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 14, 2018


Hard Work Being a Weekend Warrior


Damn, there’s just no down time in this game. Maybe a Christmas fortnight to New Year’s, but then there’s the December 26 Santa Anita opener. What’s a weary horseplayer to do?

I mention this because while at Gulfstream Park playing their program yesterday, my head was on a swivel as if I were auditioning for a role in “The Exorcist, Part IV.”

Rival CDI, meanwhile, put on a great card for their Grade 3 LeComte program, an obvious first stop on the N’Orleans road to Louisville. More on that later, and the Silverbulletday, too.

But then there were look those interesting races at Oaklawn; don’t normally look until Monday’s Smarty Jones. Tampa Bay, one of my favorites, especially races over that magnificent grass course, wasn’t even on the radar yesterday.

Neither was the G2 La Canada—and that was my bad, and my loss--in more ways than one. Coming out, of that race, I decided that I have a new favorite filly to root for: Mended.

Earlier at the Gulfstream winter meet, this girl embarrassed a group of her peers in the Glass Slipper on Claiming Crown day, winning her 10th straight by a dominating 6-3/4 lengths.

After the race, trainer John Martin told HRI’s Tom Jicha he would do everything he could to protect her winning streak. Instead, Martin shipped her 3,000 miles and risked it all in the two-turn Grade 2 against the toughest competition she would meet in her life.

Setting her customary early pace, she was pressured throughout. Mopotism who finished well behind Unique Bella and Paradise Woods in the G1 La Brea last time, was tracking comfortably and made was appeared to be a certain winning move at headstretch.

But after getting the lead inside the furlong pole, Mended (7-1) battled back, coming again to take the slimmest of leads a jump before the wire, but lost a head-bobber to Mopotism (2-1) in a three-way photo. The exacta was a generous $49.60: Damn, Part II.

At Gulfstream, Graham Motion’s well prepared Ultra Brat won the G3 Marshua’s River at a very square 4-1, with season-debuting favorite Dream Dancing a good-finish second. She should be at top next out, better at least Heavily-backed Gianna’s Dream was awful.

When the gritty Heart to Heart missed the break in the G2 Fort Lauderdale, it left Shining Copper on a soft lead, enabling for his come-again victory over longshot One Go All Go. Mike Maker’s charge was a 5-1 overlay.

Worthy of note here is that had third-finishing Channel Cat--the 8-1 part of the uncoupled Todd Pletcher entry won the finale--a single ticket would have been worth $2.3 million.

As it was, multiple tickets that included Pletcher’s winning favorite, Maraud, returned $104,000. For those inclined, there’s $1.8 million worth of leftovers for today’s Rainbow 6 sequence.

At Oaklawn, interesting to note that Team Lukas/Stevens (Winning Colors, among many others) won a pair of three-year-old races in Hot Springs. Cool; Hall of Fame is as Hall of Fame does.

Farrell made a successful return in the 1-1/16 miles Pippin Stakes, holding off both Steve Asmussen favorite Terra Promessa and his uncoupled Ever So Clever (5-1).

The Pippin was Farrell’s fifth win without defeat at the trip. Terra Promessa backed up badly in late stretch but was effectively done by the quarter-pole. It was her first start since Saratoga and note she has rebounded big-time off poor efforts in the past.

In New Orleans, Wonder Gadot did all the dirty work but last-run longshot (McPeek/Geroux) got the money in the Silverbulletday. ‘Gadot’ virtually on a hard-chase throughout—not an easy thing, especially at Fair Grounds—yielded grudgingly. Very nice Oaks quality filly.

In the LeComte, it was a case of I’ll see your three Asmussens and raise you one Hollendorfer.

West Coast ship-in Instilled Regard, toughened recently in battles at Los Alamitos and Santa Anita, did knock back down from an early scrum into the first turn. Javier Castellano insisted on good early position so he took it.

In being aggressive, Castellano forced formerly undefeated Principe Guilherme even wider, Florent Geroux electing to allow the favorite to drop farther back than expected before relaunching. It was an excellent runnerup finish from which he should benefit.

Asmussen finished 2-3-4, his Snapper Sinclair an excellent used-throughout third. In fact, the fourth finisher, late running Zing Zang, finished very well after the fact and appears looking for more ground to eat up.

But Instilled Regard was in a class of his own in the LeComte, galloping out way ahead of the group. He might indeed have Derby talent but this is awfully early for a peak effort. Very interesting to see how he bounces out of this, and where Hollendorfer goes with him next.

They finally ran the Jerome at the Big A and Firenze Fire, who has had his training interrupted by the inclement New York winter, showed his class to wear down Seven Trumpets nearing the wire over a sealed wet track, strong handling from Manny Franco.

Wish the Pegasus were next Saturday instead of one week later. Following one track exclusively would be light work compared to Saturday’s simulcast circus.

Made myself a day’s pay. When I left the track, however, I found myself asking, no one in particular: “Did you want fries with that?”

Written by John Pricci

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