By Ed McNamara
If you like your action fast and furious, the Cross Country Pick 5 is for you. Saturday’s challenge is to run the table in approximately 65 minutes in a race at Aqueduct, three from Tampa Bay Downs and one from Oaklawn Park. It starts at 3:55 p.m. ET with the seventh from the Big A and ends at 4:59 p.m. with the 10th at Tampa.
Most of the horses are obscure, and some of the races have very little form to go on. Which means there’s the possibility of a nice score if you’re right twice — maybe even once — by going against the grain with a live long shot.
Here are the numbers for a $54 wager on a base bet of 50 cents: 1-1A, 6 with 1, 7, 9 with 1, 3, 7 with 2, 9 with 1, 3, 6.
7th race, Aqueduct, 6 furlongs, NY-bred allowance (3:55 p.m.)
Freudian Sip (1A), coupled with Bronx Bomber (1), comes off a win and makes his first start off the claim for Linda Rice, who wins 27 percent of the time in that scenario. Likely favorite Bustin Hoffman (6) beat Freudian Sip by 8½ lengths Nov. 29 and can’t be left off the ticket.
8th race, Tampa Bay, $100,000 Pelican Stakes, 4-year-olds/up, 6 furlongs (3:59 p.m.)
Before the seventh at Aqueduct is official, they’ll blast out of the gate in this competitive sprint. Stakes winner Killybegs Captain (7) ran a decent third behind champion sprinter Mitole and is working well off the layoff for John Terranova. He Hate Me (9) finished ahead of Killybegs Captain in one of their two meetings. Mucho (1), trained by Bill Mott, is a solid closer who’s 8-for-9 in the money on fast tracks.
9th race, Tampa Bay, maiden special weight, 5 furlongs, turf (4:29 p.m.)
Not many clues in the past performances from a lightly raced group. Probable favorite Miahsolomiah (1) missed by a head last time. Bucky’s Drama (7) fell short by a neck in his grass debut in a slower race. I’ll toss in Eareckson (3), coming off a long layoff for the hot trainer-jockey combination of Arnaud Delacour (34 percent wins at the meeting) and Daniel Centeno (24 percent)
6th race, Oaklawn Park, $80,000, optional claimer, 1 1/16 miles (4:39 p.m.)
Alpha Sixty Six (9) gets serious class relief after a rough-trip sixth as the 8-5 Remsen favorite. Before that he was an even fifth in the Champagne behind Kentucky Derby favorite Tiz the Law. Something Natural (2) won his only fast-track race for Brad Cox.
10th race, Tampa Bay, $50,000 Minaret Stakes, 4-year-old fillies/mares, 6 furlongs (4:59 p.m.)
Favored Lady’s Island (3), who looks like the lone speed, could be a single if you want to pare down the ticket. If you’re in the mood to spread, Lovesick (1) is 3-for-3 on fast tracks and debuts for Brendan Walsh. Midtown Rose (6) is 9-for-13 in the exacta for Saffie Joseph Jr., a rising star.
Ed McNamara is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about thoroughbred racing for 35 years. He has handicapped races for ESPN.com, Newsday and The Record of New Jersey. He is the author of “Cajun Racing: From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown” and co-author of “The Most Glorious Crown,” a chronicle of the first 12 Triple Crown champions.