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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Friday, May 16, 2014

All Aboard Chrome Bandwagon…but on the other hoof

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NT, May 16, 2014—When trying to determine how the bettors will react once the Preakness betting windows in advance of 6:18 p.m. Saturday evening, it’s instructive to review historical events.

No, not Preakness history; Kentucky Derby history.

What is interesting to note is that in an online poll of horseplayers pre-Kentucky Derby, the population zeroed in on the three horses that were gaining the most attention at that time: California Chrome, Wicked Strong and Danza.

California Chrome attracted 32% of the responders, believing California Chrome would repeat his Santa Anita Derby effort in Louisville. In odds-speak, 32% translates into 2-1, which was his price until someone(s) plunked a million dollars down on Candy Boy at the last minute. The colt won, of course, returning $7.

Danza attracted 9% of the population, a fact that translated into post time odds of 8.70-1. In bookmaking terms, 9% of the play is 10-1 on the tote board. But this is close enough.

Eight percent of the population believed Wicked Strong would win. That’s 11-1 by definition, but he was more highly fancied by the sharps and went off at 6.50-1.

And this is instructive how?

When the odds-maker announced early line odds of 3-5 on Wednesday evening’s Preakness post draw, there were gasps from those in attendance--not fans but the connections of 10 Preakness horses and assembled media.

That’s an unusually low odds quote for such a high profile event but I surmised the guesstimate would be just right when the horses leave the barrier at Old Hilltop.

If it weren’t for the blister distraction, the odds might even have been lower. A Preakness poll was taken and at the time of the draw, 84% of the responders thought California Chrome would repeat in Baltimore, the pollsters making him closer to 1-5 that 3-5.

Bandwagons fill up fast in this game but they can empty out just as quickly.

On its face, there’s nothing wrong with slip #3 in a 10-horse field at Pimlico, but It could spell trouble for the Derby winner even assuming a clean start which is not a given in his case. Leftover moisture from the two or three inches of rain expected Friday is another bothersome detail.

And then there’s the blister. I do not believe it is anything serious, but I seemed to have displaced my DVM shingle. I will take the connections at their word; if handicappers don’t play the game “honestly” they have less chance to succeed than usual. Conspiracies kill.

But here’s bothersome detail #3. It was there pre-Derby, was treated, disappeared, but now has resurfaced. Stress is not good for any living organism, human or equine.

Horses run through issues every day, the preponderance of those a lot more debilitating than having a tickle in your throat. Yeah, it’s no big deal, but it’s there.

A glycerin mixture will treat the problem, like it did before the Derby. Here’s a tip for the connections: Google Manuka honey.

I made a comment below Tom Jicha’s Preakness post that I will be using California Chrome in a saver role but losing him in my serious wagers. And there’s always the emotional hedge, too. If he wins, it will be much more fun when we do this again on Long Island.

Ride On Curlin’s trip got all the attention in the Derby, deservedly so. But his rider won the Derby thrice doing the exact same thing, and all of a sudden Hall of Famer Calvin Borel is some kind of bum.

As if it was his fault that a horse stopped in his face.

The quasi-hidden tough trip was General A Rod’s, who steadied after racing between horses in the 3-path most of the backstretch run. It wasn’t bad but it happened at a bad time.

He had run in the stretch but his progress was impeded twice, with absolutely nowhere to go in the last 70 yards. Javier rode him great in Florida and he’s back aboard today.

The interesting thing about Kid Cruz, the fact he is the only entrant with a race over the track—a winning one of that—notwithstanding, is that his best figure is competitive with the favorite, and he’s never taken a backward step.

We’ll come up with a Preakness betting strategy in Saturday’s Feature Race Analysis. Please don’t touch that cursor.

Written by John Pricci

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