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, May 08, 2007


Barbaro Effect Helps Raise NBC’s National Derby Ratings


There was tremendous potential among the serious contenders going into Kentucky Derby 133 but there was no star attraction, not even undefeated Curlin. But there is one coming out, maybe more than one. Still, there were no compelling reasons for the NBC Sports overnight ratings to improve 12 percent over last year's unless, of course, one considers the Barbaro Effect.

Barbaro was one of the Derby's pre-race storylines and there's no doubt his spirit helped to raise consciousness among racing fans and sports-event fans, especially those that occasionally enjoy a slice of Americana on the side.

Nice to know in this age that Americans can still agree and feel good about one thing.

There were NBA and NHL playoffs to divert Derby focus, not to mention New York Yankees' pitcher Chien-Ming Wangs flirtation with a perfect game. Despite all this, the Derby telecast drew strong ratings that will be even better when national ratings are released officially on Thursday.

For the race portion of the two-hour telecast, 13.8 million people watched the Kentucky Derby nationally, up 7% from last year. Final national ratings were a strong 8.8 with a 21 share, the percentage of sets in use. This was a 5% increase over 2006.

The feeling here is that there will be a stronger level of interest in this year's Preakness, too, now that many believe Street Sense is a viable Triple Crown candidate and that Derby runnerup Hard Spun has an excellent chance to avenge his Derby defeat In Baltimore.

Pimlico Race Course, of course, was the scene of Barbaro's terribly freakish break-down in last year's race.


Written by John Pricci

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Saturday, May 05, 2007


The Sun Shines Bright On Old School Derby Favorite


In the end, it was a triumph for Kentucky Derby old school.

Two colts that loved the Churchill Downs track, one earning a championship on it, the other flashing a Derby-week trial that forced the historically inclined to invoke the name of the mighty Forego.

And it had a trainer, Carl Nafzger, who 17 years got a colt named Unbridled to peak seemingly the minute he entered the starting gate. Then, last week, put the finishing touches on his second Derby champion, even if he prepped him in a traditional fixture that played out more Green Grass than Blue Grass.

But after an old school racehorse named Street Sense gave Nafzger his second Derby victory and punched his ticket to the Racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga, there was no kissing of sweet 92-year-old patrons of the turf.

The 65-year-old semi-retired Louisville favorite this time was a vision of studied concentration as he watched his horse gallop out. He would allow only a lower case arm-pump in celebration as he accepted congratulations from the winners connections.

And wouldnt you know it? Calvin got through on all but one of the 20, and it seemed like none were trained by Todd Pletcher. And Larry Jones is now household name and his Hard Spun is hardscrabble speed. And so is Curlin, who showed more class in defeat than he ever did when undefeated and never again will I poke fun of Imawildandcrazyguy who finished like one wildandcrazyracehorse.

And didnt the Queen look resplendent and enjoying her new image courtesy of Helen Mirren and the third largest crowd in history turned a storm in May into a sunshine bright day for an American horse race.

In the age of the fifteen-minute diva, wasnt it a sight for old school eyes to behold? Somewhere, Tevye is dancing.


Written by John Pricci

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Thursday, May 03, 2007


So What If The Track Is Wet On Derby Day?


Weather reports from area code 502 call for rain. The worst of it to come today, more on Friday, with a chance that it will continue into Derby Day.

Churchill Downs is a fast-drying surface and the track maintenance department work the track strenuously to get it dry and fast by Kentucky Derby post time. Fast, with a capital F, generally is the byword on big race-days at the Downs.

We scurried to our wet-track sire stats as compiled by Bloodstock Research. We looked for two-sided pedigrees, horses that figured to excel in wet conditions because the offspring of the sire and grand-sire already have: We established a minimum criteria for sire and grand-sire combined at 36 percent efficiency. Here are the qualifiers, in alphabetical order:

Any Given Saturday: 41%
Cowtown Cat: 41%
Curlin 36%
Nobiz Like Shobiz 36%
Scat Daddy 45%
Sedgefield 36%
Stormello 39%
Street Sense 36%
Teuflesberg 40%
Zanjero 38%

Its just not easy finding an edge in this Derby. Some of the above are favorites; some are extreme longshots. Keep these percentages in mind if conditions are wet, especially for exotic wagering.


Written by John Pricci

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