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, April 03, 2018


Championship Numbers


5—Number of Florida Derbies won by trainer Todd Pletcher and Hall of Famer Johnny Velazquez:

This comes as a surprise to absolutely no one. Does Pletcher have the numbers and the horses to get the job done? Of course. Does Johnny do most of the riding in these spots? Obviously.

But this is a meet where their talents blend in with the task. Pletcher gets very expensive equine athletes that fits Gulfstream’s speedy track profile; a perfect match.

And, for how long now, a decade? More? Johnny V. is a position-conscious race rider who finds the sweet spot most every time he’s on the right horse—and even when he’s not—filling the vacancy left years ago when Jerry Bailey retired.

15--Number of consecutive training titles won by Pletcher. Again, numbers and quality of numbers. Then, guess what? The horses have to perform with most having targets on their back.

Gulfstream Park is not Saratoga. What is? But it’s a meet that everyone points for. Yes, Pletcher comes for a reason and not for the season—like Chad Brown apparently did this year. Most of his runners never left Palm Meadows’ state-of-the-art stalls.

134--Number of races won by defending jockey champion Luis Saez, an all-time record since the Gulfstream schedule began with the first Saturday in December and ends on the last weekend of March/first weekend of April.

Saez did it by riding for everyone, not simply by being locked in to one or two dominant barns. From the classiest stakes horses to bottom level claimers, his strategy, race riding and strength resulted in more late-driving finishes than anyone.

And a nice young man, too. As stated previously, this number may not be DiMaggio or Woody-like, but it’s hard to conceive it being topped. It took 39 multi-win days, including rolling two sevens and one six-pack. Phenomenal.

6—Number of consecutive owner titles won by Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Not sure anyone enjoys winning—and betting on winners—more than the outspoken Ramsey.

49 9/10—Number in millions of dollars wagered on Florida Derby day. Yes, there were 14 races, equivalent to 1-1/2 old-school race cards. That’s an increase of 63 percent year over year. They print money here.

Most tracks these days schedule 10 or more races each Saturday, although Gulfstream seems to do it any day they can fill a card with good-sized fields. This way, the smaller outfits get to earn, too.

21 1/3—Number of dollars bet in Rainbow 6 pool Florida Derby day. Bettors spent $16 million chasing $5 million worth of “free money.” Both live betting and total Pick 6 pool were both North American records.

21—Number of post-drag minutes--by our count--to handle the Rainbow 6 action between races eight and nine. (BTW: Never heard a single complaint).

When meet figures are released, expected Wednesday, we expect that the handle increase year over year will be approximately 10%, which will be yet another record.

So, despite the “non-championship” fare on many midweek programs, despite the harangue over the post-drag, and despite questionable running times that still occur all too regularly on turf, Gulfstream continues to defy all logic and national trends.

Knock, knock: Who’s there? Nobody, only us players.


Written by John Pricci

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