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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Friday, April 01, 2016


123 Saturday Advance Florida Derby Day


Reprinted via special promotional arrangement with 123GAMING.com

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., April 1, 2016—The biggest prep race ever run in the modern era?

If not, we dare our readers to come up with another. Now, if only the Florida Derby can live up to expectations as something very exciting may occur Saturday at 6:48 pm.

With eight stakes--seven of them graded and one overnighter--the suggestion is this: Bring money.

Although there will not be millions up for grabs, today’s Rainbow Six will attract lots of play with a sexy maiden allowances to start the sequence and five graded events to follow, concluding with the Showdown at the Gulfstream Corral.

The following is the skinny, our view of all major contenders in the final six races on the program, including some Tote Buster possibilities. Listed in post order and intended to augment your own opinions:

RACE 9: MSW 3YOs 1 MILE

Rider’s race: Too many live horses, most with tactical speed and several live looking first-timers. Tarpys Zapper (6-1) Dale Romans having good week here but this one returns on five days rest coming off very fast 5-1/2 furlongs; have no idea what will happen here… Gold Shark (20-1) showed big improvement sans blinkers on 7F turnback…Tale of Mist (20-1) is cycling back to his best race—at today’s trip… Grand Nene (10-1) showed big improvement at trip in last two after adding blinkers; playable to win at half that price… I’m Amazing (5-1) Nicks batting very worthy 23% with debuting special-weighters. Conviction (8-1) Todd 26% with second-out 3YOs, Johnny on the re-ride… Zampara (4-1) Todd firster live on Derby day but only 12% at a mile or more… Dig Deep (3-1) very worthy, well regarded Candy Ride colt could sit garden trip with switch to Paco.


RACE 10: SIR SHACKLETON STAKES 7 FURLONGS

Grande Shores (4-1)
tremendous old pro (53) 14-17-7 will be running late given the turnback to seven-eighths… Defer Heaven (5-1) heaven can’t wait after going 4-for-4 since Navarro claim; 5-for-5 at GP, 3-for-5 at the trip… Anchor Down (3-1) set strong pressured pace in G2 Gulfstream Park Handicap; best figures at mile or more but getting class relief and Todd loves his turnbacks… Griff (15-1) also drops from graded company and stretches to optimal distance; betable at 10-1 or higher.


RACE 11: G3 ORCHID STAKES TURF 1-3/8 MILES


Achnaha (12-1) needed useful season’s debut prep, Weaver profitable with this spacing, Johnny on the re-ride… Suffused (4-1) first-time at 4, first-time hot Mott (24% Euro shippers), first-time Lasix, steady and solid workline, Lezcano on likely trip sitter… Photo Call (2-1) everybody’s fastest mare in here, stoutly bred for trip, short of condition behind Tepin at Tampa, Javier sticks… Quiet Kitten (8-1) course lover been racing in tough luck; tricky read for us, need ML odds or more.


RACE 12: G2 HONEY FOX STAKES TURF 1 MILE

Celestine (8-1) T-G lifetime top in 4YO debut sign of good development, the longer Mott, likes course [5] 2-2-0 and trip [3] 2-0-1, tactical speed, kick and inside draw… Sandiva (9-5 just missed in this last year, course lover [4] 3-1-0, would have been retired to breed but keeps racing well—this might be career finale… Tammy the Torpedo (7-2) moved forward in 4YO debut for Chad, 2-for-2 this course, purposeful works since last, turf ace Bravo aloft… Lady Lara (5-2) defending Honey Fox titlist, fastest races this trip, very solid second to Tepin at Tampa, Lezcano’s choice of Mott mares… A Little Bit Sassy (12-1) hard trier lacks killer instinct but owns good, consistent figures, switch to stable rider Saez, late runner gets her share of this.


RACE 13: G2 PAN AMERICAN STAKES 1-1/2 MILES TURF

Kaigun (3-1)
comes off four straight seconds but was reaching winner late in shorter Mac Diarmida prep, pole sitting with Bravo, sharp subsequent work following last… Jay Gatsby (10-1) developing nicely as 4YO, both starts here were good, Jerkens profitable with beaten favorites (33%) and in graded company, gets weight, Paco and inside draw… Grand Tito (4-1) tripped out to win MacDiarmida and might again picking up Javier, loves course [16] 5-3-2… Wake Forest (5-2) first-time Chad (profitable at 31%), Euro Group winner beaten 5-1/2 in 2015 Arlington Million, Chad 27% with 90-days + layups, first-time Johnny, the looming class of the group… Seeking Alpha (6-1), the longer Chad developing nicely at 4, 2-for-2 this course, trip a concern and Castellano off.


RACE 14: G1 FLORIDA DERBY 3YOs 1-1/8 MILES

Fellowship (15-1) is a budding millionaire once he gets away from top two; likely coming to a flyover track near you… Nyquist (2-1), thrice a G1 winner, was coming here from the day after the BC Juvenile, they’ve known who was waiting for three months, they’re racing for $1.6 million, they get first run and Uncle Mo proven, stubborn, stretch foe. Game On..! Takeittotheedge (20-1) was visually impressive a very fast maiden winner at 7 furlongs; looks crazy on paper but who knows—“I may open up 2 and they might forget about me,”--Romans said to us at the draw. Third money equivalent to winning $250K stakes… Mohaymen (1-1) I can’t define “look of eagles” but this guy has amazing presence, record speaks for itself, excellent development on Thoro-Graph and Pricci Energy scales. At this stage, more impressive than American Pharoah. Now all he has to do is prove it… Isofass (30-1) Michael Phelps’ charge jumps into deep end of the pool (pun intended) but, you know, he may be slow but is on a healthy line and gets first-Lasix with Julien on the re-ride; Super Tote Buster.

See Saturday's Feature Racing Analysis for On-the-Record Selections

Written by John Pricci

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Thursday, March 31, 2016


The Stronach Group Looking to Buy Parx Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., March 31, 2016—Alas, not all the Thoroughbred buzz in South Florida surrounds Saturday’s Florida Derby, and that could be very good news for Maryland racing and The Stronach Group’s footprint in Mid-Atlantic Racing region.

Presently, high-level executives from TSG--Tim Ritvo was notably absent at Wednesday's Florida Derby post draw--are looking at a potential deal that would have it to purchase Parx Racing from the track’s holding company, Greenwood Racing & Entertainment, HRI has learned.

This would be one of the final significant pieces to the puzzle of how revive Thoroughbred racing at tracks in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

According to a story at Philly.com, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board's approval of Stadium LLC’s application approved in 2014 has been stalled as a result of an appeal by casino operator SugarHouse HSP Gaming L.L.P. and by Market East Associates which also is seeking a license to operate a casino in the Center City district of Philadelphia.

In a unanimous opinion, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday said that the Gaming Board had failed to “adequately explore” the extent of the holders of Greenwood's primary backer, Watche "Bob" Manoukian.

Manoukian, a highly successful Lebanese businessman, owns 85.84 percent of Parx Racing under the Greenwood Racing & Entertainment franchise and his ownership interest in a second casino in Philadelphia is limited by law.

In the interim, the State Court has remanded the matter back to the Gaming and Control Board.

Like everyone tethered to the gaming industry, Manoukian has more interest in casinos than he has in owning racetracks. Enter the Stronach Group, which appears more than willing to take control of Manoukian’s interests in Parx Racing, whole or in part.

All this fits very neatly in the Stronach Group’s plans to revitalize racing in Maryland, which has been underway in recent years at Laurel Race Course.

The model for the revitalization process involves making racing in the Mid-Atlantic region viable again, not just subsistent. As everyone knows, a shortage of horses and overlapping dates has crippled Thoroughbred racing in the region.

The Stronach Group has made no secret of the fact it believes that establishing a circuit of tracks working in concert instead of in competition is essential to the sport’s survival now and in the future.

Working out a schedule among Parx, Delaware and the Maryland tracks are at the heart of this. Bringing a struggling Monmouth into the mix might only add to the stability to the game in that part of the racing world. Stay tuned.

Written by John Pricci

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Friday, March 25, 2016


Dubai And Derby Fever Derailed by Jackpot Hysteria


123GAMING WEEKEND ADVANCE MARCH 25, 2016

Exclusive to http://www.123BET.COM

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., March 25, 2016---The HRI readers have spoken, and they’re not wrong. Everything that has been mentioned in a recent comment has the ring of truth. Excerpt from an HRI Faithful:

“Have you looked at Saturday’s PP’s?” Denny asked. Yes, we have.

“Six races with between 11 and 14 horses. Three of the races for maidens, two of which are maiden claimers. Races with first-time starters and horses coming off long layoffs.

“A cheap 16K claimer for 12 on the turf at 5 furlongs. Five of the six races on the turf. One stakes with a smaller field is left out of the P6 on purpose and carded earlier in the day.

[Edit Note: Forecast at posting; 30 percent chance of thunderstorms]

“This is an abomination. An abuse of the average horseplayer. A setup for the deep-pocketed high rollers. A money grabbing scheme at the expense of the horseplayer who has been contributing to this jackpot since January.

“All this week they’ve made the P6 easier with smaller fields to ensure the jackpot wouldn’t be hit before Saturday.

“Then they clobber you with un-handicappable races with giant fields on the last day,” he concluded.

Nothing here rings untrue and Gulfstream does it because they can, because it works, and that usually means job security for all—a worthy goal in the 1% age.

What essentially is a sucker’s play actually turns out to be a good wager Saturday because even with those “easier” sequences this week, which Denny alluded to, they weren’t all that much easier.

Due to the “free money” in Saturday’s pool, players get a chance to make a score on a relatively small investment even if favorites were to dominate the results.

Relative is the operative word here: $50 or $60 per wager is a relatively large investment for the average player, but a pittance when chasing pools like this that will double the $4.5 million jackpot carryover.

As stated, it’s “a set-up for deep-pocketed high rollers…at the expense of the horseplayer who has contributed to the jackpot since January.”

The corporate greed that’s at the heart of this is not the exclusive province of Gulfstream. Companies are considered successful only when this year’s income figures outstrip last year’s. Excellent results aren’t good enough; only record ones that fulfill projections.

But today’s Gulfstream Rainbow Jackpot should, and probably will be, in the portfolio of Saturday’s “investors” since the entire pool must be dispersed by statute. Even a sequence that chalks-out is highly likely to yield a four-figure payoff, perhaps more if just one heavily played “single” disappoints. Alas, there is not a “gimme” in the sequence.

Many players fit my profile: Show up with a couple or three hundred bucks and try to turn that bankroll into four figures, not a totally unrealistic goal.

So I took a handicapping look at the three maiden-claimers, a totally inscrutable optional claimer, and a bottom-level claimer for sprinters going five furlongs on turf and an overnight handicap.

Even the nominal feature, the Sanibel Island, is wide open due to the fact several stakes-quality types are making their seasonal debuts for a pittance of a $75,000 pot.

Whenever a good horse is entered in one of these events, the trainer will generally say one of two things; that “he/she is training very well and we’re looking forward to Saturday’s race,” or “this looked like the right spot to get him/her started.”

Thanks for the insight. However, in full disclosure, I’m not sure I can promise anything better. I’ve looked at the last six races from Gulfstream and short of buying the rack, requiring a second mortgage, I’ve narrowed it down to a 6x4x3x8x6x4.

That’s a $2,764.80 investment at 20-Cents per rattle--if all the AEs draw in--with absolutely no guarantee of success: This is another definition of insanity having nothing to do with events that repeat themselves over and over.

However, due to an unprecedented $4M-plus Jackpot, today’s pool demands an affordable wager--again, the hope being that the sequence plays out formfully and a small investment could yield at least a low four-figure payout.

We’ve isolated runners that are on a positive line, on the Pricci Energy or Thoro-Graph scales or both, including of course the requisite number of breeding/trainer/dynamics angles, etc., etc. In post-position order:

Race 7: Ekati Wildcat (15-1) boasts hot connections and Roger Attfield is strong going synth to turf. Love and Care (12-1) is a mystery, a firster from Mott who has two in here and struck with several tur-route debut types at Saratoga last summer Horner Man (6-1) jumped up first time turf and Brian Lynch having a career winter. Sir Dudley Digges (9-5), consistently fastest, will be a single for smaller bankrolls. Mighty Mo (6-1) excellent figure to builder on in juvenile debut; goes from Pletcher to Mott here and Uncle Mo’s act very well on turf. AE-Derby Champagne (8-1) meets tougher but jumped up in good-figure turf debut over course, excellent to build on, and Rusty Arnold having big winter. Knocks are wide draw and up in class.

Race 8:
Great Attack (2-1) earned good-figure score winning at this level last time; can 9YO do this back-to-back? Noble Prince (4-1) drops into open claimer and has top back-figures from this course/distance last year. Red Fever (5-1) excellent last out figure; proper spacing and 5YO gelding may be coming into his own now. Frankie’s Tiger (8-1) on forwardly progressing line and Saffie Barn has a knack with sprinters and is often successful with Rios in the boot.

RACE 9: Prime Time Tommy (2-1) made excellent progression from 3 to 4 on March 23, earning field’s best figure, and trainer Dwoskin 24% effective hooking up with Castro; single material. World Leader (8-1) raced evenly in turf debut two classes higher two back, returns with excellent spacing (Nagle 23%) and horses have been outrunning their odds in recent months. Mr. Coupons (7-2) showed notable improvement when dropped to this level last out and turn-back could help further; Kaplan profitable with Paco and also with his cut-backs.

Race 10: McFly (5-1) broke maiden going against weaker and shorter but returned to 2YO top. Gio Niko (12-1) has never taken backward step on grass but also up in class and distance. El Ciclon (9-2) just missed with rough-trip placing at this level last out. Copingaway 12-1) disregard last on dirt; little development but competitive and getting class relief. Bibbo (8-1) earned best figure under identical conditions in debut; good spacing, stable rider aloft. Parmel Landing (8-1) slower but also meets weaker and going forwardly. Favorite Heir (4-1) sharp beating weaker and may be another sharp claim by Vitali. Decisionsdecisions (6-1) appeared in need of turf debut, drops, and attracts Saez.

This will be an ALL race for larger bankrolls, with many of the above within a length of two of each other going a mile on turf; trip rules.

Race 11 Sanibel Island Handicap:
Harmonize (5-2) demonstrated high class at 2, gives weight to all, a question of intent. Sky My Sky (8-1) was impressive maiden turf winner over course. Lira (2-1) placed gamely in G3 over course; very logical favorite. Hold On Momma (30-1) fast sprint figures on dirt; angles abound for connections in turf debut. Pancake (8-1) toughened at Fair Grounds, good figures and keeps marching forward. Shake Down Baby (10-1) earned top turf figure winning grass debut over course; first-time Clement.

Race 12: English Mahaveer (5-1) consistent, competitive figures; class relief, hot barn and well posted. Appa (10-1) god foundation figure to build on, drops one notch. AE-Partagas Way (12-1) jumped up in recent local turf debut when game third; entered right back. AE-Gateway Arch (10-1) set pressured pace going longer in return to Joe Sharp; benefits from turn-back and barn profitable with Saez.

Written by John Pricci

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