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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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Curlin: Welcome Back

When a horse breezes a half mile in a half-hearted :53 2/5, it doesnt make headlines. Unless, of course, that critter is certain-to-be Horse of the Year 2007, Curlin.

Its a tribute to his handiness and growing maturity that he could even go that slow--unless it really was meant to be a two-minute-lick gallop and he was caught a half mile in fifty-three and change at Fair Grounds last weekend.

Either way, its good that hes back on the racetrack, and better now that Jess Jackson owns 80 percent of him a determination was made that hell race this year as a four-year-old.

The official announcement hasnt been made yet. But Curlin will run again this year in a bid to defend his impending Horse of the Year title.

The $6-million Dubai World Cup in March is out there as a major challenge. Thats a lot of money and prestige.

But this country still has plenty of prestigious races and it would be fun to see one of our own race here, without concern for how a Dubai hangover might compromise the rest of his 2008 schedule.

Unless the plan is to run him only four or five times the rest of the year--prior to the defense of his Breeders Cup Classic title.

Heres the early/mid season match Id love to see: Curlin vs. Midnight Lute in the Metropolitan Handicap on Memorial Day at Belmont Park. We know he likes Belmont, right?

And, while hes certain to attract major dollars as a potential stallion, winning the Met Mile could send his stud fee through the roof.

Trainer Steve Asmussen caught him galloping out five furlongs in 1:06 and change and hes planning to schedule his first serious workout Saturday.

Guess if Asmussen is starting him out this early, Dubai is very much on the radar screen, with a possible prep beforehand.

But it really doesnt matter where or when, only if. And the fact that thats no longer in question is a big deal for the game.

Curlins an important horse, one on the verge of true greatness. The only thing lacking is a substantial body of work. Fortunately, his majority owner will give racing fans an opportunity to see Curlin prove his greatness.

Written by John Pricci

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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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