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 06, 2014

Through a Triple Crown Notebook

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, May 6, 2014—Of the 18 horses that chased California Chrome home in Derby 140, only one hearty equine soul, Ride On Curlin, was willing to follow the newest California Comet to Baltimore on Sunday morning.

Bet his rivals are starting to align themselves and the entries are sure to grow before entries are taken a week from tomorrow. While he was visually impressive once again, 2:03.66 is going to look slower and slower as time goes by.

At this posting, the probables already include Kid Cruz and Dynamic Impact, winners of the Federico Tesio and Illinois Derby, respectively, Pablo Del Monte, the never-mind Derby AE, and the brilliant Social Inclusion, recent foot issues notwithstanding.

Considering a run at this stage are Tampa Bay Derby winner Ring Weekend, pending an upcoming workout after spiking a fever Derby week; Samraat, no California Chrome, please; Danza, if the owners force Todd Pletcher’s hand, and Derby Trial first finisher Bayern and the filly, Ria Antonia, for new trainer Tom Amoss.*


19-VICAR’S IN TROUBLE Not even the move into slip #2 prevented him from being crushed and eliminated. I’ve decided the inside four positions are no good. The fix: Going back to a single starting gate, but those days are gone forever.

18-WILDCAT RED Hated the surface. That was apparent in his workout at Churchill and he proved that even the tighter race-day surface was not the answer. Deserves his freshening.

17-VINCEREMOS Never truly belonged in the first place; not a good year for Tampa Bay prepsters.

16-HARRY’S HOLIDAY Overmatched, but if the race were moved to Turfway? Still outclassed with these.

15-TAPITURE Peaked too soon, and probably wanted no part of 10 furlongs, anyway.

14-UNCLE SIGH Did he really need a set of blinkers? What was supposed to prevent him from showing too much early speed?

13-CANDY BOY Totally eliminated. I heard an excuse that the mile track and banked turns of Churchill couldn’t prevent Rajiv Maragh from tightening things up curling into the first turn. Wonder what the excuse was in the Belmont Stakes when he made a left into Mucho Macho Man at the start of the 2011 Belmont?

12-INTENSE HOLIDAY Bad trip, bad tactics. If there was a reason he needed to be that close to the pace and five wide down the backstretch, I’m sure I don’t know what it is.

11-GENERAL A ROD Very disappointing effort. Whether or not the blinkers are an issue with him I don’t know for sure, then perhaps neither do his connections.

10-WE MISS ARTIE Mr. Ramsey, you haven’t been wildly successful in this game by running in spots like this. You should have listened to your trainer and analyzed his final workout more closely.

9-CHITU His finish position probably was what was to be reasonably expected given his inexperience and running style. I’m sure the seedy toe didn’t help; neither did the mile and a quarter.

8-MEDAL COUNT Had the stoutest pedigree of the group and probably can handle the dirt. Looked great physically but recent racing schedule was a lot to overcome.

7-RIDE ON CURLIN Of those not totally eliminated, he probably finished in a dead-heat with Danza for the worst trip; stopped twice before angling out impossibly wide into the lane. Calvin got the Preakness boot in favor of Joel Rosario. But what was Borel supposed to do with horses stopping in my face?

6-DANCE WITH FATE Was a very pleasant dirt surprise, especially for a horse running in a race not originally on his dance card. He could turn out to be a top second-season sophomore.

5-SAMRAAT Ran very well. Had little choice but to race outside in the clear, gearing up four across the track on the turn, giving the winner a scare for about three jumps into the straight. But he’s going to have to learn changing leads if he wants to win a big one.

4-WICKED STRONG In some ways was more impressive than his Wood Memorial victory. He overcame crowd skittishness, a stumbling start, the regression pattern and stretch blockage in a lights out performance. Grinder type well suited to the Belmont Stakes dynamic.

3-DANZA Showed amazing courage. Was bumped as hard as any horse ever in the opening furlong, was steadied awaiting room in upper stretch, was bumped again—his bad, this time—then finished very professionally for such an inexperienced runner.

2-COMMANDING CURVE His Louisiana Derby 3rd was a promise of things to come. Had clear sailing, yes, but was very wide and finished better than anyone in the field. Good work by Dallas Stewart--with his Oaks filly, too.

1-CALIFORNIA CHROME Brilliance, high class, and a freakish love of running is what separates the good from the great race horse. On his way to showing he could be one of the ones. When he leaves the barrier on time, he makes his own perfect trip. But nobody’s going to hand him a Woodlawn Vase just for showing up.


Despite a strong final round of serious Derby preps and moderating, albeit not great, weather, betting handle slipped a significant 6.07 percent in April, and has fallen to 3.08 percent year over year.

While the number of races has declined 2.07 percent compared to 2013, handle for the year stands at $3.370 billion, compared to $3.477 billion one year ago.


The live, 12-race Belmont Park program on Kentucky Derby Saturday began at noon and ended at 7:38 p.m.

No wonder the morale of New York Racing Association workers is at an all-time low.

The day’s sixth race went off at 2:54 p.m., reasonable enough. A race day at Belmont always is a bit longer because of its size, taking more back-and-forth time to go from barn area to paddock, for jockeys to weigh in, change silks, walk to back to the paddock for the next race, etc., etc.

Besides, the day should be relaxed at “the American Longchamp.” But this was a day when on-track “guests” should have been treated to a hammock giveaway.

Post times from races 6 to 7; 7 to 8; 8 to 9 and 9 to 10 were 43 minutes, 47, 43 and 45, respectively. The 11th race, which followed the Derby simulcast, came one hour and 14 minutes after Belmont’s 10th. The finale came 34 minutes later.

The Derby day attendance at Belmont Park was good at 9,609. I wonder how many Derby Day newcomers returned Sunday when there were 3,071 paying customers in the house?


In the last five minutes of Derby wagering, keen observer Vinman noted that the odds on Commanding Curve rose from 31-1 to 35-1; Harry’s Holiday from 38 to 41; Uncle Sigh from 26-29; We Miss Artie from 22 to 26 and, in the last minute or so, California Chrome from 2-1 to 5-2.

While those odds were rising, Candy Boy held firm at 16-1. But in the very final flash, Candy Boy closed at 9.40-1. I would have taken more than a million dollars to put the Kentucky Derby tote board on tilt.

That indicates that one syndicate or individual raised batch betting to a new level. So, California Chrome fans, enjoy your $7 mutuel.

*updated May 7

Written by John Pricci

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