by Najja Thompson
York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) and Far Hills will partner on Saturday to
offer horseplayers an all-stakes Cross Country Pick 5.
Saturday's card at Belmont is the unique all New York-bred Empire Showcase Day, including eight stakes races highlighted by the $300,000 Empire Classic for 3-year-olds and upward, while the Far Hills meet will also feature a seven-race all-stakes card.
Far Hills will host the first three legs of the sequence, which begins with the $100,000 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle.
Carded as Race 4 with a 3 p.m. Eastern post time, the 2 ½-mile event will feature graded stakes placed Snap Decision for conditioner Jack Fisher and owner Bruton Street-US. Snap Decision will seek his fourth consecutive victory facing nine competitors after most recently capturing the William Entenmann Memorial on September 18 at Belmont Park.
A full field of 11 will compete in the next leg, the $50,000 New Jersey Hunt Cup. Scheduled as Race 5 with a 3:40 p.m. post. The 1 ½ mile race features graded stakes winner Renown for owner Jack Doyle and trainer Elizabeth Voss. Top contenders include Show Court for Hall of Fame trainer Kingsley Archibald; Douglas Road for trainer Arnaud Delacour; and Decisive Triumph for conditioner Mark Beecher.
Concluding the sequence at Far Hills is the Grade 1, $450,000 Grand National. The 2 5/8 mile event carded as Race 6 with a 4:20 post features a full field of 12 runners. Conditioner Ricky Hendriks entered a formidable pair in Surprising Soul owned by his mother Wendy Hendriks, who won the Grade 1 Lonesome Glory Handicap on September 19 at Belmont in his most recent start and The Holy One for owner Rosbrian Farm with the 6-year-old entering off a third-place finish in a novice stakes at Killarney on August 23.
Other top contenders include Modem for trainer Elizabeth Voss, who most recently finished sixth in the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap on August 22 at Saratoga; Scorpiancer for conditioner Jack Fisher, who won the Grade 1 Calvin Houghland Iroquois on May 11 at Percy Warner and followed with a fifth-place finish in the Lonesome Glory; and Jury Dury for trainer Gordon Elliott and Sideways Syndicate, who finished sixth in the PWC Champion Steeplechase on October 5 at Gowran Park.
The Cross Country Pick 5 sequence will then shift to Belmont Park for the remaining two legs. The $200,000 Ticonderoga, carded as Race 9 with a 4:48 pm. post time, is a 1 1/16 mile event for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward featuring graded stakes winner Fifty Five for owner Peter Brant and conditioner Chad Brown. The talented Fifty Five is in search of her fourth win from five starts this year coming in off a win in the John Hettinger on September 22 at Belmont, where she bested fellow entrant War Canoe by three-quarters of a length. Also entered among the nine-horse field is Kid Is Frosty for trainer Brad Cox for Bad Boy Racing LLC.; English Soul for trainer Ray Handal and Zilla Racing Stables; and Munchkin Money and Wegetsdamunnys for trainer Christophe Clement.
Concluding the sequence will be the $250,000 Empire Distaff. The one-mile event for fillies and mares, carded as Race 10 on Saturday's Belmont card, features an 11-horse field led by multiple stakes winner Newly Minted for Beach Haven Thoroughbreds and conditioner Linda Rice.
Listed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite, Newly Minted started her career with three straight victories before running third when trying turf for the first time in the Cupecoy's Joy on September 22. She returned to win the Fleet Indian on August 23 at Saratoga and will look to improve her record to five wins from six starts.
Rice also entered Midnight Disguise for owners Dr. William Wilmot and Dr. Joan Taylor off a third-place finish in the Dancin Renee on June 15 at Belmont. Other standouts in the field include Out of Orbit and Held Accountable for trainer Phil Serpe; Bonita Bianca for trainer Jason Servis; and Ratajkowski for trainer Brian Lynch.
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. There will be a mandatory payout of the entire pool.
Belmont Park - Far Hills Cross Country Pick 5
Leg 1: Far Hills (Race 4, 3:00 p.m; $100,000 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle)
Leg 2: Far Hills (Race 5, 3:40 p.m.; $50,000 New Jersey Hunt Cup)
Leg 3: Far Hills (Race 6; 4:20 p.m.; Grade 1, $450,000 Grand National)
Leg 4: Belmont Park (Race 9; 4:48 p.m.; $200,000 Ticonderoga)
Leg 5: Belmont Park (Race 10 5:20 p.m.; $250,00 Empire Distaff)