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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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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Monday, June 18, 2007

What, No *#@$%^&* Sopranos Now?

Had a great Fathers Day.

The Oklahoma training track, brunch, followed a movie, Hatties fried chicken (best on the planet) then home for dessert; Haagen Dazs coconut-pineapple ice cream--out of mango, I did get a 2-for-$5 courtesy slip, a fair trade, considering mango is that good--with a dollop of Ben N Jerrys chocolate fudge brownie on top. A nice sandwich.

A great Fathers Day indeed, until 9 PM, EDT, that is.

No mob boss of a North Jersey crime family ever again. Tony Soprano will exist only in urban mythology, probably what creator David Chase intended, once the saga went beyond its original 13-week run.

Poor Chase. Everyones mad a him. And for days the New York tabloids fueled the vitriol. A Whacky Ending, said one. Sopranos Whack Fans, said another.

More fans were angrier with Chase than with Carl Nafzger, spouting more epithets than youd hear in an OTB parlor.

Heres my take, hoping to provide some comfort and context:

First, the Sopranos is a work of fiction. Fiction. Even A J realizes that now. Chase has been playing us since episode one. Why should the finale have been different? And is it fair to expect that any episode would be better than the penultimate, maybe televisions best hour ever?

I dont think so.

What did everybody want from Chase, a neat bow? Lifes not like that. What the artist gave us was closure on his leading character, without whom there would not have been such a successful "family" series.

Tony was, for all his malaprops, a complex character. He was clinically depressed. Guess thats one price you pay for being a sociopath.

But he was relatively healthy at the end, having told A Js psychologist about how his own unhappy childhood because I could never please my mudda, he said. She was a difficult woman. Could the Tony of 1999 admit that?

He reconciled with sister Janice, sharing a tender moment as they had a final, loving laugh at Bobby's expense. "If you ever need anything, you know where I am." Remarkable, considering their bone of contention was always about her scheming to get money.

Closure for the Sopranos began when Tony and Carmela learned at the family visit with the Parisis that Meadow would be offered an entry position at a law firm for $175,000. Werent papa and mama just kvelling with pride after hearing that?

Maybe now Meadow can afford to take driving lessons.

Could the old Tony have forgiven Paulie for refusing to be upped? Considering he thought about killing him a few times, I dont think so. More progress. Eventually Paulie agrees.

And the closure and bon ami at Holsteins (best onion rings in Jersey), when A J reiterated to his father the value of making a positive from a negative. Huge progress for A J, considering the place he was in four episodes back.

Now hell probably wind up with an Oscar nomination for Cleaver II, the sequel. On his way, he already drives a BMW.

Do BMWs even have catalytic converters? Hmmm.

Sure looks like the Carm of Journeys small town girl is going back into the spec house business. From the renderings, it looks like the new place is on the water. Probably where she and Tony spent that delightful weekend with Bobby and Janice, right?

Under the boardwalk, out of the sun, under the boardwalk, well be havin some fun

And now Meadow finally finishes double parking, runs toward Holsteins. The man at the counter walks into the mens room (dont know if it had a commode with a box and one of those chain things, you know, perfect for taping guns behind).

Two more guys walk in. The trucker in the booth is getting antsy. Then comes the last two words you'll ever hear before Chase pulls the plug, from Journeys singular, Dont Stop Believing.

Dont Stop. Fade to black.

I won a bet, predicting Tony would live. Including Hard Spun, I went 1-for-2 that weekend.

Life goes on. Tony is alive when last we see him. The tension in that final sequence is what the Sopranos live with for the rest of their lives.

But it might take John from Cincinnati to snap Silvio out of that coma.

Written by John Pricci

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Sun Shines Bright On Foster Program

With the Triple Crown now history, racings second season began fittingly where the classics begin every year, at Churchill Downs. The day was billed as Stephen Foster Super Saturday and when you put on a show like they did yesterday in Louisville, you can call it anything you want.

The centerpiece, naturally, was the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at nine furlongs and was the penultimate leg of an all-graded-stakes Pick Six. But you cant really have a big day of racing at The Downs without a race for three-year-olds, right?

Chelokee, impressive winner of the Barbaro on the Preakness undercard following his troubled third in the Grade 1 Florida Derby in his previous start, stalked a slow pace three wide, took the lead on the final turn, was outrun in midstretch, then came again to beat Zanjero by a head. Sam P., like Zanjero a victim of Street Sense in the Kentucky Derby, finished third.

(In this crop, it seems, even Grade 3s result in stretch long battles and a camera is needed to settle the issue).

What impressed was Chelokees will to win. Racing on the pace is not his best game, yet he won both recent starts on the pace. Hes getting closer to the big boys, and girl, with every start.

The Foster pre-race storyline was whether the streaking Master Command would finally get his Grade 1 title. The winner did, but it wasnt the Foster favorite.

Flashy Bull, also a winner on the Preakness program, has come into his own as a four-year-old. He was very competitive on the classics trail last year but it looks like Kiaran McLaughlin has finally figured him out.

Master Command raced dully in a poor performance, but stablemate Magna Graduate nearly saved the day for the Pletcher crowd. However, his late run down the center of the track fell a nose short at the wire. Flashy Bull swept to command into the lane but it took all of Robby Albarados urging to get the job done.

The excellent 11-race program was an exciting and meaningful day of racing. But no-o-o-body picked six. Winners of five collected a $1,300 consolation and Sundays carryover at Churchill is $51,000-plus.

Written by John Pricci

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