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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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tapitsfly Finally Makes the Grade

HALLANDALE BEACH, FLA., March 18-2012—Perception is a funny thing. You can swear that something is so, must be true, until you find out otherwise.

This was the case involving Tapitsfly, winner of the Grade 2 Honey Fox today at Gulfstream. When Dale Romans said: “It’s hard to believe that this is her first graded stakes win,” I’m thinking “no way.”
''She's learned to relax and is a better horse this year,'' is Dale Romans' take
Photo by: Toni Pricci
"She's learned to relax and is a better horse this year," is Dale Romans' take
Then who would know better than the man’s who’s trained her since she was a baby, when she won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. “It wasn’t graded when she won it,” which, of course, is correct.

The Juvenile Fillies Turf was run for the first time in 2008 and went ungraded for two years.* While some Breeders’ Cup events are afforded graded status right from the jump, the graded stakes committee didn’t know what they would get from this event and took a pass.

The event was a Grade 2 when Stephanie’s Kitten won the race last year.

“She really deserves this,” Romans said. “She’s had some tough luck in some of her races but now she’s learned to relax and is a better horse for it.

And her rider, Julien Leparoux, must be pretty relaxed, too, because after breaking sharply, Leparoux was able to settle her into stride nicely and waited for the last instant to make his run, a trademark of his on the turf.

It could not have worked out better as she rallied strongly to catch the dueling La Reinne Lionne and Bay to Bay in the shadow of the wire, hitting the line 3/4s of a length to the good of Bay to Bay, whose nose was thismuch longer than that of La Reine Lionne.

As for what’s next, Romans said “I have no idea. She usually [does her best racing] at this time of year but it’s a long year. We need to map out a whole plan for her.”

Now that’s she learned how to relax, Romans would be best served by allowing Leparoux to keep timing her late run. The filly had not won a race since last April 2 at Gulfstream, which was the last time Leparoux got on her until Sunday.
Tapitsfly breaks sharply beneath Leparoux, then settles down nicely
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Tapitsfly breaks sharply beneath Leparoux, then settles down nicely
Looks like there might be a G1 in both of their futures if they happen to hook up again somewhere down the road.

Tough Weekend for Riders

Both Antonio Gallardo and Paco Lopez were fortunate to escape serious injury in Saturday’s turf finale. Both were released from the hospital but unfortunately Lopez did not get off lightly. Far from it.

Last season’s leading rider at Gulfstream suffered a broken collarbone and six fractured ribs and will convalesce from six to eight weeks. This is the second time at this meet that Lopez has been injured and forced to miss time, but not like this.

Three horses were involved in the nasty looking spill and escaped uninjured.
Leparoux times it nicely as Bay to Bay (2) noses out an obscured La Reine Lionne
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Leparoux times it nicely as Bay to Bay (2) noses out an obscured La Reine Lionne
At Aqueduct, meanwhile, Ryan Curatola suffered a strained back when he was thrown from his mount in the seventh race, but is expected to resume riding Wednesday.

On Sunday, leading rider Ramon Dominguez and apprentice Samuel Camacho were thrown from their mounts in the eighth race when Mob Wife stumbled and fell, unseating Dominguez, then Camacho’s mount, Suave N Sassy, collided with Mob Wife, unseating the apprentice.

Neither horse was seriously injured, according to an NYRA press release. Camacho is expected back on Wednesday when racing returns to the Aqueduct main track while Dominguez will be out for an undetermined period. Dominguez led all jockeys with 104 winners at the inner track meet that concluded Sunday.

Havre De Grace the Day After: All's Well
The lovely mare and happy rider return victorious
Photo by: Toni Pricci
The lovely mare and happy rider return victorious
“We’re all good here,” said trainer Larry Jones Sunday morning of the defending Horse of the Year champion Havre De Grace who defeated four overmatched rivals with contemptuous ease in Saturday’s Fair Grounds Ladies Stakes, a race where she actually was in receipt of weight under the allowance conditions.

Jones also reported that his two Louisiana Derby starters, Mark Valeski and Mr. Bowling, both owned by former Kentucky Governor Brereton Jones, will work for that race on Tuesday.

Mark Valeski was beaten a nose by El Padrino in the Risen Star Stakes and is likely to go favored in the La. Derby…Dale Romans confirmed Sunday that Finnegans Wake is very likely at Louisiana Derby starter. That colt finished third to Hansen in the Gotham Stakes, March 3…Leading rider and defending champion Rosie Napravnik rode her 100th winner of the meet in Saturday’s eighth race.

Baffert's World

Bob Baffert, who won his third consecutive Rebel Stakes on Saturday with Secret Circle, stated that he will return for the $1 million Arkansas Derby April 14.

“[The Rebel] was a good schooling for him and I think he should get a lot out of it, although my guys tell me he was hardly blowing when he got back. If all goes well, we will definitely come back.”

Next time, the waters will get deeper, of course. In addition to the 9 furlong trip, there is the possibility that the impressive, undefeated Gemologist will be in the same starting gate.

Gemologist needs graded earnings and even a second-place finish should insure that the WinStar colt will have bankrolled enough graded cash to make the Derby cut. If that meeting happens; it could be the first confrontation of Baffert and Pletcher-trained 3-year-olds. *Correction made 8:41 a.m., 031912

Written by John Pricci

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