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, October 16, 2007

Are You Ready for Some Thoroughbred Action?

As we await the release of Breeders Cup pre-entries Wednesday, heres an advance look at the betting menu. Interestingly, there will be some new wrinkles.

For the last few weeks, weve been talking a lot at HRI about fractional betting and the various kind of bets offered. And how much, for instance, we like the idea of a 50-Cent Pick Five.

Well, it will be available on both Breeders Cup days, Oct. 26 and 27. And Monmouth Park and the Breeders Cup want you to get engaged early. The bet will commence with the first race each day.

While it wasnt in the literature weve seen, well assume it will be a mandatory payout regardless of the result: 5 winners, 4 winners, etc., etc.

Pick Threes will be rolling throughout both cards from the first race--no indication of what will be offered Wednesday and Thursday at the abbreviated four-day meet--a $1 wager.

There will be two Pick Fours offered each day, also a $1 wager, with the two Pick Fours on Saturday offered on the eight Breeders Cup events. Each Saturday Pick Four will have $2 million guarantee.

The Pick Six will be a $2 minimum each day. There will be a carryover provision for Friday into Saturday, but Saturdays pool will have a mandatory payoff with a $3 million guaranteed pool.

Win, place, show, exacta, trifecta and superfecta wagering will be available on every race. And, yes, the 10-Cent superfecta that has been growing steadily in popularity, will be offered. The other wagers are $2 bets. (We presume that exacta and trifecta boxes and part wheels for $1 will be available).

There will be three special Daily Double wagers combining the three new Breeders Cup races on Friday with three Breeders Cup events on Saturday. The bet has a $1 minimum.

The order for all Breeders Cup races will be set Oct. 17. First post on Friday is 12:30 p.m. First post Saturday is 11:00 a.m.

The first Breeders Cup race on Friday is scheduled for 4:20 p.m. Saturdays first championship event goes at 12:30 p.m. The final race each day, including Saturdays Breeders Cup Classic, is scheduled for 5:35 p.m.

Ready, set

Written by John Pricci

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Not Your Father’s Keeneland Anymore

Need to give props to Keeneland Race Course as their 2007 fall meet winds down until next spring.

Who do you like in the 2008 Blue Grass? Wicked Style, right?

Anyway, the brain trust in Lexington no longer employs their fathers track management philosophies.

It wasnt too long ago when these guys thought a race caller was an extravagance. Then came the simulcast era, and someone was needed to tell the customer who was winning the races. A track announcer no longer was regarded a luxury.

But Keeneland gets kudos for three reasons; four if you believe, as I do, they are more responsive to horseplayer's needs.

First, I dont care for Polytrack racing. But I will say the surface has played more honestly this fall.

Even if front-running winners remain at a premium.

But not only did Keeneland embrace the 10-Cent superfecta rather early in the game, but this week instituted another fractional wager, the 50-Cent trifecta.

(Kudos to Arlington Park for first breaking that ground).

The betting menu for the average player that shows up with $100 and change in his pocket gives him a chance to make a score on the cheap.

It starts with the 10-Cent super, whose low cost provides needed leverage. Its still not easy to cash, mind you, but losses are held well within affordable limits while coverage is optimized.

Now, for a half a buck, you can come back and optimize your play using your preferred choices without worrying about that impossible 40-1 shot that finishes fourth and busts you out.

Unless, of course, you used him.

For a dollar, the betting sequence is completed in exactas. A winning exacta, still inexpensive at that price, can yield a profit even if you lose the tri and super.

Weve said it before. But it bears repeating for those venues who remain out of touch with how their customers play the modern game.

Given todays technology, theres no excuse not to make fractional betting available everywhere, at least in intra-race pools.

Once thats done well start working on the 50-Cent Pick Five, to be offered somewhere between the early and late Pick Fours. What do you think?

The Pick Six can remain a $2 wager. Happy, Mr. Whale?

Written by John Pricci

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Torre’s Fate Tied To A-Rod

Ive been annoyed with Joe Torre ever since he started Roger Clemens against the Mets on Belmont Stakes day instead of waiting for the following day. Big news coverage for the big Sunday papers, I guess.

As if that decision was made in Tampa and not in a locker room in New York.

The Clemens thing didnt work out as planned. Come to think of it, neither did the Yankees season. Or, for that matter, the Mets.

In town over the weekend for the Paul Moran Newsday retirement bash, nobody asked which horse I thought would win the Breeders Cup Classic. Instead; Do you think Torre will get fired?

I say if the Yankees re-sign Alex Rodriguez, theyll re-sign Torre. If not, then no.

And I dont believe that the Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Bobby Abreu and Andy Pettitte situations figure into this.

Roger Clemens? Please.

This is a big sports story outside New York, too. The results of an ESPN fan poll is that Torre should return, 71 percent to 29, a landslide.

Maybe it was Mets fans who voted. It certainly wasnt the front-page headline writers for the New York tabloids.

For the most part, I agree he deserves to stay. Yankees payroll or not, body of work counts for something. Number of seasons as Yankees manager: 12. Number of playoff appearances: 12.

Twelve, unfortunately, is divisible by three, as in the number of first-round eliminations the past three seasons. Underachieving is as underachieving does.

In defense of Torre, he was 0-for-0 at the plate in this ALDS, won by a team that played and pitched better baseball, the Cleveland Indians.

But when they werent grounding into double plays, the Yankee power machine popped up, after pop-up, after pop-up. That happens when big boppers forget to work the count or play station to station baseball.

A lot of boppers think theyre too good to work the count. If youre paid like a home run hitter, you act like a home run hitter, worshipping at the altar of the three-run homer.

If A-Rod is re-signed, the Yankees could use more Torre stability to usher in the new Yankee Stadium era. More melding of the young players with the old, especially the pitchers.

In the last three years, Yankee pitchers couldnt hold the fort when big bats went silent.

But isnt this when a little Stengelese would have come in handy? Mixing, stirring, shaking things up?

It was Torres stoicism that kept their post-season hopes alive in May and June when the team played like the worst unit in baseball. They looked like they had given up, lifelessly going through the motions.

The youth movement was that needed infusion of life.

If the Yankees lose A-Rods power production, maybe the youth-infused, suddenly promising pitching staff would benefit from some legitimate small ball.

Wheres Billy Martin when you really need him?

I know this: Martin would have pulled his team off the field in the bottom of the eighth inning in midge-infested Cleveland. And would have retaliated against Red Sox pitchers who threw at Yankees hitters.

In baseball, as in life, class, like good deeds, never seems to go unpunished.

Speaking of Billyball, hard to envision that he would have capitulated, according to reports, to managements calling the shot to start Chien Ming Wang over Mike Mussina, said to be Torres choice, in Game 4.

As a horse owner, Torre knows how to read a set of PPs. The PPs said that Mussina throws well fresh. He did in September, anyway.

Look, everyone knows fans are fickle. Another ESPN poll this week revealed that 83 percent of college football fans believe that USC should fall out of the Top Ten after their loss to Stanford at 41-point favorites.

Then thats why Im glad theres no public voting component to the Eclipse Awards. Fans, by definition, lead with their emotions.

In any case, I wouldnt be thinking about backing the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday.

If the Yankees dont re-up Torres contract, Id like to see the youth movement extended to the dugout. The Yankees offense needs to change its approach.

I was born a Yankees fan. My parents took me to Sunday double-headers from age six. I was in the building when Mantle hit the faade off Pedro Ramos and when Reggie hit three home runs when the Bronx was burning. I saw DiMaggio face Satchel Paige., and the Scooter and Yogi and Reynolds and Raschi and Lopat.

I know that whoever replaces Torre--whenever that is--has a difficult act to follow. But if the players on the field are different then so should the direction in the dugout. When are era ends, its over. Yogi could tell you that much.

Written by John Pricci

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