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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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Sunday, January 13, 2013


Old School Meets New School in Winners’ Circle


HALLANDALE BEACH, FLA., January 13, 2013—A colleague reminded me after the running of Sunday’s Hal’s Hope, that Csaba is named for Hungarian painter Markus Csaba, who only has seen the horse run once according to friend, co-owner Bruce Hollander.

If the present win streak continues, you could write this down: The connections of the four-year-old Kitten’s Joy colt will do their absolute best to make certain the two-legged Csaba will never see his namesake run live again.

Csaba (pronounced cha-buh) in racetrack parlance translates to throw-back; a stone-cold running iron horse. After all, how many modern-day horses at the highest levels have run 17 times two weeks into their four-year-old year?

Csaba the throwback is trained by Phil Gleaves, a bit of a throwback himself, having been Woody Stephens’ premier exercise rider back in the day, Derby-Belmont winning Swale and all the rest.

“Woody said when they’re good, run’em,” Gleaves reminded reporters in the winner circle. And if the same scribers paid attention before the race, they would have heard another Woodyism from Gleaves regarding turn-backs: “Woody made a habit of doing that over the years.”

And, so, the Hungarian inspired Csaba was a turn-back and a throwback, shortening up in distance from his Harlan’s Holiday victory over the track at 1-1/16 miles to yesterday’s Grade 3 one-turn mile.

The four-year-old, said Gleaves “is one of the only Kitten’s Joy who doesn’t like turf, thank God he likes dirt.” And he doesn’t just like it, he loves it.

The Hal’s Hope was his four consecutive win, winning the Tropical Park Derby and G3 Fred Hooper Handicap at Calder before shipping eight miles across South Florida.

If would have been his fifth stakes victory in his last seven starts if it were not for the length of Quick Wit’s dirtiest of noses in Saratoga’s G2 Hall of Fame, a race taken off the turf and run over a sloppy main track.

The Hal’s Hope was Csaba’s third race in the last 44 days, and he’s run at least once every month since July. Gleaves, however, was quick to deflect credit for Sunday’s victory.

“I thought he’d be laying close and going easier but the fractions were solid, obviously. My first impression as that I thought he was kind of struggling down the backside.

“I’ve got to give all the credit to Luis Saez. He’s a brilliant rider. He’s one of the best riders in the country. He’s going to take New York by storm.”

“When we came to the three-eighths, I didn’t think we’d win,” Saez said. But coming down the stretch I saw a little hole on the inside and went for it. When I asked him, he gave me everything.”

Saez, who has dominated the Calder riding colony in recent years, is currently in a battle for leading rider at Gulfstream. Csaba gave him his fourth winner of the afternoon, putting him one up on Javier Castellano, 33-to-32. He is expected to move his tack to New York at the conclusion of the Gulf meet.

As for Csaba, his 18th start could come in the G1 Donn Handicap, February 9. “That’s the next logical spot. The owners and I will have to look at it,” said Gleaves.

That’s 27 days from now, for Csaba, a mini-vacation.


Salute... Salute

There aren’t many 20-year-old sports professionals, Olympians notwithstanding, that have five years of successful international experience.

Not the case for Italian riding champion Christian Demuro who rode his first American winner, favored Holdin Bullets in Gulfstream’s second race.

He will hang his tack here for the better part of the next two months, and no less than agent-to-the-stars, Ron Anderson, will book his mounts.

Starting at age 16, he’s already ridden in Japan and Dubai--not for the faint of heart or talent—and this year set a record in his native Italy with 264 winners.

Born to the saddle, his brother Mirco, a five-time champion himself, upset the Dubai World Cup in 2011 with longshot Victoire Pisa.

Young Christian looked like an American rider than the long-ironed Euros and his seat is fairly tight and compact. He drove his winner home using a right-handled whip, so switching sticks will be a lesson for another day.

Written by John Pricci

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