Grade 1s on Belmont Stakes Day, capped by the $1.5 million "Test of the Champion" for 3-year-olds in the 1 ½-mile final leg of the Triple Crown.

Tickets for the 2021 Belmont Stakes Racing Festival are not yet on sale to the public. Additional information and the timing of the general on-sale will be released in the coming weeks.

Thursday’s meet opener at Belmont includes five turf races and an array of talent on tap, including the seasonal debut of Charles Fipke’s Grade 1-placed Pleasant Orb in Race 7, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.

The Kentucky homebred is by Orb and out of the Grade 1-winning Seeking the Gold mare Pleasant Home, who romped to victory in the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Belmont.

Pleasant Orb, initially trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, joined Barclay Tagg’s barn last year and won in her second start for the veteran conditioner in a one-mile maiden special weight on March 22 at Gulfstream Park. Following an even third in the 1 1/16-mile Hollywood Wildcat in May at Gulfstream, Pleasant Orb shipped to New York and completed the exacta behind Gamine in the Grade 1 Acorn, a one-turn mile on Belmont Stakes Day last June.

“She's doing pretty well,” said Tagg. “She was laid up for a while and we have her fit again now. This is the first race we found that we thought would suit her. We'll get a short race into her and see where we go from there.”

Pleasant Orb has trained into her 4-year-old debut at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, including a five-eighths effort in 1:04.20 on April 9.

Hall of Famer Javier Castellano will pilot Pleasant Orb from the inside post.

To collect the win, Pleasant Orb will have to topple a field of five rivals led by impressive maiden winner Aunt Kat, six-time winner Ruvies in Time and the improving Whispering Pines.

Carl Pollard’s Aunt Kat, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, earned a career-best 95 Beyer in her 9 3/4-length maiden score traveling 6 1/2-furlongs on March 13 at the Big A. The 4-year-old Uncle Mo filly is out of the multiple graded-stakes winning Forestry mare Carolyn’s Cat.

Junior Alvarado will guide Aunt Kat from post 2.

Ruvies in Time, trained and co-owned by Rich Schosberg with Clear Stars Stable, was a four-length winner of the six-furlong Videogenic on New York Claiming Championship Day on March 27 at the Big A. Bred in New York by Mashnee Stables and Steve Schuster, Ruvies in Time is by The Factor and out of the Tapit mare Hollywood Redhead.

Manny Franco retains the mount on Ruvies in Time from post 5.

Whispering Pines enters from a good third in the Conniver, a seven-furlong sprint for Maryland-breds on March 13 at Laurel Park. The 4-year-old Uncle Mo filly, previously trained by Brian Lynch, will be making her first start for conditioner Horacio DePaz.

“She's a Maryland-bred and she was very competitive in that stakes race, so we thought we'd bring her up here to New York for the early part of the meet,” said DePaz. “She's versatile so I think the distance will be OK.

“There's some very nice fillies in there, so we'll see how she handles everything,” he added. “Hopefully she can hit the board and continue to develop. She was very competitive in that stakes race in Maryland considering she still has all her conditions left.”

Whispering Pines, who boasts a record 6-1-0-2, will exit post 3 under Jose Ortiz.

Rounding out the field are Saratoga Affair [Irad Ortiz, Jr., post 4], and She’s a Black Belt [Trevor McCarthy, post 6].

Step Dancer targets G2 Pennine Ridge

Trainer Barclay Tagg said Hayward Pressman, Diamond M Stable and Donna Pressman’s New York-bred Step Dancer will point to the Grade 2 Pennine Ridge on May 29 at Belmont.

Bred in the Empire State by Sugar Plum Farm and Richard Pressman, Step Dancer is by War Dancer and out of the English Channel mare Just Be Steppin. The talented bay made his first three starts at 1 1/16-miles on turf, capturing a state-bred maiden special weight in his September debut at Saratoga Race Course ahead of a good third in the Grade 2 Pilgrim in October at Belmont.

Step Dancer rallied to win the Awad in October over yielding Belmont turf to close out his juvenile season. He returned to action with an eighth-place effort, defeated 4 1/4-lengths in the one-mile Cutler Bay on March 27 at Gulfstream.

“We freshened him up and got him started back,” said Tagg. “We'll probably aim for the Pennine Ridge.”

Tagg said Step Dancer should handle the added distance of the nine-furlong Pennine Ridge, a key prep for the 10-furlong Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational, first leg of the Turf Triple series for sophomores, on July 10.

“I don't see why not. I think the distance will be fine,” said Tagg, who currently has six horses stabled at Belmont with the remainder of his Florida-based contingent set to ship back to New York on Monday.

Sackatoga Stable’s Niko’s Dream made a trio of starts over the winter at Gulfstream Park, including a win in the My Charmer in December ahead of off-the-board efforts in the Grade 3 Marshua’s River in January and the Sand Springs in March.

Bred in New York by Nick Peros, the 5-year-old Central Banker mare boasts a record of 19-4-5-2 with purse earnings of $285,090.

“She’s doing fine. We'll get her back in with the New York-breds. I'm not sure where yet,” said Tagg.

The $125,000 Mount Vernon at one-mile for older state-bred fillies and mares on May 31 could be a logical spot for Niko’s Dream.

Tagg also reported Joseph Allen’s homebred Doswell is taking some time off following his last-out third in the Grade 3 William L. McKnight on January 23 at Gulfstream.

“He has a minor injury and we're taking our time getting him back,” said Tagg.

The Kentucky homebred, a 5-year-old Giant’s Causeway gelding, sports a ledger of 9-2-5-1.

Mean Mary targets G2 New York repeat for comeback

Alex G. Campbell’s Mean Mary is eyeing a repeat win in the Grade 2, $750,000 New York on June 4 at Belmont Park as her first start of 2021 for trainer Graham Motion.

The 5-year-old daughter of Scat Daddy, out of Grade 1-winner Karlovy Vary, wintered in Florida at Palm Meadows before shipping to Motion’s primary base at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland. She recently breezed five furlongs in 1:02.60 on April 12.

Motion said Mean Mary missed her initial target, the 11-furlong Grade 2, $200,000 Sheepshead Bay on May 1 at Belmont Park.

“It took us a while to get going with her,” Motion said. “I would have like to have made the Sheepshead Bay, but we got a little behind so we’re looking at the race in June.”

Last season, Mean Mary put together three straight victories against graded stakes company. Prior to capturing the New York, she won the Grade 3 La Prevoyante and the Grade 3 Orchid last winter at Gulfstream Park. She has not raced since finishing seventh in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf in November at Keeneland.

Motion said True Valour returned from his international endeavor in Dubai in good order and could possibly make the Grade 1, $400,000 Jackpocket Jaipur, a six-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-olds and up on June 5 at Belmont Park offering Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In status.

Owned by R. Larry Johnson, Ture Valour finished sixth in the Group 1 Al Quoz Turf Sprint, arriving off stakes placings in the Grade 2 Joe Hernandez at Santa Anita [second] and the Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship [third].

“He had a really weird trip in Dubai,” Motion recalled. “He seems fine back at Fair Hill. We’re just taking things easy with him at the moment. He could be possible for the Jaipur.”

Motion also has New York graded stakes in mind for Invincible Gal, who has not raced since running second in the Tepin on November 29 at the Big A. The 3-year-old daughter of Invincible Spirit garnered black type twice last season, finishing second in the Sorority at Monmouth Park and the Selima at Pimlico on October 3.

Owned by Mike Ryan, Jeff Drown and Team Hanley, Invincible Gal could make her seasonal bow in the seven-furlong Grade 3, $100,000 Soaring Softly on May 15 at Belmont Park.

Graded stakes winner Sharp Starr enjoying a freshening

Trainer Horacio DePaz said Barry Schwartz’s Sharp Starr, winner of the Grade 3 Go for Wand in December at the Big A, is enjoying some well deserved time off after a productive winter campaign.

The New York homebred, a 4-year-old dark bay filly by Munnings out of the A.P. Indy mare Mindy Gold, romped to a 15 3/4-length state-bred allowance win in November at the Big A that garnered a career-best 101 Beyer ahead of her Go for Wand score.

Sharp Starr followed that effort with a good second in the La Verdad in January on a muddy Aqueduct main track before a sixth-place effort in the Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie in February at Laurel Park.

Last out, Sharp Starr finished a distant third to Water White in a one-mile optional-claiming event on April 1 at Aqueduct.

“I think she was a tired horse. She tried but there's really no excuses,” said DePaz. “We looked her over and everything was fine, so we turned her out at the farm. I think she just needed a break and to put some weight on her.

“She deserves the time off and she's been running pretty consistent all last year,” he added. “We'll bring her back fresh.”

DePaz said he is looking forward to the start of the Belmont spring/summer meet which begins on Thursday.

“I've got 23 horses at the moment and more coming,” said DePaz, who expects his barn to expand to 30. “The purse money is good, we just need the right horses to be able to chase it. It gets much deeper when everyone comes back, but it's exciting.”

The conditioner will send out a pair of starters on the Opening Day card including Whispering Pines in a featured allowance sprint in Race 7 and Fed Funds in Race 4, a seven-furlong $50,000 open-claiming sprint.

DePaz said Fed Funds, a four-time winner from 10 starts, should appreciate the company following a pair of off-the-board efforts in strong optional-claiming sprints.

“The distance sets up perfect for him,” said DePaz. “There's some pretty salty horses in there, but he's a hard-trying horse. He likes to show up. Hopefully he's on top of his game. He's been very consistent for us.”

Cross Country Pick 5 pays $1.6K, posts total pool of $133K

Saturday’s Cross Country Pick 5, featuring stakes action from Aqueduct, Oaklawn Park and Keeneland Race Course, returned $1,622 for selecting all five winner’s for the 50-cent wager. The total was pool was $133,595.

An allowance race from Keeneland started the sequence in Race 7, as Brooke Marie won a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint by 1 1/2 lengths for trainer Jonathan Thomas. Brooke Marie, piloted by Luis Saez, returned $9 on a $2 win wager, posting a final time of 1:02.75.

Oaklawn got in on the action in the second leg when Impressed won a six-furlong main track sprint in Race 7, registering a 1 1/4-length score for trainer Ingrid Mason. The allowance optional claiming tilt saw jockey Martin Garcia keep Impressed off the pace, rallying from eighth to complete the course in 1:10.51. Impressed paid $17.

Action shifted back to Lexington, Kentucky for the third leg and the first stakes, as Say the Word bested Channel Cat by 1 1/2 lengths to win the Grade 2, $200,000 Elkhorn for 4-year-olds and up going 1 1/2 miles on the turf in Keeneland’s Race 9. The Philip D’Amato trainee returned $7.20, finishing in 2:28.26 under jockey Luis Saez.

Graded stakes action continued in Hot Springs, Arkansas when Silver State extended a run of non-favorites winning by topping Fearless by a half-length to win the Grade 2, $1 million Oaklawn Handicap for 4-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles on the main track in Race 9. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Silver State paid $11.40, with jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. guiding Silver State to the winner’s circle after posting a final time of 1:49.56.

The lone victorious favorite in the Cross Country Pick 5 was in the ninth race finale at Aqueduct, when Sassy Melissa edged Tales I Winit by a neck in six-furlong maiden claimer on the outer turf. Off at 2-1, Sassy Melissa paid $6.30, with Jose Ortiz notching his meet-leading 21st victory. Winning trainer David Donk’s charge stopped the clock in 1:12.35.

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

Belmont Park spring / summer meet Week 1 probables

Saturday, April 24

$100,000 Elusive Quality

Probable: Casa Creed (Bill Mott), Front Run the Fed (Chad Brown), Proven Strategies (Mark Casse), Seismic Wave (Chad Brown), Therapist (Christophe Clement)

Possible: Noble Indy (Saffie Joseph, Jr.), Olympic Runner (Mark Casse)

Sunday, April 25

$100,000 License Fee

Probable: Flower Point (Shug McGaughey), I’llhandalthecash (Ray Handal), Introduced (Jorge Duarte, Jr.), Lady Lawyer (Chad Brown), She’s My Type (Christophe Clement)

Possible: Caravel (Elizabeth Merryman), Sadie Lady (Rob Atras)

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