10/05/2017 3:36PM

King: Heart to Heart helps keep cross-country pick four affordable

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Barbara D. Livingston
Heart to Heart is a threat to wire the Shadwell Turf Mile on Saturday.

I’ve never been fond of cross-country driving, and even less so of cross-country running. But a cross-country pick four with Breeders’ Cup preps from Keeneland and Belmont on Saturday? Now that is appealing.

The wager, run through Keeneland with a 50-cent minimum, comprises four Grade 1 races: the Champagne from Belmont at 4:13 p.m. Eastern, the Breeders’ Futurity from Keeneland at 5:10, the Jockey Club Gold Cup from Belmont at 5:23, and the Shadwell Turf Mile at 5:45. All four races are Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In qualifiers.

The sequence is attractive to gamblers because most of the races are highly contentious, particularly the Champagne and Breeders’ Futurity for 2-year-olds. And fields are big in all but the seven-horse Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Here’s my analysis of the races, followed by a suggested ticket.

Champagne Stakes

With so many of these being untested class-wise or at a mile, the Champagne seems like a race in which to spread. I will use five horses and hope that is enough.

Slight preference goes to 6-1 Aveenu Malcainu (8), a 2-for-2 New York-bred who has closed effectively in shorter races and comes off a bullet drill. But it is difficult to know how he measures up with these given that he has never started outside of statebred company.

I also will use Good Magic (6), who is aggressively spotted by Chad Brown after a debut second; Honorable Treasure (9), a long-striding colt who blew away maidens at Saratoga in his second start; first-out maiden graduate Hazit (11), who edged Good Magic when they debuted in the same race; and Kowboy Karma (1), who is a little more seasoned than the others and has shown promise at Delaware and Monmouth.

Breeders’ Futurity

Like the Champagne, this is anyone’s race, and going deep seems like the way to go.

I will try four horses, with my top choice from a value perspective being 6-1 shot Ezmosh (2), who ran quickly in winning his maiden after hitting the board in two challenging Saratoga maiden races. Others of interest include Free Drop Billy (9) and Givemeaminit (7), who were second and third in the Grade 1 Hopeful, and Ten City (4), whose recent form is modest but who is a winner at Keeneland and already has two-turn experience at 1 1/16 miles on dirt.

Jockey Club Gold Cup

Although Keen Ice (7) is the most likely winner, being a proven 1 1/4-mile horse and having faced far better horses this year than have the others, I don’t entirely trust him, having seen him let down his backers at short prices over the past couple years. So, I will use him but hope for a fatter-priced winner between the other two horses on my tickets.

Destin (6) is a value horse to use. He raced with the best in class last year at 3, and can handle the 1 1/4-mile distance. His form this year hasn’t leapt out by any means, but perhaps in his third start of 2017 he will be ready for a peak effort.

Rally Cry (5) merits inclusion and has better form than Destin but has never raced beyond 1 1/8 miles.

Shadwell Turf Mile

The wager closes with the Shadwell Turf Mile, in which I like Heart to Heart (10) to lead throughout and post the first Grade 1 victory of his long career. He is tough to pass when able to dictate terms, and he should get that opportunity Saturday.

Having gone deep in other legs, to keep the cost of this wager down, I will back him up with only Ballagh Rocks (6), a 10-1 shot who chased World Approval, arguably the best North American miler, in running third in the Grade 1 Fourstardave at Saratoga last out Aug. 12.

The ticket

Using the horses outlined in this column, a 50-cent ticket of 1, 6, 8, 9, 11 with 2, 4, 7, 9 with 5, 6, 7 with 6, 10 costs $60.