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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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Saturday, March 03, 2012


Redemption in Gotham City


HALLANDALE BEACH, FLA., March 3, 2012—As Hansen, rating from slightly off the pace for the first time in his career, was drawing off after taking command soon after entering the stretch in the Gotham, I couldn’t help think of the owners of Algorithms.

At 7 a.m. on the morning of the Fountain of Youth Stakes, Jack Wolfe of Starlight Partners got the phone call that every owner dreads, the one the trainer informing you that your horse is lame and can’t compete in that afternoon’s big race, one that would have been their colt’s penultimate prep for the Kentucky Derby.

Flash forward to today’s Gotham Stakes where the Starlight group, and everyone else for that matter, watched as Hansen and My Adonis, the second and third finishers to Algorithms in the Holy Bull, finished ahead of 11other rivals in the mile and a sixteenth Gotham.

But it was the juvenile champion Hansen who redeemed himself in his second start of the year. The rating experiment that often fails with speed horses worked, and when Ramon Dominguez, who already had won three races on the program, asked him for his life, he responded generously.

“He really took the step forward,” Dominguez said. “He did it better than I expected. Coming to the three-eighths pole when he switched to his left lead and I got after him, he went on beautiful. Awesome. Galloped out like a freight train, too.”

“He settled nice and that’s what we were looking for, said trainer Mike Maker. “More impressive, he lost all that ground and wasn’t rank behind horses and settled. Ramon said [on] his gallop out, he had to call the outriders to come and get him. He did everything perfect today, and I don’t have to be embarrassed after his last race.”

Not at all, Mr. Maker, not at all.

Three lengths behind Hansen and six lengths in front of Finnegans Wake was runnerup My Adonis. “Hansen is a nice horse,” said My Adonis’ trainer, Kelly Breen. “They don’t win Breeders’ Cup races for nothing. Hopefully we’ll see him in four weeks [in the Wood Memorial] and we’ll do all that we can do to try and turn the tides.”

Maybe that’s what the Starlight group is thinking, too. Maybe we can meet them both, in six months, in Saratoga, in the Derby of Midsummer.

Castellano, McPeek, Pants On Fire Hot at Gulfstream

Two classy 3-year-olds of 2011 made their 4-year-old debuts at Gulfstream Park today, South Florida hero Little Mike--five for six on the local lawn--returned in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Handicap but it was Javier Castellano who grabbed the headlines by riding five winners on the program.

The meet’s leading rider beat his previous session-best days having won four races on a card twice. The all-time record for most wins belongs to Jerry Bailey with seven.

Of the upmarket returnees, Pants On Fire was the much better of the two, as 2011 Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby favorite Dialed In rallied late to finish fourth, beaten a tad over 7 lengths in a more than respectable 1:35.94.

“I thought it was very good,” said Kelly Breen from New York, in Gotham for the Gotham, where he saddled Holy Bull third finisher My Adonis. “I thought he was training so well I didn’t think he’d need a race. It’s nice when they run like you think they should.”

A tactical speedster who does his best racing from close range, Pants On Fire showed his freshness and sat in the pocket beneath Paco Lopez as frontrunners Dash Dot Dash and Sky Venture set the table nicely for him.

Not wanting to get trapped with an armful of Thoroughbred, Lopez tipped out three wide on the turn and virtually sat there as the Louisiana Derby winner took command at the quarter pole and drew off while being ridden out.

Hunter Bay, the picture of glowing health in the paddock, finished well for place but Dialed In’s rally was disappointing. Given the circumstances, he never would have finished ahead of the top two finishers but should have won the show photo from Meistersinger.

“They went so slow,” said trainer Nick Zito. “That’s the closest he’s been in a long while and he likes to come from way out of it and kick in, but they were going so slow, they went in :24.”

To be precise it was even slower than that; 24.67. But the first fraction in mile races out of the chute, like 6 furlong races at Pimlico, always come up “slow” because the gate is stationed very close to the timing pole and horses don’t get a good running start as they do in most cases.

Ironically, it was Julien Leparoux who nipped Dialed In, ridden for the first time by Castellano, who replaced Leparoux aboard the even money favorite.

Not Today Mikey

Little Mike, forced to set a pressured pace by Trend, tired and finished fourth to Doubles Partner, who was making his first start since Derby Day 2011. The Todd Pletcher returnee was ridden to the minute by Leparoux to win the Canadian Turf Stakes by 3/4s of a length in 1:32.56 over the firm ground, Trend holding very gamely for the place…

Pletcher was in New York to saddle, among others, Calibrachoa to win to win the G3 Tom Fool…Gulfstream training star of the day was Ken McPeek, saddling three winners...State Of Play gamely won the Battaglia Memorial by a nose over a stubborn Ill Conceived at Turfway Park.




Written by John Pricci

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