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.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Fast New York-Breds In Featured Belmont Sprint

Wednesday’s feature at Belmont Park is a good one, a state-bred restricted stakes, the Screenland, for three-year-olds at the demanding hybrid distance of 6-½ furlongs.

The race includes four serious contenders, from the inside out; Stunt Man, Chief’s Lake, Bustin Stones and Indian Camp. Each has a license to win.

Stunt Man has improved his figures dramatically since Gary Contessa’s claim. After finishing third, the colt turned back to seven furlongs and won by open lengths. Certainly fast enough, he now must turn back again, vs. tougher competition, and it’s unreasonable to expect another forward move.

Chief’s Lake makes his season’s debut for Steve Asmussen. Undefeated in three Belmont Park starts at 2, he has been in training since March, his most recent work a bullet best of 34 half-mile breeze in :48-flat. Given the maturity factor, an improved performance figure puts him in today’s photo.

Bustin Stones is undefeated in two career starts, winning both impressively, especially his last in the Times Square division of the Stallion Stakes. He, too, turns back with faster and returns on relatively short rest, 17 days. Lightly raced, a regression is not automatically assumed, however. He easily could be this good.

The fastest horse is Indian Camp and he should provide value. After a top figure score in a state-bred preliminary allowances, he regressed in the open, graded Bay Shore Stakes but only after engaging in a suicidal pace duel that earned an exceptional pace figure. One-for-one as a Belmont two-year-old, the surface switch is a non-factor that could help, along with reuniting with Eibar Coa, who was aboard for the win two starts back.

We’re taking Indian Camp to win, and keying him first and second in trifectas with Stunt Man, Chief’s Lake and Bustin Stones.

Running Totals (including Kentucky Derby results): (18) 7-4-4 ROI: $49.80

Written by John Pricci

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Former European Fillies Battle It Out On Belmont Turf

Two former European fillies will battle for major honors in today’s Belmont feature, the Destiny Dance overnight stakes for fillies and mares at 1-¼ miles on the inner turf course. It’s a close call but Pictavia rates the edge. First, a look at her main rival, Time On.

Toughened in European graded stakes at 3, Time On makes her second start off a lengthy layoff for turf ace Christophe Clement. In her American debut at Gulfstream Park March 31, she stalked the pace while under stout restraint throughout the mile and a half route.

The combination of distance, ground loss, and dissipation of energy in her first start in 160 days proved too much. She was beaten less than three lengths in a deeper field than she meets here. Time On will benefit from the effort and today’s shorter route.

Pictavia, however, looks quicker and suits the race shape a tad better. Little went right for Pictavia in her U.S. debut. She dropped back perceptibly following a stumbling beginning then was forced to rally very wide, tough in any grass race but especially so at Gulfstream. Third, beaten one length at 1-1/16th miles, she figures to improve and clearly benefits from a suitably longer distance.

Blessed with tactical speed, an inside draw, and the position conscious Mike Luzzi, who’s been riding in excellent form the last few weeks, Pictavia figures to get the jump on her main rival. Trainer Saeed bin Suroor is a very worthy and profitable 36 percent with shippers into New York.

Luzzi is also named on Pictavia’s stablemate, Veneti, but only one can start. We prefer the former. No Pictavia, no play.

Taking Pictavia to win and an exacta box with Time On.

Running Totals Through Sunday: (16) 6-4-3 ROI: $38.00

Written by John Pricci

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Value On Park Avenue As Big Sandy Opens

The Big Ballpark By the Belt, a.k.a. Big Sandy, a.k.a. Beautiful Belmont Park, open for business with the Grade 3 Westchester Mile from the chute for three-year-olds and up. Trainer Nick Zito has a good record in this race, and will try to improve on it further when he saddles favorite Sun King in today’s renewal.

Given prevailing conditions, the “best horses” are the aforementioned Sun King, multi-millionaire Utopia, and the classy New Jersey-based miler, Park Avenue Ball.

Sun King has the best American class lines. Last year alone, he finished second and third to the classy late developer Premium Tap and failed by a nose to catch the eventual Horse of the Year, Invasor, in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Whitney Handicap.

Working well for his season’s debut at Churchill Downs, he’ll be partnered by California’s Corey Nakatani, who rode him to victory in last year’s G2 Commonwealth BC Handicap at Keeneland. Never off the board in four starts at the distance including two victories, any money finish will put him over the $2-million mark in career earnings. He is a worthy favorite.

Meanwhile, what to do with 7-year-old Utopia, making his first start since winning last year’s Grade 2 Godolphin Mile in Dubai? Eight victories in 31 career starts have resulted in earnings approaching $5-million. Plenty of class, first time Lasix, and a trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, who is 32 percent efficient with horses returning from lengthy layups.

Not as accomplished at the top two, the most interesting is Park Avenue Ball. Third to Sun King in the Grade 1 Haskell at three, he won half his six starts at four and comes into this making his third start off the layoff for Jimmy Ryerson.

While dull last out, his season’s debut prior was an excellent placing in a seven-furlong Grade 2 at Gulfstream Park behind the Pletcher speedster, Half Ours. Ryerson is a worthy 20 percent when stretching to a route off two consecutive sprints. ’Ball’ never finished worse than second in four of five starts at a mile, including a win, and is 1-for-2 over “Big Sandy.” He is the percentage play here and likely will offer some value.

Taking Park Avenue Ball to win, keying him first and second in exacta boxes with Utopia and Sun King, extra ticket with the latter.

Written by John Pricci

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