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, January 06, 2008

Slouching Towards Louisville

Dont look now but New York-breds are still getting it done in open company, and one of them, Giant Moon, might just have taken a few of baby steps toward that big dance the city of Louisville hosts each year in early May.

Giant Moon kept his undefeated record in tact with a fourth consecutive score, only this time, in open company, only this time, from a stalking position and not on the lead. Or maybe it doesnt matter at all because he, like Sinatra, has to do it his way.

He does as little as he has to, said winning rider Ramon Dominguez. Ramon said he feels like hes falling asleep on you going down the backside, trainer Rick Schosberg explained further. But once he gets a little tap, he takes off. He does the same thing in the mornings, which is not a bad thing. But wed like to get it under control.

Sounds like Schosberg doesnt appreciate the pins and needles he sits on while he watches his undefeated colt race. Last time, the colt won by setting a soft early pace stalked by Spanky Fischbein, and won the eyeball battle with him through the stretch.

Saturday, it was Spankys turn to set a soft early pace while Giant Moon stalked him. Different strategy; same result.

The two were on even terms approaching the final sixteenth when Giant Moon surged to win by a narrow margin in 1:41.14 for the mile and 70 yards while spotting Spanky four pounds, 120 to 116.

I thought I had Giant Moon for a second, but hes a pretty good grinder, said Mike Luzzi of the runnerup. Hopefully, well get to meet Giant Moon again.

Careful what you wish for.

Schosberg said he might go for the colts fifth straight in the Whirlaway on Feb. 2 or await the heavy heads in the always competitive Gotham, Mar. 8.

This was a little closer than we like to do it, said Schosberg of the recent time between starts leading up to the Count Fleet.

Perhaps Schosberg should be careful what he wishes for, too. The Gotham usually is run at faster than a 12-clip all the way around, and a mile and a sixteenth is a little more demanding.

But if you train racehorses for a living, including young ones who learn their lessons willfully and at their own pace, you cant help but dream a little. For its not every day you saddle an undefeated three-year-old, even this early in the year.

Written by John Pricci

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Rarified Air in Loaded Hutcheson

Very often people in my business will use the term good betting race in various constructs. It can be a big race without a marquee performer, a nondescript big race with a big field, or just a plain bummer.

But thats not the case at Gulfstream Park today where the prime time event is the Grade 2 Hutcheson for newly turned three-year-olds at seven furlongs. It has drawn a full field of 10 in which nine horses, on their best race, are within about three lengths of each other.

Not only that but many of them are attractive horses with considerable upside, no matter what their optimal distance turns out to be. Some might make the Kentucky Derby starting gate; others maybe the Breeders Cup Sprint.

So what we have here is a good field and a good betting race. Heres a thumbnail sketch of the group, in post position order, with early line odds and their best Equiform performance figure in parenthesis:

8-1 Tiz It (72.75). However, is still a maiden and never has raced beyond six furlongs. Johnny V. rides back with a bullet :59 at Palm Meadows.

6-1 Grand Minstrel (73.5). Became a man with his top figure score last out in the Capote, earning a career best pace figure, too. Jimmy Jerkens had a good 07 at GP.

6-1 Cool Coal Man (73.5). Strangled in poorly executed rating try in Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. Classy turn-backs always dangerous; one of two uncoupled Zito horses.

3-1 Halo Najib (73.25). Another classy turn-back just missed in Court Visions Iroquois. Trainer Romans profitable going route to sprint.

10-1 Smooth Air (73.75). Florida-based sprinters do pretty well against national rivals in this race. Floridas leading rider Manoel Cruz in the boot.

8-1 Silver Edition (73.25). No seven furlong form but, hey, its Lukas.

15-1 Big Truck (71.75). Talented New York-bred but not likely ready for these.

15-1 Notgivenmyloveaway (72.5). Coming off new pace top, Pennsylvania-bred not yet Smarty Jones.

10-1 Golden Spikes (73). Needs seven furlong form.

4-1 Coal Play (72). Good figure going a mile at Belmont; career pace top in last. Forward looking.

My thinking is that as closely as these horses figure--thisclose--and with so many on positive lines, I wont be accepting a short price. And that Smooth Air has the best upset chance.

Written by John Pricci

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Derby Colts, Gulfstream, Off and Running

The Road to the Kentucky Derby has begun. The Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby has been run and Gulfstream Park opens this afternoon. Given that the Fair Grounds has been in action since Thanksgiving, and Santa Anita since the day after Christmas, its time to begin paying attention again.

Todd Pletcher, in winning his first graded stakes of 2008, has 55 more to go before reaching last years total. But its the G1 Kentucky Derby that Pletcher wants most and his Tropical Park Derby winner Cowboy Cal put him squarely on the right path.

Is he concerned Cowboy Cals winning effort came on the turf? Not at all.

Were taking the Barbaro path, Pletcher deadpanned following the Calder stakes. But dont think for a minute the remark was made tongue-in-cheek. Cowboy Cal won the nine furlong race impressively, drawing off strongly through the stretch, mostly on his own, and was timed in 1:46 4/5, identical to Barbaros clocking two years ago. Pletcher is considering the Fountain of Youth on the main track next, on Feb. 24.

The Florida-based three-year-olds wont be back in the spotlight until Saturdays Hutcheson Stakes, so Gulfstream will get under way with the South Beach Stakes on the turf for Florida-bred fillies and mares.

The resurgent Bill Mott will team up with stable rider Kent Desormeaux to send out South Beach favorite Quite A Bride (9-5), a mare high on early speed with a modicum of class, a G3 winner that finished third in a G2 at Keeneland when last seen under tack.

(For bettors of this favorite, it is hoped Desormeaux doesnt brain lock the way he did on a Mott turf favorite in yesterdays third race at Calder. See replay, watch this exhibition, then put Scolara in your stable mail). But, as for Quite A Bride, quality speed and an inside post looks like a formidable coupling.

It will be interesting to see how Mystic Soul (4-1) does in the East. Shes a classy Californian making her first start off a lengthy layup for trainer Wesley Ward, a profitable 27 percent efficient with new acquisitions. If shes to seriously challenge the favorite, shell have to overcome an extreme outside position.

Written by John Pricci

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