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, June 05, 2007


Sheikh Mohammed, Please Buy My Web-Site?


The GIsland, NY, June 4--Sheikh Mohammed, I have a favor to ask. Would it possible for you buy my web-site, or at least take a small equity position?

I realize we dont have much of a track record yet, but were a comer. And I know how fond you are of finding potential, then buying it, at any cost. No worries. Were still in the business of selling in America, and no man, no matter how flush, should ever turn down what the street calls--no, not that street, but what any street in New York City calls "stupid money." Copious dollars, in polite company.

If I had access to--and Im not being greedy here--a little "silly money," then I wouldnt have had to drive south from Saratoga for almost four hours on a wet, windy and winding Taconic to cover Saturdays Belmont Stakes--the one with Digger, not Derby Winner. You do remember the Belmont, yes?

That was the American classic you skipped last year with the Near-Great-But-Well-Never-Know Bernardini because your brain trust figured his loins were worth more than his legs.

Hi ho, Hi ho, its off to stud we go

But if I had some silly money, I could kick back and watch the Belmont from the box seats. I wouldnt have to wonder if your purchase of Street Sense had anything to do with the decision of Mr. Tafel and Mr. Nafzger not to run in this mile and a half race, the way Bernardini didnt run in his mile and a half race.

It could have been a coincidence. Probably was. Although I tend to look on the bright side, my downfall.

But when did you find the time to buy Hard Spun? Wow! Who knew anybody could buy a Derby Exacta? And you own his daddy, too? Must be nice to be able to afford two of everything. (Promise Ill be extremely reasonable during the negotiations, even maybe throw in the webmaster. He works for a prince now, but probably would like to work for a sheikh).

Sorry about the bit of bad luck you had. The Curlin deal was put together in February and apparently you had some friends over for the Super Bowl that weekend and missed out. The Derby Trifecta. Bet no ones done that deal yet. Nobody said this game was easy, right?

Thing is I dont resent anyone for selling his property to the highest bidder for beaucoup bucks. Money can do wondrous good things for people.

I can remember a time when racing thoroughbred horses used to be a privileged way to make a living. Legend says it all started when one man said to another "my horse is faster than yours," and asked him if he wanted to bet on it?

Sorry, I forgot. Betting is not allowed in Dubai. Only on cell phones.

I find it amazing when a great horserace can distract people from the world's troubles, if only for a few minutes. Guess thats why I drove south, to be distracted for a few minutes by an athletic contest among some of this countrys best stock, two of which you now own. Pity we wont see one of them on Saturday. Hes such a terrific racehorse!

But the other reason I made the drive instead of watching on television was to cover the event for HorseRaceInsider, which I might let go dirt cheap by your standards.

The other day one of our readers posted a comment that people like myself and like thinking fans are the real anachronisms, and not the distance of the Belmont Stakes.

So please, just consider my proposition. Its not as much fun anymore. A lot of the drama is missing from the opera now. I think I'd like to live modestly on my pension in Saratoga, but I could use a little help.

No disrespect, but its not like you cant afford it. There is the $17 million you saved when Mrs. Elizabeth Valando turned down your offer because she made a wish on a potential star to win a Kentucky Derby for her late husband. But Nobiz Like Shobiz couldnt get the job done and now some people on the backstretch are saying Mrs. Valando made a bad no-deal.

Ill be thinking about her on the drive home and wonder how she celebrated Belmont day. Then, reluctantly, Ill accept that I just have to keep punching away at these keys. Its OK. Its a privilege to write about people like Mrs. Valando, people who really get it about racing. And I probably dont need the money as bad as I think I do.


Written by John Pricci

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Saturday, June 02, 2007


Ban Hopeless Digger From Entering The Belmont


One day after taking a hit with the defection of Kentucky Derby-winning Street Sense from the Belmont Stakes, the race took another on the chin with the apparent addition of a horse called Digger. Never heard of Digger? Not to worry.

I dont know Larry Roman, Diggers owner and apparently an honorable man. When a horse he owned, an animal by the name of Lawrence The Roman, was sold for big money then performed poorly in a subsequent stakes race at Aqueduct this winter, Roman voided the sale and returned the money. Four decades in this game and that was a first for me.

Now the same Larry Roman recently purchased Digger, a fast horse for $60,000, and because Street Sense is not running in the Belmont, Digger is. Roman believes hes doing the Belmont Stakes a favor by running his new horse.

You couldnt make this up.

In an attempt to boost the Belmont box office or garner publicity for himself, Roman offered the mount on Digger to retired Hall of Fame jockey, Angel Cordero Jr. To paraphrase Cordero, who gracefully declined the ride, at a mile and a half theyd need oxygen to revive me.

Im unclear as to who would need the oxygen more, Cordero, or a lifetime 2-for-8 son of Yonaguska, the sire of many fast sprinters. Sprinters!

Roman also told racing writer David Grening that owner Jim Tafel and trainer Carl Nafzger should be ashamed of themselvesthey dont care about the game.

Lets see if I understand this: Tafel and Nafzger are bad guys for doing what they think is best for their horse and are planning a second-season campaign that could earn Street Sense Horse of the Year honors but Roman is a good guy because hes entering a self-admitted no-hoper with a sprinters pedigree and somehow this is OK for Digger and helps the Belmont and the sport.

No one likes short-field racing, not even in a classic. And getting the trifecta finishers in the first two legs of racings greatest series to return for the Test of the Champion would have been epic, even without the possibility of crowning a Triple Crown winner.

The only intrigue left, with or without the addition of a wonderful filly, Rags to Riches, was whether Hard Spun--suited to the marathon by pedigree and who figures to control the tempo under new rider Garrett Gomez--could gallop Curlin to death and upset the Preakness champion.

But no one will ever know because Lawrence The Romans stated intention is to be on the lead with Digger, and that Hard Spun would need to be going :44 if hes going to go by us in the first four furlongs.

And somehow this is all good for the Belmont and the game and for Digger, to be thrown to the wolves. Let me riddle you something, Mr. Roman. If the hopelessly outclassed horse ever suffered an injury while the whole world was watching, now that would be something from which your game, already reeling, might never recover. Have you given that any thought, sir?

But why take this all seriously, right? Thats why racing doesnt need a commissioner; isn't that right? Because money is almighty and this stopped being a sport the day the music died a long, long time ago.

If the New York stewards had guts, they would stop the madness before Belmont entries are taken Wednesday morning. And then Roman could sue NYRA because this is America and because he can. Then again, he'd have to wait on a long line for a long, long time to collect. Hey, think of it this way. That would be better than someone dropping a dime to the ASPCA, right?


Written by John Pricci

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That’s A Whole Lot Of Crumpets


Even with the defection of Street Sense, next weeks Belmont Stakes is expecting, as of this moment, a field of five.

Be still my heart.

However, there will be no such shortage in the Belmonts British equivalent, todays mile and a half Epsom Derby. No fewer than 18 rivals will line up to challenge the prohibitive favorite, Authorized.

In an apparent effort not to be outdone by Americas Todd Pletcher and his classics quest, the prolific Aidan OBrien will saddle eight runners in todays race and 36-year-old jockey Frankie Dettori will try to ride his first Epsom Derby winner after 14 failed attempts.

The dominance of Authorized and the presence of the redoubtable Dettori aboard has resulted in the colt becoming one of the shortest-priced favorites in the wagering thus far. In fact, a victory by this team would cost British bookmakers over 30 million pounds.


Written by John Pricci

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