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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Monday, April 16, 2007

Value A Scarce Commodity In Kentucky Derby Futures

Kentucky Derby Futures Pool bettors sent a resounding message Sunday to racing historians everywhere: Fuggedaboudit!

Never mind that the last Derby horse to win the roses with only a three-race resume was the filly Regret, 92 years ago. And who cares if the last Derby winner that hadnt had a two-year-old campaign was Apollo, in 1882.

Nevertheless, the undefeated tour de force winner of the Arkansas Derby, Curlin, was the 7-2 favorite when the betting closed in the third and final Futures pool. One can get that price on Derby day, probably higher. But the public loves an undefeated horse, especially one with a combined victory margin of 28- lengths.

Realistically, the post time favorite for Derby 133 should be no less than 5-1. At those odds, it would mean that if the race were run 100 times, your 5-1 shot would win on 16 occasions. Given the size of the field and depth of talent, more than that would seem unreasonable. At 14-1, Tiago, the 30-1 upset winner of the Santa Anita Derby, is a joke.

The only prices remotely interesting at the end of Pool 3 betting were Scat Daddy at 11-1 and Hard Spun at 13-1. All Scat Daddy has done this year is win, beating some very nice horses in the process. Hard Spun? At his best, he is reminiscent of Curlin, tactical ability with an electric turn of foot. He has dominated opponents, albeit not as impressively as his undefeated foe.

Excellent talent. Great Depth. Eighteen days. Cant waitI just cant wait.

Written by John Pricci

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Outstanding Performances Highlight Final Major Prep Races

For months, we've been writing about how much we like and respect the three-year-old class of 2007. Once again, they didn't fail to live up to my lofty expectations.

Once and for all, all now know that Curlin is a special racehorse. He remains undefeated in three starts, going from a soft-paced front-running maiden win at seven furlongs, to an off-the-pace authoritative score in a Grade 3 at a different racetrack and into a whole new dimension yesterday, a drawing-away nine furlong tour-de-force in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby.

Curlin now has won three lifetime starts by an aggregate 28-1/2 lengths. It was the most dominating Kentucky Derby prep performance since Bellamy Road decimated the Wood Memorial field two years ago in New York.

In the Toyota Blue Grass, meanwhile, all Street Sense lost was a horse race. In fact, the margins separating the first four finishers; Dominican, Street Sense, Zanjero and Teuflesberg were a nose and two heads, respectively. All ran very well, Great Hunter, stopped cold in midstretch, notwithstanding.

And so Dominican jumps onto everyone's Derby radar with a strong-finish score coming from last off laughably slow fractions. (More on Keeneland's Polytrack surface later this week). Derby newcomer, trainer Darrin Miller, needed a big performance from his horse which lacked sufficient graded stakes earnings. That's no longer an issue.

Only next weekend's Lexington Stakes remains as a viable Derby prep. It might produce another starter, depending on who starts, how he performs and--the most significant variable--how he comes out of the race.

Twenty days. And counting.

Written by John Pricci

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Friday, April 13, 2007

To Win Or Not, That Is The Question

When trying to win a unique event like the Kentucky Derby, it often better serves the purpose for horses not to give their best effort in their finale prep.

If you ask trainer Carl Nafzger, which turf writers have been doing since February, whether it's mandatory to win today's Blue Grass Stakes, he'd tell you he'd like to since he's never won the storied fixture, but not at the expense of the ultimate goal three weeks hence.

In a perfect world and from a performance-figure perspective, a repeat of the last race run by Street Sense would be perfect. And it wouldn't matter if that effort resulted in defeat. The idea is to maintain energy in reserve for the next battle.

Trainer Doug O'Neill might require more from the talented and dangerous Blue Grass second choice, Great Hunter. Like Street Sense, this will be his second and final Derby prep. But it probably would serve O'Neill better if his horse moved forward again, just like he did in his three-year-old debut.

By today's standards, Great Hunter was heavily raced as a juvenile. He's not running for the experience today, like Nobiz Like Shobiz in last week's Wood Memorial. He needs to improve because, thus far, Street Sense has proven the faster, better horse.

Great Hunter needs to make up several lengths on his rival. Since only three weeks remain to the Derby, O'Neill ought to have Great Hunter at near Derby pitch. In this deep three-year-old crop, there's little room for error. This is an interesting tightrope that classics' trainers walk this time of year. It's part of what makes the Triple Crown chase so fascinating.

Written by John Pricci

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