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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Saturday, March 09, 2013

Oops, There It Is

HALLANDALE, FL., March 9, 2012--Brian J Hernandez Jr. was hoping to catch a flyer out of the gate aboard the 2012 Handicap Eclipse champion Fort Larned in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, hIs season's debut. He prematurely caught up with with his right fore quarter instead.

And so the five year old horse went one way, Hernandez the other, Discreet Dancer went on to give Gulfstream's leading rider Javier Castellano his fifth victory of the afternoon by winning the flat mile impressively by open lengths, and the latest Breeders' Cup champion got his new season off to the fastest flying stop in history.

God must not be a Breeders' Cup fan.

As good as Discreet Dancer ran, it would have been a great contest to see; one of last year's Triple Crown aspirants before injury derailed that bid, vs. a defending champion at a flat mile on a fast racetrack. So fans never really got to find out where these two brilliant horses currently stood in relation to one another.

What's the fun in that?

As for the glamour division, we learned that Verrazano, highly likely to be voted #1 with a bullet in this week's NTRA Three Year Old Poll, had the capability to live up to the hype in Northern Florida but that Flashback, while a gallant second in his hot-paced San Felipe placing, might not be, for all his promise, the best horse in his own Southern California shedrow.

When a runoff sprinter shot to the lead from the outside in the Grade 2 mile and a sixteenth, momentarily blowing past Goldencents who spurted clear quickly but reasonably, until Kevin Krigger on Goldencents was panicked into getting off the fence when Julien Leparoux on Flashback allowed his mount to rush up three wide thus placing a rank Goldencents in a box.

Krigger then forced his way out and he an the favorite raced up outside of the sprinting leader to alternately force the issue while trying--not very well--to hold something in reserve.

By the time they reached the stretch turn, they already had run too fast early and had little choice to go on with it. They did, appeared to be the matched runners all came to Santa Anita to see until the inevitable set in, otherwise known as fatigue.

But that characterization would be unfair on its face, necessitating that Hear The Ghost be recognized as a colt of high ability, class and likely some more potential under that hood. It was a great pace setup, sure, but you still have to do the running and catching. He did, and he did.

Flashback clearly proved the better of the two favorites, barely holding placed while Goldencents faded to fourth. Flashback still has a modicum of promise as he gains more experience.

At Tampa Bay Downs, meanwhile, J.R. Velazquez showed why he is his generation's J.D. Bailey, winnng more races with his brain than his athletic ability, which is great.

Sensing the field might be out to get him, Velazquez efforted to get Verrazano off the wood as they cleared the first bend into the backstretch, as Falling Sky had crosssed all the way over to the fence from his extreme outside post, the fresh Purple Egg was on the chase from the inside, and Dynamic Sky, believed by most to be the most likely upsetter, all put on the pressure to surround Verrazano.

But that's where Velazquez held his ground, kept Verrazano on the lead from the middle of the track, dictating to the opposition what it must do to beat him, and not the other way around.

It helps, by the way, if you're riding the best horse in the race, and a very good one in the overall. This might be the most dangerous animal on earth; a brilliant runner with gears which obviously has a high cruising speed and just loves doing what he does for a living.

This gives his connections, most notably trainer Todd Pletcher, lots of favorable options; a story for another day.

Written by John Pricci

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