Saturday, December 17, 2011


Tis The Season


SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, December 17, 2011—Christmas Eve is a week from today and I’m not sure I’m ready for that psychologically. In fact, I know I’m not, and that’s no way to feel on “Super Saturday,” is it.

Really, how can any ordinary American, which I consider myself to be, be spiritually ready to embrace the concept of peace on earth and good will towards men and women?

People these days are always talking new paradigm, such as how government, or Thoroughbred racing is supposed to work, a different way to recapture former glory--at least for those who’ve been around enough to appreciate such a notion.

Here’s an idea; how about a new paradigm for Christmas? How about going back to the future, before there was such a thing as “Cyber Monday.”

Deck the halls… and harken back to a time when elected officials didn’t play politics with the lives of 160 million Americans who work for a living, the 90 percent who have jobs, a time when legislative gridlock wasn’t policy.

Consider this, K-Mart shoppers, that in 2009 Time magazine estimated that one of every 50 children in America were homeless. According to the latest estimates, that figure is now one in 45.

Tis the season…so how about going back to a time culturally when Thanksgiving didn’t mean Christmas is already here, when Yuletide didn’t signal it was time to begin compiling high-light, low-light, best-of, and worst-of lists, a time to bend over and kiss another year gone by.

Wouldn’t it be nice this Christmas if middle class Americans could occupy jobs and homes, not tents in the street, that being fair were more than just a baseball term? Terms had limits…fala-la-lala, lala-la-la.

How about going back 10 years and think about spending a couple of trillion dollars to fix broken schools, roads, bridges and rails and not on two wars fought and paid for with the lives of America’s best young people.

Then there’s the racetrack, where every day is heaven and every day is hell and the trick is not getting too high or too low, learning to sit down while the boat rocks.

For this game I’d love to find an equine Moses, have him or her gift-wrapped, and present this person to an industry badly in need of leadership, even if Thoroughbred racing is often more naughty than nice.

With fewer races on the Christmas list docket, post times could be staggered to help grow the handle, and free past performance data so that new players wouldn’t have to pay to learn so that they may earn.

Now, with fewer race days and this new paradigm—that word again--bettors could bet with real time odds while going up against an optimally lower takeout, the price point that becomes a universal rebate and ultimate revenue generator.

Or should we commission a few more studies, instead?

My Christmas wish would give regulators all the tools and dollars they need to continue striving toward uniform medication rules, that’s if I couldn’t eliminate race-day medication altogether.

I would build the game a national racing channel modeled after CNBC with new statistical handicapping data that’s less arcane and so logical that a high-schooler with a GED could do it.

I’d allow television to coordinate post times within a five-minute simulcast window on this new national news, handicapping and wagering network, segregating racetracks by time zone circuits; Eastern, Midwest and West.

And I would buy an HD signal for all my friends.

I think about these things because I cannot possibly live up to a Hallmark standard of what Christmas is supposed to be. I've become resentful of a season in which “Black Friday” used to be more about family fun and less about pepper spray.

Because all we’ve learned to do in America the last three decades is to become good at shopping. Can’t fool us. We’re sophisticated now, knowing there’s a difference between half off and buy one get one free. In the age of LOL and OMG, make that BOGO.

For a holiday meant to be about love and wonder and generosity, we now celebrate a season gone mad, where expectation often runs a bad second to dread; concerns about spending too much, too little, wrong size, wrong label.

This year in America I've been compelled to rethink Christmas. I don't need to make myself “feel” the Christmas spirit. One season of paying lip service to peace and good will cannot possibly erase the sadness and pain of a runaway American dream.

It is what it is, they say, and Christmas shall be whatever it can be. So I’m treading lightly, trying not to overthink what Christmas in America has become. I will celebrate it by being grateful for all my blessings; family, good friends, and a living that’s more a way of life than a job.

I surely can’t complain and I surely can’t fix what’s wrong. I don’t know how to fix it and that makes me mad as hell. I ask you: Is that anyway to feel a week and a lifetime away from what Christmas in America used to mean?

WWJD?

Written by John Pricci

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Friday, December 09, 2011


If There Were a Better Moment than the Delaware ‘Cap, I Missed It


SARATOGA SPRINGS, Decembert 9, 2011--The press realease from the NTRA indicating that fans may now start voting for Racing's 2011 Moment of the Year arrived Thursday morning, leading to this question: Am I eligible to vote? I have opinions, too.

We will take a look at some of this year's events to allow HRI readers, also an opinionated lot, to give their takes.

This is the 13th such "Moments" poll and I'm not sure any could top the pathos of the very first; the image of the late Chris Antley keeping Charismatic on his feet a hundred yards passed the Belmont Stakes finish line.

There have been some other truly memorable "Moments" as well: Tiznow winning a titanic stretch drive over Sakhee for America at Belmont Park in the first Classic run after 9/11. Birdstone's Belmont Stakes upset halting the Triple Crown bid of Smarty Jones three years later.

Then there was Barbaro’s brave battle in 2006; Rags to Riches’ historic Belmont Stakes defeat of Curlin and, of course, mighty Zenyatta’s Breeders’ Cup Classic score in 2009 and the following year’s Classic and her gallant effort behind Blame when all appeared hopelessly lost.

There were a dozen such moments that captured the attention of the NTRA panel. I’ll go down the list, one by one, give an immediate reaction to the then handicap those results from my personal favorites. To wit:

Game on Dude and Chantal Sutherland survive 10 furlongs and a 12-minute stewards’ inquiry in capturing the Santa Anita Handicap—Wrote about it when it happened; one of the toughest calls any group of stewards ever had to make in a big spot.

Rosie Napravnik guides Pants on Fire to victory in the Louisiana Derby en route to becoming the first woman to win a Fair Grounds riding title—Great ride, but I might have chosen the race that specifically accounted for her the riding title.

Uncle Mo suffers his first defeat, running third behind Toby’s Corner in Aqueduct’s Resorts World New York Casino Wood Memorial—Please, No More Mo, please.

Animal Kingdom runs down his foes in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands— Pretty yummy, but would I have given this effort a second thought had it not come in the Kentucky Derby?

Shackleford overcomes pre-race nervousness to hold off Animal Kingdom in the Preakness—Dramatic? Definitely. Memorable? Not so much

Blind Luck prevails by a nose over Havre de Grace following a stretch-long duel in the Delaware Handicap—Right now, as we go down the list, definitely makes the finals for being the most dramatic finish in a big spot this year.

Caleb’s Posse catches a stubborn Uncle Mo in the Foxwoods King’s Bishop Stakes at Saratoga—Damn good finish, one of the best I saw all year, but not sure this sprint has that kind of cache.

Havre de Grace beats the boys in Saratoga’s Woodward Stakes—Has greater Horse of the Year implications than the Delaware Handicap but given the timing of the season, when Blind Luck and Havre de Grace were sharing the spotlight, not as “memorable” for me.

Joseph O’Brien, 18, becomes the youngest jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup race, piloting St. Nicholas Abbey to victory in the Emirates Airline Turf for his father, Aidan O’Brien— From a historical perspective alone, and given daddy’s season, both here and aboard, this moment has to make the cut.

Court Vision spoils Goldikova’s attempt at a fourth consecutive TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile win, upsetting the field at 64-1—A race and result that was, for me personally, more forgettable than memorable.

Drosselmeyer and Mike Smith edge Game on Dude and Chantal Sutherland at the wire of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, giving trainer Bill Mott his second “Classic” in 24 hours— A tough call. If it weren’t for the Mike-Chantal-Mott factor, I probably wouldn’t give this year’s Classic a second thought.

Rapid Redux breaks a North American record by winning his 20th consecutive race—When is a record not a record? The parameters seem to change with every new winning streak. Not sure a “minor league” streaks are comparable to prime time performances. Sorry, but not for me.

If this were a horse race, my graded selections would be:

1. Delaware Handicap finish
2. Santa Anita Handicap Inquiry
3. Father-and-Son Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Your turn.

Written by John Pricci

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Rim Shots


Corona, New York, September 21, 2011--Just talked to Pricci. He said he was working on some Pick 6 follow-up, whatever that means, and would post later.

He said my Emmys review bombed so bad that it got no response and that I needed to do something else.

I told him it's not my fault his readers have no appreciation for the arts.

Anyway, here's some stuff that would have come across my desk, if I had a desk:

The economy is so bad that I received a pre-declined credit card in the mail.

The economy is so bad that CEO's are now playing miniature golf.

The economy is so bad that Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen.

The economy is so bad that Angelina Jolie adopted a child from America.

The economy is so bad that Motel Six won't leave the light on anymore.

The economy is so bad that a picture is now worth 200 words.

The economy is so bad that they renamed Wall Street " Wal-Mart Street."

The economy is so bad that I called the Suicide Hotline and got a call center in Pakistan.

The economy is so bad that when I told them I was suicidal, they got all excited. Then they asked if I could drive a truck.

Written by John Pricci

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