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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Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Little Super Help from Your Friends at HRI

While you might not agree with the opinions expressed on their op-ed pages, youve got to love the headline writers at the Post, New Yorks sensational tabloid. I do.

The best part of the device, besides selling the occasional newspaper, is a twisted sense of humor that reflects what the locals might call New York attitude.

Over the years, Ive had my favorites. Headless Body Found In Topless Bar leaps to the perverted minds of most Post fans. Clearly, a classic.

After an underworld figure met an untimely and violent demise, the Post had their cartoonists draw headstones on its front page, accompanied by the headline Gottis Greatest Hits, of course referring to the late capo de tutti capi, a.k.a. Teflon Don, a.k.a. Dapper Don, John Gotti.

Then there was that Sunday one fall when the late Pope John Paul II was a scheduled to make an appearance at a sold out Shea Stadium.

The three major networks seriously considered carrying the Popes speech live that fall afternoon, but ultimately caved in to pressure from their advertisers. Finally they made a decision to go with previously scheduled sports programming. NFL 3, Pope 0.

My newest favorite came Tuesday, the morning after Presidential hopeful Barack Obama received a significant, widely publicized endorsement from a prominent Democratic leader, Ted Kennedy. Bamalot, read the front page headline.

Sports provides plenty of grist for the writers mill. After Eli Manning outplayed legendary Brett Favre in the NFC championships two weeks ago, the Super Bowl QB was captured smiling broadly as he walked off the frozen tundra of Lambeau. You The Mann, the headline read.

So, should the 12-point underdogs pull off the unlikely upset in Sundays Big Game, I have a suggestion. Its neither funny nor irreverent, but does encapsulate the only storyline at hand.

It also should include the use of color; blue and red with white trim: 18-And-Won!

Written by John Pricci

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Handicapper of the Year Keeps It All in the Family

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 27, 2008--The family that plays together, stays together.

You just never think that this axiom also applies to horseplayers who just happen to believe that the handicapping process means as much as the wagering itself.

It was only minutes after the results of the National Handicapping Championships were known following the 11th race from Santa Anita on the Sunshine Millions program late Saturday afternoon when the winner, Richard Woodall of Las Vegas said: Im so happy, this means so much to my wife.

Yeah, right, thats what all horseplayers say after making what, for most, would be a life-changing score.

But this was no case of hyperbole or false humility, even if Goodall at first wasnt quite sure whether it was eight or nine years hed been married to Sally Wang-Goodall. They met in the Chinatown section here about a mile east of the strip, the site of the current Venetian and Treasure Island hotels.

So why was this couple so horseplayer simpatico, and how did she get so interested in handicapping?

On our first trip, he took me to Penn National [the original, ground-breaking World Series of Handicapping], explained Wang-Goodall.

And she must have paid very close attention to the business at hand, having qualified for the NHC six times, as compared to five for the new half-millionaire, the 2007 Handicapper of the Year.

Theres a racetrack clich that goes: Id rather be lucky than good. Very often thats true. But as far as I could observe, Goodall was, well, good, and he was good from the opening bell, 9:25 a.m., local time.

At the end of the first day of the two-day tournament, Goodall was in second position and always remained near the top of the leader board throughout, obviously embracing the right methodology. Picking winners helped, too.

In the first mandatory race of the contests final day, Goodall broke from the gate like Seattle Slew, nailing an 8-1 shot at Tampa Bay Downs. It felt good, like I was going to have a hot day, said the 64-year-old retiree from the health care industry.

Goodall was hot and good.

Since he was always in contention, his strategy was simple. I just concentrated on the mandatory races early, saving my optional plays until I could see how everyone else was doing.

There were 277 contestants in NHC IX, buy-ins are not permitted, so all had qualified by winning a satellite tournament somewhere. These were no ham-and eggers he was meeting; these were U.S. prime.

The close competition was reflected on the leader board which listed the current top 30 players throughout the tournament. At no time were the people at the very top segregated from each other by very much.

But Goodall blew it wide open late on Saturday afternoon, when the top half-dozen players were separated by more than a winning 4-1 shot. There were 15 contest races each day from a total of seven venues, eight of which eight were mandatory. Bets were tallied on a $2 win-place basis.

Indeed, the tournament was so competitive that the difference between runnerup Don Beardsworth and fourth finisher Albert Wong was breakage: 40 cents. But none were focused like Goodall.

He patiently awaited the ninth race at the sloppy Fair Grounds, a sprint for special-weight maidens, were Big Love Bill finished well from a stalking position to win by 3/4s of a length at 23-1. Goodall did not get the full price, as win odds are capped at 20-1 and place at 10-1.

But $42 will buy you plenty of separation at the NHC. His earnings of $272.30 distanced him from the runnerup by $74, resulting in the largest victory margin in NHC history. The previous record of $31.60 was held by Jamie Michelson, winner of NHC XI.

Having blown the competition away, Goodall braced for a late challenge that would never come. With two tournament races remaining, and with the second, third and fourth handicappers a 20-1 winner away from first place, he bet on the winner of the finale from Golden Gate Fields. The 7-5 favorite iced the result.

Goodall, who plays in a handful of big money contests throughout the year and also on line, then began to talk about the secret of his success in handicapping tournaments.

This year I began using a pretty sophisticated data program and I cant say that I understand it all. But Im learning. Im slow and steady, but finally I got it right.

As Goodall awaited the photo-op to come, his words touched on a prevailing theme throughout the weekend, not only in the NHC at the Red Rock but in the Horseplayer World Series at the Orleans as well: camaraderie.

You meet such great people at these tournaments. Theyre interesting, nice people, and theres never a problem. Ive made some friends for life.

Casino executives arrived, offered their congratulations to Goodall and were carrying two checks; a rather large one for posterity and a smaller one for cashing. If you can consider a $500,000 check small.

The photographers waved everyone into place for the shot. Can my wife get in it, too? Goodall asked. This is my biggest thrill in racing, but only because of my wife. Weve been trying to win this contest for a long time.

Written by John Pricci

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Vegas Handicappers Earn Blowout Victories in NHC and HWS

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 26, 2008--Always in contention throughout the two-day National Handicapping Championships, 64-year-old Las Vegas native Richard Goodall blew NHC IX wide open when 23-1 prefect tripping Big Love Bill finished strongest of all down the middle of a sloppy Fair Grounds track, earning Goodall $500,000 and title of Handicapper of the Year Saturday at the Red Rock Resort and Casino.

Goodalls mythical earnings of $272.30 was a record $74 more than runnerup Don Beardsworth, whose earnings of $194.30 was only 30 cents more than third finisher Roberta Cote. That fraction of a dollar was the difference between second prize of $150,000 and third worth $100,000. Goodalls margin of victory was a record for the NHC.

At the Orleans, handicapper Ken Hopkins widened his advantage as the afternoon lengthened and won the Horseplayer World Series as impressively as Goodall took the NHC. Hopkins winning total of $2,985.80 was $617.40 more than runnerup Gwyn Houston, whose earnings were $248.60 more than the show finisher, James Henderson.

The victory by Hopkins over 682 rivals was worth grand prize money of $307,350, 45 percent of the total purse. Houston and Henderson earned $54,640 and $47,810, respectively.

Written by John Pricci

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