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.

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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Sunday, April 29, 2007

I Got A Little Story You Oughta’ Know

If you play this game, you’re a genius if you get it wrong two out of thee times. It’s a tough game or, paraphrasing, “just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in.”

We were smart on Friday. We called favorite Optimistic Steve the “most probable winner.” You could look it up. But the play we strongly suggested was keying longshot Shoplifting second and third with the favorite, and two other logical contenders. They ran 1-2-3-4. We lost a small win play on Shoplifting, but collected a $59 exacta and a $207 trifecta. Life is good.

But in yesterday’s Withers we were wrong at the top of our voice. We thought Divine Park would react to his most effort. Wrong. Only this time he went to the front instead of sweeping from the back of the pack. He’s now 3-for-3 and a graded stakes winner. He might not be Bernardini but he’s very, very good.

C P West just has not developed, maintaining the same level he demonstrated before last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Street Magician chased the winner throughout and backed up through the stretch in a very disappointing effort. Preakness prep? I don’t think so.

Sunday’s Grade 3 Fort Marcy on the turf will bring down the curtain on the Aqueduct spring meet. Belmont opens Wednesday. Licking our wounds from yesterday, we’re not making a selection for the record. Instead, we’ll tell you a story.

Ran into an old friend at Gulfstream this winter, trainer Bobby Ribaudo. He told me it was his first winter in Florida in 20 years. So why the trip? “I have a couple of grass horses I like.” One ran second in a heart-breaking allowances later that day. The other is in today’s Fort Marcy. His name is Grand Couturier.

After a useful French campaign he shipped state-side for a Saratoga Grade 1. He finished third. Subsequently, he was turned over to Ribaudo from trainer Jean-Claude Rouget and after running fourth in a Canadian Grade 2, he was recycled. He makes his four-year-old debut this afternoon.

Javier Castellano ships in to ride him. There are no killers in today’s lineup. If he’s fit, he should win. That’s my story. You’re on your own.

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

Written by John Pricci

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