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Newly Minted at Belmont Park.
Newly Minted at Belmont Park.|NYRA / Joe Labozzetta
Thoroughbreds

Saturday Horse Racing: Garrity jumps on the Cross Country Pick 5 with races from Far Hills and Belmont Park

Chris Garrity

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The next two weekends will be light on graded stakes, as the top horses are all resting for the Breeders Cup at Santa Anita at the beginning of November. Stepping into the void quite nicely today are a pair of cards at Belmont and Laurel Parks: It's Empire State Breeders Showcase Day on Long Island, and Maryland Million Day at Laurel. These state-bred features very cleverly fill the void created by the top horses sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the Breeders Cup. Throw in the handful of open (i.e. non-state-bred) stakes around the country, and what might be an underwhelming Saturday is instead filled with so many bettable stakes races that we really can't keep up with all of them.

For a change of pace today, however, we are not going to look at any individual races. We will instead look at the Cross Country Pick 5, a multi-race bet that couples three races from Far Hills in New Jersey, two over fences, with two of the Empire state-bred stakes races from Belmont Park. We will do this because we like the sequence, and also because with the Breeders Cup coming up, we want to illustrate how these multi-race gimmicks should be played, as just about every year, the Pick 3-4-5s are the very best bets at the Breeders Cup. We want our Pick-anything skills to be sharp for the big day. And last but not least, we will be playing this to support low takeout: the rake on this bet is 15%, which is significantly lower than most exotic bets (the NYRA Pick 4, for example, has a 24% takeout rate). We consider it darn near our patriotic duty to fight extortionate rake by supporting new bets with lower takeout rates, and this is one of them.

We expect firm turf at Fair Hill, and fast dirt and firm turf at Belmont. Let's go.

First Leg: Far Hills, Race 4, Foxbrook Champion Hurdle, 2 1/4 miles, turf, 4 & Up: 1-Snap Decision is a deserving 8/5 favorite, having won three in a row, including blanket of crullers in the Entenmann at Saratoga last out. We will use him, as well as European import 3-Days Without End, who is 8-1 after winning his last start in Ireland, and who goes for legendary Irish trainer Dermot Weld.

Second Leg: Far Hills, Race 5, New Jersey Hunt Cup, 1 1/2 miles, turf, 3 & up: This is a flat race, with no jumps. We like 3-Surprise Twist, who is coming off a good effort in a $100k stakes race, on grass and at today's distance. We are comfortable singling him in our play.

Third Leg: Far Hills, Race 6, Grade 1 Grand National Hurdle, 2 5/8 miles, turf, 4 & up. This is a biggie in the steeplechase world, a Grade 1 that is the pinnacle of American jump racing. It's a sensational field, filled with very, very good horses, including last year's winner, 4-Jury Duty. This race looks wide open to us, so we are going to spread: we are going to use 2-Surprising Soul, 4-Jury Duty, 6-Wicklow Brave, 8-Scorpiancer, and 9-Iranistan, and 11-Brain Power.

Fourth Leg: Belmont Park, Race 9, $200,000 Ticonderoga Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, turf, New York-bred fillies & mares 3 & up. We think that Chad Brown's 4-Fifty Five is a strong, if obvious, pick here. She is 6/5 on the morning line; we will single her.

Fifth Leg: Belmont Park, Race 10, $250,000 Empire Distaff Handicap, 1 mile, dirt, New York-bred fillies & mares 3 & up. Only four fillies have earned speed figures that suggest that are fast enough to win this, and we will use all four of them: 1-Newly Minted (5/2), 6-Out of Orbit (8-1), 9-Midnight Disguise (7/2), and 10-Ratajkowski.

Here is the play for these five races:

Race 1: 1, 3

Race 2: 3

Race 3: 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11

Race 4: 4

Race 5: 1, 6, 9, 10

Putting these all on one ticket is 48 combinations. It will cost $24 at the 50-cent level. We will play it for $1.50, for a total investment of $72.

We are also going to play a backup ticket. We like our single, Surprise Twist, in the second leg, the New Jersey Hunt Cup, but if he does not win, any one of the other ten horses could win, and we will play a second ticket in case this race has a totally chaotic result. We will stick with our picks in Legs 1 and 4, but we will add the other 10 runners in the second leg, and to keep the cost of the ticket reasonable, we will pare down the runners in the third leg to the two main contenders, and we will single Ratajkowski, our top pick in the fifth leg. This backup ticket looks like this:

Race 1: 1,3

Race 2: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Race 3: 4, 6

Race 4: 4

Race 5: 10

This backup ticket has 40 different combinations; we will play it at the 50-cent base level, for a total investment of $20.

That's all for today. Enjoy the racing, and good luck at the windows.