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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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Stars Beginning to Align for 2011 Derby Crop

HALLANDALE BEACH, Florida, February 1, 2011--I must confess that as I was catching up with the news late last week, I was a bit surprised to see headlines indicating the Louisville Courier-Journal was out with its Kentucky Derby poll. Just seemed so early.
Something Old...Something New
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Something Old...Something New
After missing the Sunshine Millions with some sort of flu or whatever, I needed to get to Gulfstream Park Sunday. I wasn’t going to miss the Holy Bull. I figured that before contributing to anyone’s Derby list, including HRI’s later this month, I should see an actual 3-year-old in the flesh.

But I also wanted to show some support for a couple of friends who own a major interest in Mucho Macho Man, the eventual favorite, and wanted to see, too, what all the hype surrounding Dialed In was about.

Well, now I know.

I didn’t expect my Gushometer to enter the red zone so early in the prep season. But it did several times, when Dialed In showed a strong turn of foot inside on the stretch turn and again, after changing leads at the sixteenth pole, a second flurry to the finish.

Both moves were gush worthy, and the power on display in the shadow of the wire left the impression of a runner only just getting started. The Mineshaft colt won with something left, gearing down for Julien Leparoux as the wire came up to greet them.

Anyone who watched the race even casually knows that when you see something you just don’t see every day, you need to take note. This was one of those performances, further defined by circumstances. Lack of experience being one.
Dialing In for Battle
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Dialing In for Battle
As subjective as visual impressions can be, it’s more objective if the whole world saw it the same way you did. It’s nearly 48 hours since the Holy Bull and not only have I yet to hear a disparaging word but one that was not in high praise.

Given the style of Dialed In’s victory, there will be inevitable comparisons to Ice Box and Fly Down, two late running specialists from the Zito barn’s classics chase of 2010. They were most effective when making that one, final acceleration. But this colt is special; looks to have more than one gear.

As for the circumstances that lent added definition, Dialed In switched tracks, moved up a perceived four classes, stretched out in distance and took on accomplished rivals owning much more experience. Like they say in the old neighborhood, this ain’t easy.

But then to spot the field a 15-length head start, make two moves--the second while finishing up in comprehensive style--to prove much the best is a horse of a completely different color.

In his debut, according to chart footnotes and impressions from respected observers, Dialed In had a slim-and-none chance to win, given his trip. After extricating himself and finding room to run, however, he got to rolling like he did on Sunday afternoon at Gulfstream Park.
For Eibar Coa, It Was Only the Beginning of a Rough 24 Hours
Photo by: Toni Pricci
For Eibar Coa, It Was Only the Beginning of a Rough 24 Hours
With nearly a quarter-million dollars in graded earnings, the pressure is off and Zito, like Todd Pletcher with Uncle Mo, could take the two-prep tack to Louisville. Of course, that would make the Derby only the colt’s fourth lifetime start.

I’m pretty sure Zito’s heard the Derby saga of Big Brown. But if he wants, there is the more traditional Fountain of Youth bridge to the Florida Derby, or some well spaced allowance race to be named later. With the Florida Derby back in its five-week-out slot, the timing to Louisville couldn’t be better.

Any concerns about whether he can be trained up to a race, or whether he will like Gulfstream Park, were both dispelled on Sunday. If it turns out that Uncle Mo is all he has purported himself to be, then his brilliance will carry the Derby day.

But that presumption, just as is any with Dialed In, is a long way off; it’s the reason why races are not run on paper. This 3-year-old crop showed tremendous potential at two and if Sunday’s first meaningful Eastern Derby prep is a measure, the group is living up to their advance notices.

For Zito, there’s not a bad consolation prize available should he be disappointed in Louisville. Dialed In can earn a $5.5 million Preakness bonus if he can win the Florida Derby and the Triple Crown’s second jewel. Then next year Magna could name the windfall the Louis Quatorze Preakness Bonus.

At this point, no one is saying that Dialed In is a good as the 2010 juvenile champion; that would be sophomoric. But that’s what some people might think after they go to the videotape.
Kathy Ritvo Needs Her Macho Man to Settle Down
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Kathy Ritvo Needs Her Macho Man to Settle Down
First, however, there would be the matter of again beating Mucho Macho Man--a little too fresh in the Holy Bull--Sweet Ducky, Gourmet Dinner, and anyone else that happens to show up in the Florida Derby on Final Four weekend.

One of them will not be Uncle Mo, however, who had his first breeze of the year at Palm Meadows the morning of the Holy Bull. “It was really more of a two-minute lick than anything else,” said retired jockey Richard Migliore, who witnessed the workout for an HRTV segment.

Mo will work again next Sunday, something a little more substantial, prepping for his season’s debut at Tampa Bay Downs on March 12. That Northern Florida Derby didn’t work out too badly for another juvenile champion, Street Sense four years ago.

Written by John Pricci

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