John Pricci 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, 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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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Great Draw for Both Pegasus World Cup Favorites

January 22, 2019--With two pills left to draw, the #3 and #12 slips were still open. And which one would City of Light, Breeders’ Cup Mile winner and only horse to defeat Horse of the Year finalist Accelerate this year, leave from?

Sighs of relief came not only from the connections of City of Light, who drew #3, leaving #12 to speedy Cigar Mile winner Pattern Recognition, but from Gulfstream management who won’t have to deal with post position queries this time around.

Further, the draw sets up a dramatic race throughout as the favorites will be on or need the pace throughout, certainly in close proximity to each other. Both Breeders’ Cup winners have won sitting off fast-early rivals.

The first two editions of the Pegasus World Cup may have had more glittering star power going in, but this edition is a much more interesting event and compelling betting race.

Yoshida, a Grade 1 winner on dirt and turf, of course, drew post #2 and was installed the 5-2 choice for the inaugural running of the Pegasus World Turf. Drawn to his inside is the uber-talented European filly, Magic Wand, a 9-2 choice for trainer Aidan O’Brien.

OAKLAWN OPENER: In case you hadn’t noticed, the Smarty Jones was not run on Martin Luther King Day because with the Oaklawn meeting ending later this year—Kentucky Derby day—the lid-lifter was pushed back to this coming Friday.

The 2019 Smarty Jones has been drawn and attracted a field of nine, including an uncoupled trio from Steve Asmussen, with Springboard Mile winner Long Range Toddy and tough–trip Springboard runnerup Bankit, an accomplished New York-bred, topping the list.

Like the Springboard, the Smarty Jones is a two-turn mile and all top contenders are working well. ‘Toddy’ benefits from his tactical speed and pole position while Bankit will appreciate the pace plethora up front. Larry Jones will saddle the talented, fast working Super Steed, his two-turn debut. Gray Attempt is the 5-2 ML favorite from post #8. [See Friday’s FRA for betting strategy].

SUPER MANIA: As the HRI Faithful are painfully aware, my unofficial wedding anniversary is Super Sunday each year as Toni and I were married a half century ago, the same day a quarterback named Joe Willie made good on a promise.

First up, a tip of the cap to HRI’s sports maven Marc Lawrence, who provides the best upset picks from his popular Playbook newsletter and who has had a good playoffs run, predicting Sunday that the underdog Rams would win the NFC Championship on the field.

An aside: Given the crossover between horse racing and sports these days, Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman posed a question on Twitter Monday, stating simply “Del Mar stewards or NFL refs: Discuss.”

A temporary shut-in these days, I have watched more live sports than usual of late, including the NFL playoffs, and Sunday’s games were very entertaining, especially the nightcap.

As a native New Yorker, I am obliged to hate the Patriots—you know, the “cheating” coach and QB. However, politics and provincialism notwithstanding, the Killer Bs [including Bronk--not the horse] are awesome, the best trio I have ever seen. And I’m not alone.

For the uninitiated, a few sports books open football betting to a select few wiseguys who wager into the opening line and, depending on which way the smart money goes, a public betting line goes out to the gamblers.

Well, between wiseguys and the fans, the Rams went from 1-point favorites to 2-point underdogs by early Monday.

Last year, over $158 billion was bet on the Super Bowl, about $5 billion of that in Las Vegas. Helped by silly prop bets on such things as the coin toss or duration of the national anthem, online bet-takers handle the bulk of the action these days.

Interesting to note, especially for Stronach Group watchers, that there is a bet drag on the Super Bowl every year, almost all the money bet in the last two days of the fortnight leading up to the big game.

In addition to some key propositions, bettors love Futures action. How about this, then? Before the first snap from center this year, the Patriots were 5-1 favorites to win the Super Bowl. But before the Playoffs began, the Rams were 5-1 to win it all. Go figure.

By the way, for those who believe SB 53 will be a high-scoring affair, the opening Over/Under is 58.

Written by John Pricci

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