Pricci's Free Daily Feature Race Analysis

Whenever his daily work schedule permits, HorseRaceInsider executive editor John Pricci will analyze that day's feature race from a major thoroughbred-racing jurisdiction.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Shabaab, Must Be Arabic for Fast

With a possible blizzard forecast for New York today, we’ll shift or focus south where at Gulfstream Park, a 5-furlong turf sprint looms as the days featured event for secondary allowance runners.

In grass races containing solid turf form do we reach out for horses making their first start on grass. The only exception to this rule is in turf sprints where ability to run fast often trumps preference for the footing.

Enter Shabaab (2-1). Making his second start off a layup and turf debut, Shabaab set an extremely strong pace (:44 2/5) before tiring in a 6-furlong dirt sprint here January 16.

By definition, he is the fastest horse on the Equiform scale, has run well on synthetics, a favorable turf indicator, and also happens to be bred for the ground on both sides of his pedigree.

When you consider that trainer Michael Pino is a profitable 30 percent efficient when going dirt to turf and worked a super sharp half mile in :46 4/5, it seals the deal. Rajiv Maragh takes the mount.

Taking Shabaab to win, no price restrictions, and boxing the exacta with Whodidntknowthat (4-1), a late running turf-sprint specialist that gets in light with seven-pound apprentice Jose Garcia.

Running Totals: (590) 185-120-81 Total Dollar Return: $1,287.70 [win selections only]

Written by John Pricci


Sunday, February 07, 2010

Asphalt Will Be Hard to Beat

Today’s Hallandale Beach for three year olds going a mile and a sixteenth on the Gulfstream turf course is a highly competitive event with six of the eight entered having a chance to win it.

If the early line is any indication, the play will be Asphalt at anything resembling early line odds (6-1).

He was talented enough to earn an excellent performance figure in his turf debut at seven furlongs, then came back to match his career best going today’s distance in his juvenile finale at Churchill Downs.

He parlayed that excellent try into winning his three year and course debut four weeks ago. Subsequently, he worked a strong half mile at Palm Meadows in :47 4/5, the second fastest half mile by a sophomore that week from a sample of 151 horses.

Clearly, he appreciates the firmer footing here, trainer Eddie Kenneally has a profitable record in non-graded stakes and he’ll be saving ground until ready beneath Rajiv Maragh.

Taking Asphalt to win and place at 4-1 or greater.

Running Totals: (589) 185-120-80 Total Dollar Return: $1,287.70 [win selections only]

Written by John Pricci


Saturday, February 06, 2010

Viva La France!

A pair of Grade 1s at Gulfstream Park where it was expected to have rained Friday night but promises to be clearing by the afternoon. We could talk about Quality Road and his considerable ability to take the Donn Handicap, but what fun would that be.

In the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, however, there’s another very talented runner. As in the Donn, it won’t make you rich, but you might get a little value here. We think that Court Vision, the 8-5 early line favorite, is the wrong favorite. It’s the French import Never On Sunday (2-1) who deserves that distinction.

If we’re right, can’t take all the credit. Spoke with noted European turf writer and handicapper, Nick Mordin yesterday morning, and he had only nice things to say about the five year old making his U. S. debut for trainer Patrick Biancone, who’s 30 percent effective in that role.

Even though the course will be less than firm (Rated good on Friday), off ground in the U.S. is not like off ground in Europe, where, on balance, the going is much heavier.

The difference here is class. Last year, our Grade 1 horses, Gio Ponti notwithstanding, were not world class G1. Mordin, who appears with Cary Fotias and myself on our Breeders’ Cup Tele Clinics, promises that this is one of the most talented French horses brought to these shores.

He owns a tremendous turn of foot, likes firmer going, and has excelled on many tight courses in Europe. Even if this nine furlongs is contested on the Gulfstream wide course, it should suit the five year old perfectly. Turf ace Joe Bravo, a popular rider with Biancone, takes the call.

Taking Never On Sunday to win at 7-5 or greater.

Running Totals: (588) 185-119-80 Total Dollar Return: $1,287.70 [win selections only

Written by John Pricci


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