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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Monday, March 10, 2014


Chrome Shines in California Sun; Cairo Still Tops HRI Power 10


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., March 9, 2014—It’s been good news and bad news for Shug McGaughey in the last 72 hours. The good news is that four seemingly sacrificial three year olds will serve to welcome Honor Code back to the races on Wednesday.

The bad is the loss of Top Billing from the Florida Derby due to a cracked cannon bone suffered in a Payson Park workout Saturday morning. The news could have been worse as Top Billing*, at the moment, is expected to resume his career following surgery.

To what extent the right front cannon non-displaced fracture takes a toll is unknown but for now the prognosis is good. He was scheduled for surgery Sunday in Kentucky with Dr. Larry Bramlage. "They'll put a couple screws in it, and probably a plate, and it should come together. They'll take the plate out so we're talking about three or four months. Dr. Bramlage feels like he should be able to come back fine."

In an allowance race Wednesday, it is of great interest to see how well Honor Code has recovered from bruised hind ankles, also suffered while training at Payson Park. Javier Castellano rides the 3-5 early line favorite.

McGaughey said that winning would be nice but having “something to push on with” is what’s important, and that he could return in the Florida Derby depending on how he races over the speed favoring course.

If not, it will be on to Aqueduct a week later, April 5. We believe the Remsen winner is 3-5 to have his final Derby prep in Queens.

Honor Code worked a half-mile in :48 and galloped out in a minute-and-change for Wednesday's allowance prep. "I'd like to see a good race from him. Hopefully he'll be good enough to win, but as long as we can get the kind of race into him where we can go forward, that'll be good enough."

"I think [Social Inclusion] has got speed and I would like for [Honor Code] to have a target. That's why I wanted to do something sharp with him, to put him in the game."

California Chrome established himself as a major Derby player in Saturday’s San Felipe and Graham Motion had himself a heck of a day at Tampa Saturday, winning the Hillsborough in the last jump and the Tampa Derby by daylight.

It’s hard to know what was behind Ring Weekend in Oldsmar--or even what he’s made of as a maiden winner now once removed. But say this; not many Tampa Derbies are won on the lead and Vinceremos seems to show up, well, wherever he shows up. It was a huge forward move by the winner.

Cairo Prince, early favorite for the Florida Derby March 29, took another step toward the event with a half-mile work Saturday, a half-mile in 49.60, galloping out five-eighths in 1:03.80 at his Palm Meadows base.

“He looked great doing it and we’re on course for the race. He’s doing great,” confirmed Kiaran McLaughlin.

Gulfstream Park Derby winner General a Rod was also on Saturday’s tab, going an easy half-mile breeze on Saturday for trainer Mike Maker in :51.26. “We just worked him easy and he was push-button, as always,” said Maker. “He was more aggressive after the race and full of himself so he probably wanted to work sooner than I decided.”

To his credit, Maker is playing the shipping game by shifting LeComte winner and Risen Star third Vicar's in Trouble into Hallandale Beach for the Florida Derby on Gulfstream’s speed friendly track rather than remain at the Fair Grounds with the stretch that never seems to end.

Obviously, Saturday’s results and last week’s defections changed the HRI Power 10 standards decidedly into Week 3. Cairo Prince remains the top vote getter among the HRI staffers and contributors.

Ranked in order, based on a blend of accomplishment and promise, with power points in parentheses Note that there’s a good deal of separation between Cairo Prince and Tapiture from Candy Boy and Honor Code, and again between those two and the remainder:

HRI Derby Power 10, Week 3

1. Cairo Prince (30)
2. Tapiture (28)
3. Candy Boy (23)
4. Honor Code (19)
5. Intense Holiday (14)
6. California Chrome (13)
7. Wildcat Red (12)
8. Strong Mandate (11)
9. Samraat (8)
10. Kobe’s Back (5)





* correction 031014

Written by John Pricci

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