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, February 01, 2012


For Gulfstream’s Weekend Stars, What’s Next?


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., January 31, 2012—Much like the Northeast, South Florida has been on a pretty good weather roll this winter.

It was supposed to rain on the Sunshine Millions parade but didn’t and so fans and players alike were treated to fast and firm conditions and a spectacular show; Awesome Feather and Mucho Macho Man both exceeding expectations.
El Padrino gallops out past Take Charge Indy following preliminary allowance win in 1.42.68
Photo by: Toni Pricci
El Padrino gallops out past Take Charge Indy following preliminary allowance win in 1.42.68
How good is Awesome Feather? I can’t think of a word that trumps perfection; excellence, faultlessness, precision? I suppose it doesn’t matter if the point is made.

The best news concerning the filly, given her past tendon issues, is that she came out of the Sunshine Millions Distaff “real good,” according to trainer Chad Brown, who’s now pondering his next move with the undefeated four-year-old.

“We’ll get her back on the track in the next couple of days, see how she’s doing, and then pick something out.”

In her case, working backward from the Breeders’ Cup is easier said than done. There are spacing and distance issues to consider, in addition to making sure she’s happy and, most of all, healthy. “It’s a delicate situation,” Brown told us after Saturday’s race. “With her it’s one race at a time.”

The question is whether her connections are planning to check out a map of Maryland to find a place named Havre De Grace, or do they just wait for November to do that? At this point, my money’s on Over October.

Meanwhile, Mucho Macho Man’s people are likely to play the same game. Because he is a June 15 foal, the connections are planning on a five-year-old campaign. I probably would, too, especially since he won’t become four on the calendar for another five months.

It was clear watching him paddock last week that time has served him well. As Ramon Dominguez said following his Sunshine Millions Classic performance, last year he was just “a big skinny kid,” now he’s filled out in all the right places and has gotten his mind right.

Trainer Kathy Ritvo noted the same thing Saturday evening before her husband, track president Tim Ritvo, presented her with a trophy commemorating the victory. “He’s gotten more aggressive,” she said was the difference between last year and now.

That kind of attitude will serve the colt’s stalk-and-pounce style well, a tack he has used in his victories and strong runnerup performances. In the clear, out of trouble, and always in position will win lots of horse races.
Broadway's Alibi, John Velazquez up, head toward the Winners' Circle following the G2 Forward Gal
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Broadway's Alibi, John Velazquez up, head toward the Winners' Circle following the G2 Forward Gal
Owing to his name and his trainer’s heart-warming story (pun intended), Mucho Macho Man’s popularity will grow as he continues to do the same.

On balance, the Macho Man is a very sound animal and his development is really starting to show. Nine furlongs in 1:47.91, two fifths of a second off Quality Road’s track record, is happy motoring, indeed. He could continue developing into something really special.

The game surely could use more like him.

What Todd Pletcher probably doesn’t need are more good horses but he has them, anyway. Broadway’s Alibi, winner of Sunday’s Grade 2 Forward Gal, was doing her best Hilda’s Passion impression, Pletcher’s female sprint star last winter.

Unlike Saturday, the track was wet the following afternoon. But a 16 ¾ length victory in 1:21.94 despite drifting out in deep stretch? What manner of filly is this?

The Forward Gal was the middle leg of a personal Pletcher Pick 3 that began with the three year old colt El Padrino, a natural distance runner.

It was the colt’s second wet track win, which may or may not be coincidental, but Pletcher’s audible-- withdrawing him from the LeComte to await this allowance race--obviously was the right move.
Algorithms by daylight over Juvenile Champion Hansen
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Algorithms by daylight over Juvenile Champion Hansen
However, the wet track did Nick Zito’s colt, Casual Trick, no favors. After stumbling at the start and stalking three wide throughout, he began jumping up and down perceptibly on the far turn, obviously disliking what was underfoot.

Johnny Velazquez took care of him through the stretch and now Zito will need to go back to the drawing board. The saving grace, at this point, anyway, is that the colt ran well at Churchill Downs, if indeed he’s good enough to get there this spring.

A colt that’s clearly good enough to each the promised land is Starlight Partner’s Algorithms, who stretched his undefeated career record to three in the Holy Bull, beating juvenile champion Hansen by five lengths in the process.

Pletcher now has two colts, Algorithms and Discreet Dancer, which are 2-for-2 at Gulfstream Park. The trick will be keeping them apart and Discreet Dancer’s people want to point for the Florida Derby. Pletcher now has decisions to make, but he’s not the only one.

Poor Javier Castellano: He has the mount on Algorithms, Discreet Dancer and a colt many believe to be the best of last year’s juvenile crop, Union Rags. The Michael Matz-trainee is being pointed to the Fountain of Youth, as is Discreet Dancer. What to do?

Pletcher said last week that you can’t have enough three year olds if the Derby is your goal. Jockeys feel the same way, as anything can happen and often does. But these are known as good problems to have. It will be interesting to see what tack Castellano and agent Matt Muzikar take.

Written by John Pricci

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