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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Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Behind Scenes Progress in Santa Anita Boycott Dispute


As far as the Santa Anita Boycott, scheduled for Mar. 23-27, is concerned, there is good news and bad news. But it appears a mini-crisis has been averted.

The bad is that without official backing of the Horseplayers Association of North America, it is highly unlikely that a boycott would be as successful as previous actions leveled against Santa Anita and Churchill Downs in the recent past.

The boycott does have the support of enough big bettors to make a dent, at least, have some negative impact on betting handle.

The good news is that a boycott may not be necessary at all. All the elements are currently in place to correct the poor California rule with respect to the Perfect 6 jackpot carryover, which occurs in the event of one race becoming an “ALL” and there is no perfect ticket.

Jeff Platt, President of HANA, called this morning to bring HRI up to speed about how his organization has been dealing with the issue behind the scenes in the name of political expediency.

After contacting the California Horse Racing Board, Platt was told the first thing he would need to do was to secure the backing of the host track. According to Platt, Santa Anita was on board with the rule change within a matter of days.

Subsequently, Del Mar and Golden Gate also lent their support to a possible amendment.

After getting Santa Anita’s approval, said Platt, he approached, the Thoroughbred Owners of California and horsemen. They, too, agreed in principle to a rule change. All that remained was administrative approval from the state of California.

After speaking with a representative in the state Attorney General’s office, Platt learned that there was an administrative provision in the law which allows the rule to be amended.

Now, it’s all about waiting for California to put that in writing. All parties—mostly the state--want assurances that all legal I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed before an amendment is put in place. No one wants blowback on this.

The thing is that this sounds reasonable if Platt is correct. At this point, it’s logical that horseplayers cool their heels just a tad longer before the industry take a Players First stance. Alas, we all wish to see the proof.

This is a good compromise, providing everyone keeps their word. If they do not, a boycott, with HANA’s future backing, would almost certainly succeed--and that would be a huge stresser for California tracks already having their difficulties.

Written by John Pricci

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Friday, March 17, 2017


Grade 2 at Gulfstream Features Grade 1 Speed


The following handicapping sketch of Saturday's feature race at Gulfstream Park brought to you courtesy of http://www.JohnPricci.com

RACE 11: Grade 2 INSIDE INFORMATION F&M 4YO&UP 7 Furlongs

1 - WHEATFIELD (20-1) Pricci Rating: 99 (at 6F)
Has compiled fine lifetime slate (17) 6-4-3 but lacks experience at this trip and draws the pole while making graded stakes and GP debut; extremely tall order but rates super-exotics consideration.

2 – SUMMER READING (20-1)
PR: 92
Jerkens barn presently white hot and is profitable with repeaters and graded stakes runners—a worthy 32% in LAY-2 scenarios. Owns 2-for-3 GP slate, 1-for-9 elsewhere, and was second in two tries at the trip on this track in 2016. Worked very well—fastest of 32 peers week of Mar. 10 but this is very salty spot.

3 – DANESSA AGAIN (30-1) PR: 82
Pace presser is stuck inside vs. faster set here—difficult trip looming. Both lifetime wins came at GP and she’s 1-for-2 at the trip but needs to step up her game considerably to be taken as a serious win threat. Top connects gives her shot at fourth.

4 – MIA TORRI (8-1) PR: 89
Two-for-two since entering the Navarro barn (shocking, I know) and was second in lone start at the CT bullring last fall, her only try in graded company. Likely to be trip sitting beneath Rosario and cannot be easily dismissed despite big step up here.

5 - DEAREST (5-1) PR: 98
Seriously fast and classy sprinter is 4-for-5 on this track and undefeated in two starts at 7F. Returns with winning spacing and Zayas has won thrice aboard Midshipman 4YO. Working brilliantly at GPWest base for Zerpa—59 2/5B fastest of 23 peers that week. Barn is 25% profitable with 90-day layups. Only concern is 123 pounds.

6 - DISTINTA (10-1) PR: 91
Unlucky runnerup in last after dropping far out of early contention, finishing furiously too late to just miss. However, runnerup finishes have been her hallmark but speedy dynamics suits her, as does the switch to Johnny who will look to trip-out. Barboza career 23% profitable with all dirt runners.

7 - MOMENT OF DELIGHT (6-1) PR: 95
Last better than it looked in that she was forced to rush up from the pole to avoid potential speed jam, winning the White Pearl 7F prep for this. Attracts Paco, is capable of stalking from close range, and gets a couple of pounds from the faves. She’s 5-for-14 here, 1-for-6 anywhere else.

8 – CURLIN’S APPROVAL (3-5) PR: 99
The proven class, she shoulders co-highweight seeking consecutive G2s and already is a multiple graded winner. Has conditioning on the cutback--might even be a better one-turn miler type--but returns with relatively short best turning back with faster rivals in intended LaTroienne prep.

See Saturday's Feature Race Analysis for on-the-record selections



Written by John Pricci

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Friday, March 10, 2017


Will Power Alert Three-Peat in Silks Run?


A handicapping sketch of Saturday's turf-sprint feature at Gulfstream Park, courtesy of Tote Busters at http://www.JohnPricci.com

RACE 12: SILKS RUN STAKES 4 & UP 5 Furlongs (TURF)

1 – BEANTOWN SAINT (20-1) PR: 79
While a four-time winner at the trip, he’s failed to hit the board in two GP appearances and was trounced the only time he’s faced Power Alert and Canadian Flyer, two of remaining 10 rivals he meets here.

2 – ****POWER ALERT (7-5) PR: 92
An eight-time winner at the distance and perfect in five starts on this course, he regressed and still won his last from post 11 after being taken out of his game. Seeks Silks Run three-peat.

3 – ***CONQUEST TSUNAMI (10-1) PR: 85 (?)
Just missed following very tough try when beaten going 6-1/2F at WO two back then returned with blowout win on AW subsequently. Admittedly, this is a different ballgame but has tactical speed, late kick and a cozy inside draw. Working fast since mid-January; first-time gelding live in this spot.

4 – *GORGEOUS BIRD (20-1) PR: 68 (?)
Working lights out for turf debut making his second start off a layup but this is very salty speed spot and dam’s four starters have yet to win on turf.

5 – ***CANADIAN FLYER (8-1) PR: 83
Laudably versatile 5YO can beat you a number of different ways, is nicely drawn for position, assuming clean break, earned top PR last out, has won at the trip, twice over this ground, and working bullets at PAY base. Also gets four pounds from the choice. Upset player.

6 – ***PAY ANY PRICE (6-1) PR: 89
Not many speedsters that can lay down 20 4/5 and 43-flat and live to tell the tale, but he wound up beaten a mere length by Power Alert last time. Gelded 7YO also gets four pounds and has four wins on this course and at this trip.

7 – **MONGOLIAN SATURDAY (8-1) PR: 82
Returned to win belated 6YO debut at KEE, a course he loves, last October, then was out-quicked in BC Turf Sprint at SA. Appeared lifeless in GP return vs. Power Alert last month. Highly likely to improve but likely it won’t be enough to break through all the way.

8 – ***SUPER SPENDER (8-1) PR: 79
After winning restricted stakes here, made dull try at TAM before returning to GP, beaten 1-1/2 lengths by today’s favorite following horrific trip but finishing like a wild horse. Six-time winner at the trip and four-time winner on this lawn. Cleaner break—sharp 48 4/5 gate-breeze on 3/3--should provide position.

9 - MOONWALKER (20-1) PR: 73
Gelded 6YO is a hard tryer that usually finishes close-up, albeit with weaker. Too many seconds and third on his card for our liking, not to mention today’s significant class rise.

10 – EXTRAVAGENT KID (30-1) PR: (?)
While Milt Wolfson is a worthy 24% profitable with this type of spacing, his charge winless in three tries over the course and in four starts at today’s trip.

11 – CHIA GHOST (20-1) PR: 77
Gelded 5YO has really come into his own this year, showing laudable late kick to defeat weaker in his last two. But therein lies the rub; he beat much softer on those occasions and draw does him no favors.

For on-the record selections, see Saturday's Feature Race Analysis


Written by John Pricci

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