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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Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Ladies First

Saturday’s Kentucky Derby is not the first big three-year-old race of the weekend to feature a natural East Coast v West Coast v Middle East rivalry.

So before Bullet Bob meets Quad Todd meets Groupy O’Brien, on Friday it will be Bill Spawr v Brad Cox v Dubai Bob.

And we’ll have fun, fun, fun till Churchill takes our big bucks away...

Will Mike Smith, Midnight Bisou’s chauffeur, win his third Kentucky Oaks and, in doing so, become the first to win it back to back?

Back in the day of black-and-white TV, Eddie “The Master” Arcaro turned the hat trick from 1951-53. That was then, this is now…

Slow-forward four decades, then another three, and on Friday we’ll see if Mr. Baffert is can win Oaks #4 and the first to go back-to-back since D. Wayne Lukas—the other Hall of Famer who made his bones one fast furlong at a time—did in 1989-90.

But if tradition is not your thing, flash forward to the present and take a look at the fillies we left open as possible Oaks heroines. Two horses may stick out on paper, but more than a few others intrigue:

Of course, Monomoy Girl (2-1) is the deserving favorite, but that quote might prove a little rich considering she’s drawn post 14, which is as wide as the Oaks can get.

Midnight Bisou (5-2) has looked every bit as impressive as ‘Monomoy,’ winning three straight graded events--including Santa Anita’s Grade 1 Oaks--by an aggregate 10-1/4 lengths. And both fillies are equally versatile.

With Midnight Bisou having drawn the #10 slip, Florent Geroux on Monomoy can keep a sharp eye on ‘Money Mike’. The break to the first turn will be very interesting and likely the key to the race--for the favorites and all the rest.

Five other fillies look live for the top prize and here they are, alphabetically:

Coach Rocks (12-1) impressed making two distinct moves to take the Gulfstream Park Oaks and she’s never taken a backward step going long. She’s looked great at Churchill Downs and while some are down on the fillies coming out of SoFla, we’re not.

My Miss Lilly (10-1) also continues to develop and has been the picture of robust health on the track in recent mornings. The good news is her figure winning the 9-furlong Gazelle puts her right there with the favorites; the bad is the move was significantly forward. Then that’s routine for spring sophs.

Rayya (15-1) is a complete mystery. The high profile new-Baffert has been tactical in Dubai and owns that glaring placing behind Mendelssohn in the UAE Derby. We’re assuming first-time Lasix, information that was not available prior to posting.

Take Charge Paula (15-1) was also forced into making two moves in the GP Oaks and stayed gamely despite tiring. She may be light on pedigree but not on heart or connections, showing improvement with maturity for Kiaran McLaughlin. Nicely posted, Jose Ortiz rides her for the second time today.

Wonder Gadot (20-1), along with Rayya, is the other filly that owns a win going this far. She’s disappointed at 3 after winning the Demoiselle last year until her last when she fired to the lead but failed to hold in the last jump. She returns to her winning distance here and Johnny returns to the saddle.

Should the forecast for rain hold, horses that have run well on wet tracks are Sassy Siena (2nd) and Chocolate Martini (3rd). Take Charge Paula, Midnight Bisou and Eskimo Kisses all won.

On Thursday, staff and contributor selections will appear at HRI under the Pricci Morning Line flag. Tom, Mark, Indulto and myself will provide exotic entertainment, grading our Top Five choices in order of preference.

Written by John Pricci

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