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, April 30, 2008

Ancients Say Short Price Better Than Long Face, Grasshopper

Belmont Park opens with a renewal of the storied Grade 3 Westchester Handicap for three-year-olds and up at a flat one-turn mile around “Big Sandy.”

It has attracted a significant shipper and early line favorite Grasshopper (3-5) from the Neil Howard shed. The interesting horses are Divine Park (4-1) and Sightseeing (6-1).

When last seen, Grasshopper was being outrun in deep stretch by the talented Circular Quay after giving away his momentum at headstretch in the G2 New Orleans Handicap. As the soft-paced but pressed-throughout frontrunner, he could not hold off the winner in his second start of the year. He’s better with a target. Between today’s shorter distance and class relief, he’s extremely formidable in his third start of the season.

Divine Park came to hand in his last start, a comprehensive victory in fast time now returns to a dynamic by which he won his only start going a one-turn mile, the G3 Withers last season. Nicely positioned outside in a big field and with tactical speed, he will be a tough customer with Kiaran McLaughlin and Alan Garcia calling the shots. Whether he’s good enough for the like of Grasshopper is to be determined.

Sightseeing is going turf to dirt in his second start of the year for Shug McGaughey. His lone career victories have come on this surface in the one turn G2 Peter Pan last year that earned him a ticket to the Jim Dandy and Travers. A good third in the Travers, he was somewhat disappointing in Street Sense’s Travers. Shug is 22 percent efficient with the turf to dirt move and the very hot Edgar Prado takes the re-ride after his recent turf constitutional. Whether he has enough speed to overtake the favorite is another matter.

Taking Grasshopper to win with no price restrictions, optimizing the play with an exacta part wheel of Grasshopper and Divine Park first, with those two and Grasshopper for second, extra tickets with Grasshopper.

Running Totals: (200) 65-43-22. Total Dollar Return: $405.60 [win selections only]

Written by John Pricci

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pays to Play Pays To Dream

The final feature race of the Aqueduct spring meet comes none to soon. It’s a good and interesting one, the Grade 3 Fort Marcy for 4-year-olds and up going a mile and a sixteenth on the Aqueduct turf.

It offers an interesting blend of returnees making seasonal debuts and horses making their second and third starts off layoffs from top outfits. It figures to be a good and open betting race.

We’re keeping it simple, taking one of the returnees that figure to be primed for this. Otherwise, why would David Donk bring back Pays To Dream (5-1) on a course over which he’s 2-for-2 on the last day of the meet? Another rival is 0-for-2 on the Aqueduct green; none of the others have experience on it.

Pays To Dream has a strong late kick and returns in a spot with sufficient pace for his needs. Trainer Donk is winning at a near 24 percent rate over the past three months and a profitable 22 percent with horses returning from layups of 90 days or more. The newly turned 4-year-old gelding has maturity upside and developed with seasoning throughout his 3-year-old campaign.

Taking Pays To Dream to win and place at early line odds of 5-1 or better.

Running Totals: (200) 65-43-22. Total Dollar Return: $405.60 [win selections only]

Written by John Pricci

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Featured Beaugay Up for Ransom

Not one but two features today, and after seeing how short the field was for the Grade 3 Withers, I figure I’d analyze the G3 Beaugay instead. I was right. The Withers drew only four horses. The Beaugay was bigger, it drew five! Too bad the sexes, surfaces and distance was different. That would have made for a nice nine-horse field.

In the Withers, it will be Bay Shore winner J Be K against the horses. With a 50 percent chance of showers Friday night and Saturday and the promise of a at least a damp surface, J Be K’s speed will be hard to run down. But if anyone can, Harlem Rocker is an intriguing prospect. Two-for-two in career, his last was a fast reversal of energy with a competitive figure. Meanwhile, his uncoupled Todd Pletcher mate, Face The Cat, is much better than he showed in Florida Derby. And J Be K is no Big Brown.

The Beaugay should be least effected by damp/wet conditions and it’s extremely doubtful the race comes off the turf. Three of the five can win: Sweet Ransom (3-1), Factual Contender (4-1) and Criminologist (9-5).

The latter two fillies are the most accomplished. Criminologist is a dual G3 winner and was an excellent second in her season’s debut at Keeneland; a too late-finishing second on yielding ground at a mile. That’s a tough go, moreover, she’s always been better in her second start following a layoff.

Factual Contender won four restricted/overnight stakes in a busy campaign and earns the highest figures of the group consistently. Barclay Tagg has had her in training since February and she’s highly unlikely to be a short filly for today’s race. Eibar Coa, who rides today, was aboard for all four of those aforementioned wins.

But Sweet Ransom has the most upside as a newly turned four-year-old. She was a fast-closing second in the G3 Frances “You’ve Won the Derby” Genter going 7-½ furlongs at Calder--not the easiest trip for any later runner. She owns enough tactical speed to track lone speedster, draws the pole, switches to big-money turf ace Edgar Prado, and Bill Mott is a 24 percent profitable with returnees of 90 days or more. Her two lone wins and one placing have come from four starts at today’s distance.

Taking Sweet Ransom to win at 5-2 or greater and keying her first and second in exactas with her main rivals here.

Running Totals: (199) 65-43-22. Total Dollar Return: $405.60 [win selections only]

Written by John Pricci

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