Monmouth Park joins the New York Racing Association’s weekly Cross Country Pick 5 this week, spotlighting a contentious Grade 3 race featuring Grade 1 winner Hot Rod Charlie.

Mind Control-CC Pick 5
Mind Control’s first of two wins last year came in the John A. Nerud Stakes at Belmont Park. He’s expected to be one of the contenders in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park. That’s the final race in this week’s Cross Country Pick 5. (Image: Coglianese Photos/Susie Raisher)

That would be the Salvator Mile, one of three Monmouth Park races from Haskell Stakes Preview Day on the five-race wager. Two Belmont Park allowances round out the wager.

The Salvator Mile is the Cross Country Pick 5’s final race. Expect Hot Rod Charlie to take plenty of money in his first race back in nearly three months. Last year’s Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby winner crossed the finish line first in his last Monmouth Park visit — last year’s Haskell Stakes — only to be disqualified for interference at the top of the stretch.

Waiting for the multiple graded stakes winner is another member of that genus: Mind Control. The nine-time winner’s last score came when he won a listed stakes the same day Hot Rod Charlie was winning the Penn Derby. Helium and the versatile Shirl’s Speight, who moves back to dirt after a victory in the Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland two starts ago, provide more choices. Shirl’s Speight finished third in the Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard last out.

A tricky penultimate race

Getting there with a live ticket means hitting the penultimate race: the Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes. This nine-furlong race sends a dozen sophomores out on Monmouth Park’s turf course. The focus here is on Chad Brown’s duo of Sacred Life and Public Sector.

Sacred Life hasn’t won since last October’s Grade 3 Knickerbocker at Belmont Park. That was the site of his last outing, a second in the Grade 2 Fort Marcy May 7. Public Sector, who is cross-entered in the Grade 3 Poker at Belmont Park, has missed the board in his last two starts: a fourth in the Hollywood Derby and a sixth in the aforementioned Turf Classic. That snapped a three-race winning streak. Canadian Classic winner Safe Conduct also bears watching.

The Cross Country Pick 5 begins at Belmont Park with a 10-horse allowance field of 3-year-olds tackling 1 1/16 miles on the turf. This reunites Brown’s Credit Event with Christophe Clement’s Merci, who tangled in an April allowance at Keeneland. Merci finished fourth, while favored Credit Event wound up 10th after enduring a horrible trip. Merci won his February debut at Tampa Bay Downs.

Todd Pletcher’s duo of maiden winners Analogy and Beauty Amazed provide depth to a race that could demand a spread.

Vigilantes Way could show the early way

The action moves to Monmouth for the second race: the Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes. This 1 1/16-mile turf test for 3-and-up fillies and mares features defending champion Vigilantes Way. Shug McGaughey’s 5-year-old mare has hit the board in six of her last seven races (2-3-1).

She gets a look at Brown’s multiple group/graded stakes winners Lemista and Fluffy Socks. Lemista has yet to win since joining Brown’s barn last winter, managing only a second and a third in four races. Fluffy Socks has found the board in her last six races, including a win in the Grade 2 Sands Point at Belmont Park last October.

Belmont Park wraps up its participation in the third leg with a 12-horse field of 3-year-old New York-breds going seven furlongs on the Widener Turf Course. Five-time winner Missionatthespa will take money after his state-bred allowance third at Belmont Park. So will the runner-up in that race: Mr. Kringle. Newly gelded Forty Two Ace returns for the first time since an eighth in a March Aqueduct allowance. He started the year with victories in January and February.

NYRA Cross Country Pick 5

Leg Race Track Time (ET)
Leg A Allowance Optional Claimer Belmont Park 4:06 p.m.
Leg B Eatontown Stakes (G3) Monmouth Park 4:47 p.m.
Leg C Allowance Belmont Park 5:12 p.m.
Leg D Monmouth Stakes (G3) Monmouth Park 5:47 p.m.
Leg E Salvator Mile (G3) Monmouth Park 6:15 p.m.

The Cross Country Pick 5 comes with a 50-cent minimum and 15% takeout. It is available on ADW platforms and simulcast facilities.

Free Equibase past performances for the Cross Country Pick 5 are available at https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/cross-country-wagers.