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.

Monday, August 13, 2007

On Turf, Take Experience Over Speed

Today’s feature is the Troy, an overnight stakes for older horses going 5-½ furlongs on the Mellon turf course. There have been many short sprints run at this meet but this is the first we can remember for top echelon horses.

For us, this comes down to a three-horse affair, including both halves of the Saeed bin Suroor stable entry, Council Member and Afrashaad (6-5), second favorite First Word (3-1) and short-sprint specialist T.D. Vance (6-1).

The entry will be hard to beat. On performance figures Afrashaad is the fastest horse in here and by a significant margin. If he takes to the grass at all, being a first-time turfer, he will probably lead throughout. Stablemate Council Member showed an explosive turn of foot on the main track at Belmont this spring but won listed sprint stakes on turf in Europe. They will be formidable.

First Word is a Bobby Frankel trainee who finished second after making a bold mid-move in the listed Notoriety Stakes at seven furlongs. The turn-back suits his running style and Frankel is effective with horses shortening up. Grass maven Edgar Prado gets the call.

T. D. Vance is the interesting horse at early line odds. Never off the board in short turf sprints, he earned a good figure at this distance on the Keeneland turf last fall. A fresh five-year-old gelding, he’s stakes tough and won the Grade 2 Hall of Fame here as a three-year-old. Garrett Gomez, aboard for that Keeneland sprint, takes the call. He’s been working very well at his Fair Hill training center base.

We’ll take T. D. Vance to win at 4-1 or greater. Also making an exacta box with either or both halves of the Suroor entry and a trifecta part wheel of T. D. Vance and the Suroor entry first with those two and First Word in the second and third trifecta positions.

Running Totals: (79) 34-17-10 Dollar Return: $197.70 [win selections only]

Written by John Pricci

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Seeking Value In West Point

Today’s feature, the West Point Handicap for older state-bred runners at nine furlongs on the Mellon Course is usually a good betting race and this renewal is no exception. But it’s a little too good (read hard) of a wagering event.

We left five horses open for consideration. Each has merit, obviously, but they will need the right trip, the smartest handling. From the inside, out: Classic Fran (8-1), Dave (3-1), Golden Commander (5-2), Red Zipper (4-1) and Pa Pa Da (10-1).

Classic Fran has always been competitive with this group but seldom has gotten over the top. Now it goes first time for Gary Contessa, a profitable 21 percent efficient off the claim and picks up Rafael Bejarano, 1-for-1 aboard the horse. An alert break is desirable here since there will be traffic to deal with if he lags in the early going.

Dave is a horse for the course (5) 2-1-1 and comes back off the month layup for Barclay Tagg, profitable in that scenario. Second in this race last year and with competitive performance figures, he’ll be happy to be back at the Spa.

Golden Commander loves it here (5) 3-0-1, benefits from a brief freshening and has go-back figures that are tops in the group. He reunites with Edgar Prado, aboard for his last win, and hails from the Serpe shed that’s lifetime profitable at the Spa and in non-graded stakes, and he’s one of the live trainers at this meet.

Red Zipper comes from a key race that produced three next out winners and drops from open Grade 1 company. One for one on Spa turf and (2) 1-1-0 at nine furlongs, he can set the pace or stalk from close range. He will appreciate the turn-back from 10 furlongs.

Finally comes Pa Pa Da, a big price on the early line who probably should have won last year’s edition, coming from far back after being virtually eliminated at the start. Dave Donk, profitable in non-graded company, switches to Ramon Dominguez, and they are 27 percent profitable as a team.

Like I said, this one’s tough, and we won’t take a short price.

We’re betting Red Zipper to win at early line odds of 4-1 or greater, and keying him in all three trifecta positions with the other listed contenders.

Running Totals: (78) 34-16-10 Dollar Return: $197.70 [win selections only] {Saturday’s results not included}

Written by John Pricci

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

On Paper, Sword Dancer Now A One Horse Affair

With the anticipated scratch of Better Talk Now from the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational due to a minor injury, the strong match-up between Graham Motion’s gelding and English Channel that was highly anticipated won’t happen.

Figure the odds on English Channel (8-5) to be around 1-2 at post time. On paper, he looks unbeatable and we won’t try. But that’s not to say there’s not an interesting upstart in here.

His name is Always First and hails from the top Maryland outfit of trainer Tommy Voss. What makes him a little special here is his affinity for today’s marathon route and an ability to handle less than firm footing, which is the prospect today.

Six-year-old gelding is in top form, has earned most of his money at today’s route, going seven-for-eight in the money at 12 furlongs, including three victories, and his best figure was earned over soft ground at Arlington Park last out in the G3 Stars N Stripes.

He has a puncher’s chance with Cornelio Velasquez in the boot but will be hard pressed to beat the favorite that’s won four Grade 1s in the last year.

Taking English Channel to win, no price restrictions, and the only play we’ll make is an exacta box with Always First, an additional ticket with the favorite on top.

Running Totals: (77) 34-16-10 Dollar Return: $197.70 [win selections only] (Friday results not included)

Written by John Pricci

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