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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Sunday, June 24, 2007

NTRA Gets It Right; Will The Filly’s Connections?

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association takes a lot of heat, much of it justified. But not this time. The NTRA acted quickly and is to be commended for seizing the opportunity to promote the sport via the Internet through its latest star, Rags To Riches, the filly who beat the boys in the Belmont.

A Rags To Riches blog, to appear on the NTRA website,, will be updated by the Team Pletcher stable three times a week. Included will be a photo gallery, current race schedule, training information, video of all her stakes races, and biographical information.

Also included will be an interactive feature in which fans can ask questions of Pletcher and his stable employees. The blog is scheduled to remain on the NTRA site through the Breeders Cup. My first question would be:

Why not the Travers?

I know theres nothing left to prove after her historical achievement in the Belmont. I know, too, that if you decide to face males again, perhaps awaiting the Breeders Cup Classic is the wiser choice, especially if the favorites are the leading three-year-olds, two of which she defeated already.

If she ran in the Travers, the event would turn into a media circus. Saratogas perennial leading trainer would be besieged by the media, print and electronic. It would be a major distraction and Saratoga is demanding enough as it is.

Most of all, in staying with her own kind, she would tower over a small number of rivals in every race she runs in. Who knows? Perhaps a start on turf against fillies would be different and prove an interesting new challenge.

But its like HRIs Vic Zast said first: Whats good for the filly would be bad for the sport.

Racing fans, and sports fans in general, are only interested in one thing: Seeing her beat the boys again. Because thats a story that transcends sports.

Written by John Pricci

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Their Father’s Hell Will Slowly Go By

We all know the games faults and they never seem to go away yet, every so often, the game makes you proud.

So what if no one really wants to address the medication issue in a meaningful way?

What does it matter that horses are worth more in the breeding shed than they are on the racetrack, even if racing is the reason they were born in the first place?

Since the Breeders Cup Pick Six scandal, Band-Aids were substituted for new software and odds still appear to change while races are run. Its a perception issue and a business issue and nobody cares.

Takeout is too high, dissemination of information too slow.

And so forth and so on.

Then comes the news that Todd Pletchers Belmont Park employees are sending packages and letters to our troops in Iraq and asked the children of Anna House to write letters to be included in those packages.

Anna House is a day care facility on the Belmont backstretch for the children of the grooms and hot-walkers and anyone responsible for the welfare of racehorses on a daily basis. It was built by racetrackers for the children of racetrackers.

And the children wrote the letters and filled those packages with wishes of a safe passage home and thankfulness for helping to keep us safe. The majority of the children are pre-schoolers.

Working in the thoroughbred industry is an arduous and most often frustrating way to earn a living. The competition is fierce. Jealousy, always thisclose to the surface, is palpable.

But when help is needed racetrackers respond, never having to be asked twice.

And they teach the children well.

Written by John Pricci

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

When Pigs Fly

Good suggestion in a piece by Dan Liebman of yesterday.

Liebman explained how Nascar exploded into sports consciousness only after its CEO, Brian France, bundled their biggest events around the country and sold them to television in one huge collective package.

He went on to explain that Frances job was similar to that of a racing marketer in that it took visiting each individual site, in racings case, the racetracks, and convincing them that by taking less for the overall good of the sport, less would eventually mean more at the bottom line.

Wouldnt you know it? It worked out just that way. Now all the major Nascar events are broadcast over the air on the Fox, Turner and ABC/ESPN networks? Resultantly, individual speedways are sharing a smaller piece of a much larger money pool.

Liebman suggests that if racing could come up with a cohesive and comprehensive schedule of the best races from all over the country, a new network could help grow the thoroughbred sport exponentially compared to the largely regional exposure it gets today, Triple Crown and Breeders Cup notwithstanding.

That sure sounds like something that might have a chance to succeed if the tracks could reach some kind of compromise and work together.

Hmmm. I wonder if the tracks could get beyond their own interests, take one for the team, but help themselves in the long term?


Written by John Pricci

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