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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Wednesday, January 08, 2014


Caught In a Polar Vortex


SOUTH OZONE PARK, NY, January 8, 2014---At about 10 minutes after midnight on New Year’s Rockin Eve with the ABC camera spanning the humanity to the strains of Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”

It was at this moment, as Ole Blue Eyes was about to begin this refrain, Toni Pricci jumped in with her own unique interpretation of the lyrics:

“I Want to Wake Up In a City That Never Sleets…”

“I know, I know," I said. Six more days and we’ll be having drinks with tiny little umbrellas in them.”

Then, from the Arctic it came; not a bird, not a plane, but a polar vortex.

Huh?

Alas, it was no joke. Historically low temperatures, at least 15 deaths and counting, stranded travelers (hello?) wholesale school and business closings, power grids straining, etc., etc.

The amount of fallout from this calamitous climate change (is this still deniable, Mr. Trump?) is understandable, the very least of which was our arrival in South Florida, namely Gulfstream Park.

Departure was scheduled for early afternoon Tuesday then came an announcement from my carrier, Jet Blue Airlines, that flights from all three major metropolitan area airplanes and Logan in Boston had been cancelled.

Jet Blue, already playing catchup from last week’s storms, absolutely made the correct call here. I applaud new airline regulations requiring pilots to get sufficient sleep before punching their personal time clocks.

I called an audible, not wishing to be stranded without a car at JFK International or go for $200 for a bust-out room at some hotel near the airport. The airline was not penalizing its passengers for a decision it made and waived all rescheduling fees, so I jumped at the opportunity.

The first two calls were unilaterally aborted by 1.800.Jet-Blue due to extremely high call volume so I decided to wait until after midnight. This time the prompt said “the wait will be more than 30 minutes.” I thought it best to roll the dice.

My call was answered in about an hour, reasonable under the circumstances, even at 1:40 a.m.

I was able to appropriate two of the last three seats on a jet plane that, God willing, lands safely at the cocktail hour Friday evening. How civilized. As of late Tuesday night, the first availabilities were next Monday and Tuesday.

Had I not gotten through when I did, I would have missed Saturday’s G2 Ft Lauderdale Handicap and the G3 Hal’s Hope, featuring a couple of interesting Donn Handicap prospects, otherwise known as half the Late Pick 4.

Most New Yorkers took the event in stride, which is to say somewhat impatiently, and only one issue ruffled my feathers.

On Tuesday, the day we were originally scheduled to fly, the local TV networks I said that the airports were averaging delays of 29 minutes. Maybe we could have gotten out of Dodge almost as scheduled. I chose instead to disbelieve what I was hearing.

Our host came home that night and couldn’t wait to get completely inside before blurting out. “You guys made the right call. CBS Radio is reported that thousands of people are still stranded, no room at the airports, can’t get a hotel room. Many people have been there for days…”

Blogger to talking heads: In an emergency, pick up the phone and fact check you lazy sons of bitches. No one, especially seniors, should be made to curl up inside an airline terminal, even one as nice as Terminal 5.

2013 ECLIPSE FINALISTS ANNOUNCED: FORM HOLDS

In every equine division and almost every human division, Eclipse Award voters--nearly 92 percent of those permitted to cast ballots did--voters didn’t miss a trick. The three top vote getters in each of 17 categories resembled cold trifecta boxes.

The press release that made the announcement identified three potential Horse of the Year Champions; Mucho Macho Man, Will Take Charge and Wise Dan, the latter, the defending titlist, considered an odds-on favorite to repeat.

There was one category, that for Outstanding Trainer National, that raised some eyebrows. On the same day the National Baseball Writers announced their class of 2013-14 of which Bobby Bonds and Roger Clemens failed to qualify, for obvious reasons, so, too, was it surprising that, given 2013 events, Bob Baffert would be a finalist.

Baffert had his usual highly productive year, led by his excellent work with Secret Circle, New Year’s Day and Game On Dude. But the Hall of Famer has set the bar so high that it could be argued 2013 was somewhat un-Baffert-like. And, like Bonds and Clemens, there was the heavy baggage. It wasn’t as if the accomplishments of another Hall of Famer, Shug McGaughey, weren’t enough to hit the board.

Written by John Pricci

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