HRI Featured Writers
HRI Featured Writers

Pricci’s Free Race Analysis

Whenever his daily work schedule permits, HorseRaceInsider executive editor John Pricci will analyze that day's feature race from a major thoroughbred-racing jurisdiction.

Executive Editor John Pricci
Executive editor John Pricci provides his insights on everything thoroughbred racing. Big horses, big races, politics, it's all here in his " Morning Line " blog and " On the Line " column

Tom Jicha
Tom has been a sports writer, columnist, and an editor at various times throughout a journalistic career that spans more than four decades. His passionate writing and reporting on thoroughbred racing can now be read in his "Ante Post" blog.

Mark Berner
Mark has been a groom, clocker, handicapper, sportswriter, columnist and editor at various times throughout a career that has spanned more than three decades. His reporting and opinions on Thoroughbred racing can now be read on HRI in his "Inside New York" blog

Indulto's "Players Up" blog. Taking his nickname from the King Ranch color-bearer of the 1960s, Indulto now devotes his time to advocate for the recreational player and hobbyist, but prefers lower takeout rates for all rather than subsidized rebates for the few.

Robert Earle
Rob Earle is a lifelong horseman, IT whizzkid & racing fanatic, and will be bringing you some industry thoughts in his "Easy as 123Bet" blog.

John Parisella
John Parisella has enjoyed a legendary career as a "horseman's horseman." At last count, he won 27 races with 27 different horses at 27 different tracks. His observations will appear bi-weekly, Mondays and Fridays in his "Parisella At the Races" blog.

Marc Lawrence - On Sports
Marc Lawrence will be contributing his sports handicapping insights and providing college and NFL Best Bets in his " Playbook" blog.

Latest Columns and Blogs

Steve Davidowitz Leaves Handicapping Legacy Behind

By John Pricci

It was a seminal moment in the life of a hopeful horseplayer. It was during my early days at Newsday when I excitedly made my first expenses paid trip to Saratoga for the 24-day August Place to Be.

I felt like I had something to prove—not to Newsday, they hired me after a successful handicapping audition that lasted a year’s worth of Saturdays. Rather, the person I had to impress was myself. Do I really belong here?

The late, great Bill Nack introduced me to Andy Beyer in the Aqueduct press box and not long after I wound up sharing a house with him on Lake Avenue in Saratoga, hard by St. Clemens Church, five minutes from the track.

One night, Andy asked if I’d like to read a manuscript. The working title of the book was “Picking Winners.” It was Beyer’s first, of course, and it succeeded in introducing science to a new generation of artful horseplayers.

One morning Andy said he wanted me to meet a good friend of his, a mentor that further increased his understanding of handicapping’s many nuanced disciplines.

At the foot of the press box steps before the races, Beyer made the introduction: “Steve Davidowitz, I’d like you to meet John Pricci, he’s got a good opinion.”

And there it was, the validation I sought: “Made it ma, top of the world.”

Written by John Pricci | Comments (14)
The Derby Favorite, Led by Commander Smith, Has Landed

By John Pricci

HOT SPRINGS—The timer had just clicked 23:08 for the opening quarter mile of the 2019 Derby prep-season finale, the last of the points-qualifying hundred-granders.

Staying off the inside, the gummiest part of Oaklawn Park’s biblically wet surface last Saturday, Mike Smith had just cleared the first turn racing three-paths wide of the rail.

But Money Mike wasn’t done thinking; there was more race-riding to do. He played the Arkansas Derby as if it were a match race, which it surely was on paper. Except they don’t run horse races on paper.

When Jose Ortiz, the quiet, thoughtfully aggressive riding star was named on Improbable, Omaha Beach’s match-race rival, a pitched battle would surely follow.

As most handicappers plotted the race, speedy pretenders would lead the early way, Ortiz and Improbable would likely track them, and Smith and Omaha Beach in kind would track Improbable.

But, wait, there’s more.

That’s when Smith did…well…the improbable. As the field straightened away into the backstretch, he shifted Omaha Beach into the four-path and made a middle move to vie for command.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (5)

Omaha Beach holds No. 1, could break Derby streak

By Tom Jicha

The winner of the past six Kentucky Derbys has been undefeated as a 3-year-old going into the race. Omaha Beach, 3-for-4 this year, could end that. But the leader of the HRI poll could extend the streak of six straight winning Kentucky Derby favorites. To do it, he'll have to score the anti-Baffert hat trick. He's already taken down Game Winner and Improbable. On May 4, he'll take on Raodster.

Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (12)
Suddenly, Derby Waters Got a Lot Deeper

By John Pricci

Week after week in prep after prep, chaos reigned in the run-up to the Kentucky Derby. Who was the leader of this class of three year olds? Yesterday, finally, form prevailed.

Three huge races, whatever their grade, were renewed on the traditional ‘Super Saturday’ of preps, races that can stand proudly all by themselves now as well as then.

Favorites won the first two Derby auditions and the top two choices in the third, albeit inverted, completed an exacta that put both runners on the high road to Louisville.

However, instead of bringing some clarity to a topsy-turvy division, yesterday’s expected results did little to illuminate the Derby picture. If anything, it made the puzzle all the more complex.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (2)

Capitalizing on this crisis is not so easy

The crisis at Santa Anita has provided an opening for major tracks--NYRA's, Churchill Downs and Keeneland--to work toward the ban on race-day Lasix they have been yearning for. But there are significant problems with their proposal. Just as at Santa Anita, only 2-year-old races would be effected in 2020 and then stakes in 2021. So the vast majority of races would be business as usual until three years from now. This throws the sincerity of the ruling bodies' intentions into doubt.

Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (17)
There’s no holding back in final Derby preps

The final Kentucky Derby preps are often races you try to win without having to demand everything a horse has to give with the big one three weeks away. This year, some big name horses cannot afford to leave anything in the tank or there will be no Run for the Roses. Among them is Bob Baffert's Improbable, who was among the top five Derby favorites until he ran second in the Rebel. In less positive news, the rules of racing at Santa Anita keep changing on a moment's notice. Lasix was out, now it is back in. Whips were out, then they were back. Then the Jockeys Guild said they would prove a point by racing without whips Friday. Within days, they backed off this. It's as if no one in SoCal can make a bold decision and stick to it.

Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (17)

Racing Must Not Ignore Recent Science

By Mark Berner

Last week in Dealer’s Choice, co-written with executive editor John Pricci, HRI did something seldom done anywhere: Sharing science prior to its appearance in a major peer-reviewed medical journal.

Most scientists publish their findings in a journal first--before the media learns of it. But not Dr. Nena Winand. She scooped herself, acting in the best interests of Thoroughbred horses. (See: Mutant Gene Causes Horse Bleeding and Breakdowns - HRI - April 3, 2019.

Routinely, a scientific paper is released first, and Winand initially requested that I not share her research until the findings were published. But after Arms Dealer became the 23rd equine fatality at Santa Anita Park since DEC 26, 2018, she granted HRI permission to run with the story.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (26)
Bleeders: It’s All in the Families

By Mark Berner

Thoroughbred races often produce unexpected results, sometimes shocking ones. Within three minutes on Saturday, two extreme and contrasting scenarios played out at Aqueduct in New York and at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Workaholic, racing without Lasix, the anti-bleeder medication, took down first prize in the Cicada Stakes at the Big A to the tune of $75.50. Minutes later, Serengeti Empress, the 3-10 favorite in the Fair Ground Oaks, pulled up, was eased across the finish line, and returned bleeding “through Lasix” from the nostrils.

On the West Coast and throughout the industry, the debate about the use of race-day Lasix rages on. There should be no dispute. A horse that bleeds is unsound and an unsound horse should not run on race-day, with or without medication.

Anyone who says that racing a bleeder on Lasix is best for the horse is telling a lie. Stopping on a bleeder and giving it time to heal is what’s best for the horse. Everything else is horse pucky.

Written by Mark Berner | Comments (19)


Track News Releases
Track News Releases
NYRA announces resignation of CEO & President Chris Kay

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) Board of Directors today announced that it has accepted the resignation of NYRA CEO & President Chris Kay, effectively immediately.

To ensure continuity of operations, David O'Rourke, NYRA's Senior Vice President and…

Jan 23 | Categories: Aqueduct, |
Clasico Internacional del Caribe at Gulfstream Park

Clasico to be Broadcast on ESPN Deportes,

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Saturday’s Clasico Internacional del Caribe at Gulfstream Park, a five-race, $600,000 program featuring the best Thoroughbreds from Latin America and the Caribbean, will be broadcast in…

Dec 6 | Categories: Gulfstream, |
FOX Sports and the New York Racing Association

FOX Sports and the New York Racing Association announce most expansive tv programming agreement in horse racing history

FOX Sports to be primary national carrier of NYRA racing beginning in 2019

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA)…

Nov 29 | Categories: Aqueduct, |
Retiring Takter readies for final Breeders Crown

October 24, 2018, Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager
For the Breeders Crown

As soon-to-be-retired trainer Jimmy Takter prepares for his final Breeders Crown appearance Saturday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, he is focused on his horses in the hopes of adding…

Oct 24 | Categories: U.S. Trotting Assn., |
Post positions drawn for Breeders Crown Open Pace, Open Trot

Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager
For the Breeders Crown

McWicked, harness racing’s richest horse this year, drew post No. 3 for Saturday’s $430,000 Breeders Crown Open Pace and was made the 5-2 morning-line favorite while…

Oct 24 | Categories: U.S. Trotting Assn., |
Eleven former Breeders Crown champions in Saturday eliminations

Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - from the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown

Cranbury, NJ
--- Been there, done that. It could be the slogan for Saturday’s (Oct. 20) Breeders Crown eliminations for 3-year-olds and older horses at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.

Eleven former…

Oct 19 | Categories: U.S. Trotting Assn., |


Cranbury, NJ --- With many divisions still in flux as to year-end honors, the connections of three of the top pacers in their respective groups each supplemented to their Breeder Crown event.

The Breeders…

Oct 15 | Categories: U.S. Trotting Assn., |
Breeders Crown eliminations for all 2-year-old divisions

Cranbury, NJ --- Warrawee Ubeaut, a filly who earlier this month became the fastest 2-year-old pacer in harness racing history, and divisional money-leaders Stag Party, The Ice Dutchess, Green Manalishi S, and Tall Drink Hanover were among the 71 freshmen entered Monday for the Breeders Crown…

Oct 15 | Categories: U.S. Trotting Assn., |
Mandatory 20-cent Rainbow 6 Payout Set for Saturday

Rainbow 6 Carryover Jackpot Swells to $898,654
Mandatory Payouts Also Set for Late Pick 5, Last Super Hi-5
Princess Rooney (G2), Smile (G3) Top Summit of Speed Card

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Saturday’s Summit of Speed program, headlined by the $250,000 Princess…

Jun 30 | Categories: Gulfstream, |
Curlin’s Approval, X Y Jet Top June 30 Summit of Speed Nominations

Curlin’s Approval to Defend Title in $250,000 Princess Rooney (G2)
Alter Homebred among 23 Noms for ‘Win and You’re In’ Event
X Y Jet Tops List of 16 Noms for $250,000 Smile Sprint (G3)
Multiple Grade 1-Placed Gelding Seeks 6th Straight at Gulfstream


Jun 20 | Categories: Gulfstream, |
Madame Uno Seeks Rebound in Saturday’s $100,000 Ginger Punch

Jockey, Trainer, Owner Races Heats Up

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Her three-race win streak halted abruptly last time out, Madame Uno will seek to rebound in Saturday’s $100,000 Ginger Punch at Gulfstream Park.

The 4-year-old daughter of First Dude is scheduled…

Jun 14 | Categories: Gulfstream, |
Justify vs. nine in Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes

It's Triple Crown hopeful Justify vs. nine in Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets

Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner draws post 1, is 4-5 to win Saturday's "Test of the Champion"

By Jenny Kellner

ELMONT, N. Y. - Can he do…

Jun 6 | Categories: Belmont Stakes, |