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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Thursday, April 26, 2018


Derby Quotables: Big Three Talk Big Seven


Can’t say there were many major takeaways from Thursday’s NTRA conference call with Bob Baffert, Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher who, between them, will start seven of the 20 horses that will be lined up for America’s Race on Tuesday morning.

Todd was first up on the presser. He is a man whose words are always thoughtfully measured and free of hyperbole, but he did seem a tad excited about Audible’s attributes coming up to Kentucky Derby 144 a week for Saturday:

“He exceeded our expectations in the Holy Bull--how he re-broke and the turn of foot he showed in [upper] stretch. But I loved the versatility he showed in the Florida Derby,” he added.

“He was farther back than we expected and put in a [sustained] run. That kind of turn of foot is rare in dirt races.”

Pletcher also talked about Hall of Johnny Velazquez's Derby decision to ride Vino Rosso, explaining how Luis Saez wound up on Magnum Moon because Johnny was committed to ride Wonder Gadot at Fair Grounds for Mark Casse on the same day as the Holy Bull.

No one asked, nor was it offered specifically, why Velazquez chose Vino Rosso. Between racing and training, Velazquez has ridden all of Pletcher's Derby horses. Most pivotal was Velazquez's input regarding the addition of blinkers to the Wood Memorial winner’s equipment, in addition to Magnum Moon's racing gear.

He complimented Magnum Moon's brilliance and Noble Indy's gameness: "I'm proud of him for gutting it out. You don’t see too many horses re-engage after getting back about a half length against good horses. You see that more with older horses."

“We added blinkers at Tampa and were perplexed by [Vino Rosso's races there],” Pletcher explained. After the Wood, Pletcher surmised that his colt just didn’t handle the Oldsmar surface. On Johnny’s Derby decision? “It was a very tough one. It was his call; these situations are never easy.”

As for Bob Baffert, he thought he had won the Kentucky Derby “for about eight minutes,” in 1996, but Cavonnier was nailed in the final strides by Grindstone, trained by Darrell Wayne Lukas, a rival since both Hall of Famers were making their bones with quarter-horses back in the day. When the photo was posted, Baffert "thought I’d never get back here again.”

A week from Saturday, Baffert will try to win his fifth Kentucky Derby with early line favorite, undefeated, albeit inexperienced, Justify. Said Baffert: “We’re excited about our chances but there are a lot of good horses out there this year; it’s the most competitive Derby I’ve seen in years.

“You need a lot of racing luck, you need to draw well," he continued. I’ve been there with the best horse and got beat, didn’t get the right break. You hope everything goes your way and you don’t take anything for granted.”

Solomini? “The talent is there. For some reason he didn’t bring his ‘A’ game in Arkansas but he came out of the race really well and has trained great since [a rapid 3 furlong breeze].

"I just wanted to sharpen him up. He’s a little slower than the [top ones] but as long as he is doing well, he has a chance.”

One of Solomini’s better efforts was his game placing to champion Good Magic in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Good Magic got familiar with a wet Churchill Downs surface Wednesday following his sharp half-mile breeze at Keeneland last weekend.

Brown, like arch-rival Pletcher, is accurate when assessing the chances of his horses, but has been uncharacteristically bullish about Good Magic’s chances on Saturday.

“I’ve never seen a horse doing any better coming into a race like this,” said Brown.

“You’d love to win all the preps. You hope not to lose any race with a champion. He was short of fitness going into the Fountain of Youth but we set up a plan where his third race back would be his best,” Brown said of the Blue Grass winner. The colt is scheduled to have his final Derby workout on Saturday.

Written by John Pricci

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