John Pricci

HorseRaceInsider.com executive editor John Pricci has over three decades of experience as a thoroughbred racing public handicapper and was an award-winning journalist while at New York Newsday for 18 years.

John has covered 14 Kentucky Derbies and Preaknesses, all but three Breeders' Cups since its inception in 1984, and has seen all but two Belmont Stakes live since 1969.

Currently John is a contributing racing writer to MSNBC.com, an analyst on the Capital Off-Track Betting television network, and co-hosts numerous handicapping seminars. He resides in Saratoga Springs, New York.

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Friday, May 19, 2017


HRI Staff Selections: Black-Eyed Susans for Preakness Heroes


Tom Jicha

Black Eyed Susan

1. Dancing Rags--Grade 1 winner will appreciate the distance
2. Shimmering Aspen--Locals do well on Preakness weekend
3. Summer Luck--Big weekend for Team Casse?
4. Moana--Maiden to stakes, but who's to question Todd?
Preakness

1. Always Dreaming--No one has been close to him as a 3YO.
2. Classic Empire--Nightmare trip in Derby; juvenile champ could rebound big.
3. Hence--Another who had no chance to show his stuff in Louisville.
4. Lookin at Lee--Needs pace meltdown by top two; could get it

Mark Berner

Black Eyed Susan


1- Lights of Medina
won two straight at route; top fig in last.
2- Shimmering Aspen makes route bow after three sprint wins.
3- Dancing Rags had trouble in needed return; added distance suits.
4- Full House trained sharply and never has finished worse than third.

Preakness

1- Always Dreaming confirmed impressive campaign with very strong Derby win.
2- Classic Empire was game in Arkansas comeback win and still managed fourth in rough-trip Derby.
3- Gunnevera had no chance after getting jammed up early in Derby and should be more effective with less traffic.
4- Cloud Computing has early speed and power which can carry him a long way here.

Indulto

Black-Eyed Susan

1-Dancing Rags – G1 winner for Motion needed her last
2-Summer Luck – Consistently competitive at this level, gets Javier
3-Shimmering Aspen – May never look back seeking fourth in a row
4-Lights of Medina – Pletcher charge looking for third straight

Preakness

1-Always Dreaming – Derby winners usually triumph
2-Classic Empire - Should be much closer in smaller field
3-Hence – Needs fast track for best effort
4-Conquest Mo Money - Skipped Derby for this

John Pricci


Black-Eyed Susan

1-Moana
– Carefully managed campaign; Always Dreaming redux?
2-Full House – Mini-turnback, dynamics, post draw and huge drill could spell upset
3-Shimmering Aspen -
4-Dancing Rags – Grade 1 winner at 2 has disappointed but Motion has come alive and distance suits.

Preakness

1-Always Dreaming – May be breathing rarified air; uber athletic and tireless thus far
2-Classic Empire – Main rival looks all set now; match racing may be his only chance
3-Gunnevera – Needlessly wide in FL Derby and wide again while unable to handle slick strip; best value
4-Cloud Computing - No backward steps, training with a vengeance, has position and Javier

[See Friday and Saturday's Feature Race Analysis for wagering status]

Written by John Pricci

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Big A Turf II, a Win-Win for NYRA


Two weeks ago, the New York Racing Association revealed that Aqueduct’s inner dirt track is in the process of being converted to a second turf course, and that the main dirt track will be renovated and converted to accommodate year-round racing.

Finally, sanity is prevailing.

In our view, this comes a decade or two behind schedule. In that context, the current NYRA administration deserves props for finally putting the Aqueduct main track on course to become a meaningful winter meet, more reflective of what New York racing should be.

It wasn’t very long after its inception in 1976 that the winter-track race meet became the tail that has wagged the NYRA dog and, sadly, if one can picture those optics, it certainly did not do NYRA’s national brand and image any favors.

The argument we made historically was that if the winter surface is so great, why wasn’t it installed on the main track in the first place? You can’t run a world class American race meeting if the only dirt options are six furlongs or two turns.

The one negative in all this is that, with respect to racing and training, many New York horseman consider the existing main track surface at Aqueduct to be the best of NYRA’s three dirt-racing surfaces.

In any case, it wasn’t long before the “turf course” announcement initiated speculation that the addition of a second grass course is prelude to an altered big picture, a plan that eventually could lead to the consolidation of racing downstate at one venue.

There are several scenarios being proffered, the most logical being the possibility that Aqueduct will serve as a temporary year-round venue while Belmont is shuttered for a complete makeover to be determined at some point in the near future.

Following this reconstruction period, Belmont would reopen as a permanent, state-of-the-art home for year-round racing in the metropolitan area.

This would dovetail nicely with the proposed building of an arena across Hempstead Turnpike that would be, among other things, the new home of the New York Islanders.

The perception is that this new “sports complex” would be Long Island’s answer to Madison Square Garden and Barclays Arena. There are millions of people who live east of the Nassau County line. Belmont Park already rests hard by the conveniently accessible Cross Island Parkway.

All this certainly is an intriguing notion.

The idea that Big A Turf II is a blueprint for a bigger plan was given further speculative life when Martin Panza, NYRA’s Senior Vice President of Racing Operations, declined to speak on this issue for the record but indicated that a big-picture announcement could be forthcoming later this year.

Panza also indicated in a Daily Racing Form story that NYRA is in talks with Gov. Cuomo and the horsemen concerning the future of racing in the New York metropolitan area.

A win-win would be that Belmont Park once again becomes a racing mecca while Cuomo grabs the land he so covets in Queens for further development.

“There is a much larger plan,” conceded Panza.

The short-term benefits of a second turf course and reconditioning the Aqueduct main track are obvious. Given the burgeoning popularity of turf racing with bettors and racing departments throughout the country, the move makes a lot of good business sense.

Modern turf courses are larger with better drainage. They provide additional racing lanes for extended race meets in the same manner that separate turf courses such as those in place at Belmont and Saratoga provide.

In addition to being able to card 7-furlong and flat-mile races out of a chute on a dirt surface that will play in the northern temperate zone, the benefit a new turf course will allow for the carding of shorter turf sprints, racing that almost always overfill at every class level.

An indication of the growing trend toward turf racing and greater American participation in international racing is another burgeoning trend, so much so that sales companies are now scheduling select sales that feature successful turf sires.

Yes, there is life beyond the Kentucky Derby.

It is rare that racing makes any progressive change at all, but one such as this is in New York is at once good for the business and the sport of Thoroughbred racing, a win-win.

When one considers New York racing specifically, a third win is at play; the ability to compete with the escalating threat to New York winter racing that has come from Maryland, specifically Laurel Park.

Over the past two seasons, The Stronach Group has made sizable eight-figure investments to their Laurel property. The quality of the racing there has improved markedly over all class levels and the handle numbers reflect as much.

Turf sprints and the ability to run 7-furlong and mile-chute races during late fall and early spring in the Northeast has given TSG an upward trajectory, as compared to New York’s, this past year in particular.

No one along executive row would admit this but if I were in one of those chairs, I’d sure being thinking about it. Then if any of my colleagues still had doubts about the validity of this concern, I'd suggest that they only need check out Linda Rice’s 2017 stats for confirmation.

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, May 16, 2017

Mark Berner is a bit under the weather. His Inside New York column will resume next Tuesday

Written by John Pricci

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Thursday, May 04, 2017


HRI Staff Oaks and Derby Selections


HRI Staff selections for the 2017 Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. These races celebrate not only racing in this country but Thoroughbreds as a way of life and a living for scores of many, many more. It may bet wet and wild in Kentucky, but may the sun shine bright on your favorites late Saturday afternoon.

A safe and speedy journey to all the players and may the best horse and team win.


TOM JICHA

KENTUCKY OAKS

1-Farrell--Couldn't be any sharper
2-Paradise Woods--Brilliant SA Oaks; these are much tougher
3-Salty--Gulfstream Oaks an eye-opener
4-Abel Tasman--No shot vs. free running winner at SA

KENTUCKY DERBY


1-Thunder Snow--UAE Derby was an extraordinary performance. Post could be better.
2-Always Dreaming--Best of the U.S. and fits Derby undefeated as 3YO pattern.
3-Gunnevera--Always puts in a big late run. If race comes apart late, he's there.
4-Classic Empire--Which horse do we get in the crazy Churchill atmosphere?

MARK BERNER

OAKS


1-Paradise Woods earned top figure at Santa Anita.
2-Miss Sky Warrior won nicely at the distance.
3-Abel Tasman had excuse when second to top pick.
4- Farrell won four straight against weaker.

DERBY

1-McCraken should benefit from return and trained smartly since; 3-for-3 at Churchill.
2-Gunnevera had an insurmountable task in last and will provide value here.
3-Always Dreaming has been too eager training this week; tough if not overly keen Saturday.
4- Classic Empire has not been able to duplicate top freshman effort as a sophomore.

INDULTO

KENTUCKY OAKS


1-Paradise Woods
– Mandella Charge exploded in G1
2-Farrell – Versatile multiple stakes winner on a roll
3-Salty – Overcomes obstacles
4-Miss Sky Warrior – Distance suits streaking filly

KENTUCKY DERBY


1-Hence - Toyed with strong field for Asmussen
2-Classic Empire – Juv champ edged same horse as #1
3-Irap – O’Neil magic prevailed over strong opposition
4-Irish War Cry – Motion engineered 2 powerful preps

JOHN PRICCI


KENTUCKY OAKS


1-Abel Tasman-Second-time Baffert/Smith; race shape dictates
2-Farrell-Stalking style, speedy, forward upside and loves the surface
3-Lockdown-Badly needed latest; Bill Mott pointing; huge work at CD
4-Salty-Post a killer but helps price; forward lines and could be special filly

KENTUCKY DERBY


See Feature Race Analysis on Friday



Written by John Pricci

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