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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Saturday, April 28, 2012


A-W-E-S-O-M-E


ELMONT, NY, April 28, 2012—A young man approached meet at Belmont Park today and said “right now, I think you’d have to consider making To Honor And Serve among the top five 2012 Horse of the Year favorites.”

Not a bad call, I thought, only heightening my anticipation of the Grade 3 Westchester mile. Until scratch time.

Ponzi Scheme, a nice horse, but outclassed in this spot; not a big loss. Marilyn’s Guy, on a roll right now, but having to spot the field from two to six pounds, was discreetly pulled out by trainer Tony Dutrow.

Then came the big one: Midway through the card, it was announced that Jersey Town, a major contender had been scratched, owing to some unconfirmed shoeing issue, reducing the field to four.

Yawn.

That was until To Honor And Serve reached the sixteenth pole, Jose Lezcano standing straight up in the irons—had been since the eighth pole, actually—the colt’s ears flicking about as if to say “is it over yet?”

Actually, it was over at the quarter pole when the Bernardini bay, making his four-year-old debut, sashayed to the lead past a tired and spent Bold Deed, needlessly used up by Javier Castellano opening an eight length lead between calls.

Consider an opening gambit of 22.95, then 45.05 to the half? What was up with that? Castellano singlehandedly turned this Grade 3 into an afternoon company-workout for pay.

Boys At Tosconova came on late for place with a determined run, but was not within hailing distance of the leader, never a threat to win it.

Determining how good To Honor And Serve is off this effort involves a lot of guesswork; it was so easy, stopping the timer in 1:34.84 and winning by 5-1/4 lengths. He could not have had a more favorable setup but wow, THAS was nothing if not awesome.

“He made a nice move around the turn to catch the leader and it looked like he was holding everybody off well enough,” said trainer Bill Mott.

Ya’ think, Bill, really?

“He looked good,” Mott added. “He was kind of idling down a bit at the wire.” Jockey Lezcano saw it a bit differently.

“When I asked him-I didn’t even ask him-I let him do it himself,” the rider said. At the quarter pole he changed leads and he galloped. Very easy.”

“He’s obviously one of the leaders right there [in the handicap division],” added Mott. “He’s matured and that’s what we were hoping he would do from the time he was a two-year-old. You could tell he might be one of those horses that got better as he got older.”

“That’s a nice start to the year for him,” said owner Charlotte Weber. “We’ll take it one step at a time and be grateful, and we’ll see you soon.”

Memorial Day. That’s a date.

Abel Lezcano Injured in Spill

Jockey Abel Lezcano suffered two broken ribs and an ear laceration requiring stitches when he was unseated from Catreign in the day’s first race. The five-year-old mare went wrong midway of the far turn and was euthanized.

As of 6 p.m., Lezcano remained at North Shore University Hospital for observation.




Written by John Pricci

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