Pricci's Free Daily Feature Race Analysis

Five days per week and every racing day during the Saratoga meet, John Pricci will provide horse racing selections of that day's feature race. When the racing schedule dictates otherwise, there will be analysis from other major thoroughbred Tracks. Check back here 5 days a week for free horse racing selections.

In addition to his race analysis, John will provide commentary in a weekly "On the Line" column and daily blogs under the "Pricci's Morning Line" banner.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tevye Would Be Proud

I liked this race better when it was 7 furlongs on the Widener course. However, it has remained a tough handicapping puzzle, a Grade 3 for older males, at 6 furlongs on the Belmont inner turf course.

The key to this is knowing what to do with First Defence (2-1), who owns a class edge but never has run on turf. His pedigree is acceptable, and trainer Bobby Frankel certainly has grass genes. But we must try to defeat him as the likely post time favorite.

Horses with the best turf form, and highest performance figures, are Salute The Count (4-1) and True To Tradition (9-2). Salute The Count went well in this race last year, obviously has been pointed for this, draws the rail and Prado, but probably prefers 5 furlongs .

True To Tradition is going very well for Scott Lake--not quite Linda Rice in turf sprints but very effective, indeed. The six year old gelding handle this trip very well and his late run style fits today’s race shape nicely. Of the early line choices, our guess is that this veteran can provide the best value in this group.

Taking True To Tradition to win at 7-2 or greater, keying him in exacta boxes with his main rivals here. Trifecta players can add Emirates to Dubai to their mix.

Running Totals: (220) 71-46-24. Total Dollar Return: $440.10 [win selections only]

Written by John Pricci

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

What’s Next for Curlin, Big Brown: How About the Breeders’ Cup Turf?

The Triple Crown is over, Big Brown is now back on Winstrol, and Curlin is expected to take care of business in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster today.

Now what?

While it outwardly appears that all of Curlin’s connections are on the same page, maybe cracks are beginning to show in the Big Brown camp.

For now, and probably for the rest of the season, Kent Desormeaux is Big Brown’s present and future rider, barring a repeat of the Belmont Stakes strategy scenario. Then all bets are off.

Edgar Prado, who invited Rick Dutrow’s wrath for his Preakness race-ride, is still, in Dutrow’s words, his “man.” But, like Bud Delp said of Bill Shoemaker, Bob Frieze is just a phone call away. Desormeaux, however, is Michael Iavarone’s man.

Tangentially, a question for Iavarone. You hired Gary Stevens as a consultant on all things Big Brown, so please settle this for me. Was Stevens hired to possibly confer with Desormeaux on pre-race strategy, or to throw him under the bus after the fact?

Disappointed minds would really like to know.

The barn’s post-Belmont game plan was to run in the Travers and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Now the owner is talking about a Travers prep, the $1 million Haskell, which works, of course. Iavarone also talked about how the Monmouth Park surface probably would be to Big Brown’s loving.

There was no mention of a purse boost, or an “appearance fee,” something which is included in the past performance lines of New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority management. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, despite the creepiness.

But Dutrow said he’d prefer to train Big Brown up to the Travers. With the Triple Crown over, Dutrow wants him on the kind of schedule that works for all Dutrow‘s horses, and it might serve Big Brown better, too.

It could be that Iavarone is erring on the side of the Benjamins here. Nothing wrong with that, either.

Outside of the barn and its connections, Curlin’s post-Foster schedule is still very much up in the air. The Louisville Courier Journal reported this week that Steve Asmussen wants no part of synthetic track racing for Curlin.

Not only is the trainer entitled, but good for him. Asmussen would rather have Curlin make his turf debut in Paris for $6 million than run for $5 million on whatever that stuff is at Santa Anita.

Knowing this to be the case, I asked Iavarone before the Belmont whether he’d consider laying this challenge down to the Curlin folks: Forget about having Paris, guys. If you want to run on grass, let’s meet in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. The Derby winner defeating an older Horse of the Year on grass might even add to Brownie’s breeding value. Given the correlation between Polytrack success on turf, maybe breeders would seek out Big Brown’s progeny because that offspring might have a reasonable chance for success on three surfaces?

Iavarone said that the Classic has far more prestige, perhaps erring on the side of the Benjamins again. Remember, the schedule is Iavarone’s call, not Three Chimneys’.

Barbara Banke, wife of Curlin’s principal owner Jess Jackson, thinks of their horse as a potential international star. Beyond the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, they are said to be considering the Japan Cup, another big ticket item. They learned in Dubai that Curlin can win without Lasix, important in Japan, not so much in Europe where drug testing, it is said, can be a bit spotty.

The Breeders’ Cup Turf is the only place where Big Brown can meet Curlin in the United States with international implications. Jackson is a sportsman, otherwise Curlin would be retired. Taking Iavarone at his word, so is he, saying before the Belmont that Big Brown would have two more races.

So think about this, please? Three million, plus breeding bragging rights, beats the old sharp stick in the eye.

Written by John Pricci

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Stronach, Frankel Playing Both Aces

How one beats the Frank Stronach owned, Bobby Frankel trained entry of Ginger Punch and Spring Waltz in today’s Grade 1 Ogden Phipps for fillies and mares at nine furlongs, I’m not sure.

They look like the perfect tag team, although you’d think having Ginger Punch in the barn is enough in these situations. Last year’s Distaff heroine owns wins at the distance, likes Belmont Park, and has the perfect stalking style and outside position for today’s conditions. Ensuring an honest pace, her streaking stablemate, Spring Waltz, is a great insurance policy in the late stages.

The interesting fillies in here are Moon Catcher and Golden Velvet. The former will be tested for class but could be up to this. Her last was her lifetime best, competitive with the favorite’s, and she’s had sufficient recovery time for Christophe Clement and Edgar Prado. The lone problematical issue could be today’s nine furlongs.

But that’s not the case with Golden Velvet, who earned an excellent figure winning the G3 Sixty Sails at Hawthorne at this distance. She’s had eight weeks rest since that strongly run effort, goes well for Eibar Coa, and Kiaran McLaughlin is showing a hot hand with his stakes fillies this season. The thing about these fillies is that their consistency is matched with laudable versatility, capable of making their own good trips.

Taking the Frankel entry to win with no price restrictions; one, the other, or both, and keying them first and second in trifecta keys with their main rivals here. Also taking exactas with the Frankel ladies on top only.

Running Totals: (219) 70-46-24. Total Dollar Return: $437.10 [win selections only] {Friday’s results not included}

Written by John Pricci

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