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, May 17, 2012


Unlike Derby, Preakness Pressure on Young Gutierrez


BALTIMORE, MD., May 17, 2012—One analyst’s look at the 11 horses contesting Preakness 137 at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday:

1-TIGER WALK 30-1 Owner Kevin Plank, the new master of Sagamore Farm interested in and dedicated to the resurgence of Maryland racing, wants to win a classic so badly he can taste it. The Wood Memorial fourth finisher has gotten good at the right time, advanced to an incremental lifetime best in that Aqueduct event, has worked sharply locally, and is likely to continue his developmental pattern. Owns exotics prospects.

2-TEETH OF THE DOG 15-1 Entered in the Peter Pan last weekend but was scratched in favor of running here before his owner. Trainer Michael Matz would have preferred to run in the Peter Pan he said this week. How can that be good news? Still, after an opening Compression Line sprinting, he's run in three routes, never has taken a backward step, and with good spacing is likely to move forward here. If he can, the Wood Memorial third can be an exotics presence at generous odds.

3-PRETENSION 30-1 Local horse won the Canonero II over the surface last out but in woefully slow time. Has yet to show he is of this class.

4-ZETTERHOLM 20-1 In five career starts, never has taken a backward step on the Equiform scale, going from strength to strength while continuing to show much improved energy distribution in recent starts. Had a nice work over the local ground last weekend and is poised for a fifth consecutive forward move that conceivably could make him a super-exotics player at huge odds. Trainer Rick Dutrow admits he’s shot-taking in here. I’ve seen far more improbable entrants.

5-WENT THE DAY WELL 6-1 Jockey John Velazquez incredibly frustrated by the poor racing luck he experienced in Louisville, flying home for fourth in deep stretch after finally getting out into the clear. Late developer galloped out very strongly after the Churchill Downs finish line and blinkers have made a positive difference. Has continued making favorable impressions with morning observers. Despite a significant Double Top winning the Spiral Stakes, he moved forward to a competitive 76½ in the Derby. Serious Preakness player.

6-CREATIVE CAUSE 6-1 After acting quietly for three days following a wide-trip fifth in a solid Derby effort, his energy level is back to where it should be according to trainer Mike Harrington. Classy multiple stakes winner was out-nodded in nose loss to the Derby winner in Santa Anita Derby, which speaks volumes. Nearly ran back to lifetime best 76¾ in Kentucky despite ground loss. Could prove the Preakness value play should the three top choices be somewhat over-bet. However, two transcontinental flights within three-week span is a legitimate concern.

7-BODEMEISTER 8-5 The key numbers here are 2, 3, 5 and 78; as in three races in five weeks with two workouts in between three-week intervals and 78, the highest Equiform performance figure going a route of ground earned among Saturday’s starters. The 77 he ran in his runnerup Derby finish was accompanied by a New Pace Top. Slight regression plus Pace Top usually signifies forward move. But it’s the compressed racing schedule that’s worrisome; still in the running to potentially become “one of the ones.”

8-DADDY NOSE BEST 12-1 A surprising last moment entrant by the dour Steve “Bigger Than the Game” Asmussen, his Derby effort was a complete mystery considering he was one of the training stars in Louisville. Apparently none the worse for wear, he is entered back here and his race in Kentucky might prove to be the mother of all throw-outs. Trainer reunites colt with Julien Leparoux, victorious earlier this year but replaced by Garrett Gomez in the Derby after Leparoux chose Union Rags. Intriguing price shot.

9-I’LL HAVE ANOTHER 5-2 All hail Derby hero after receiving masterful preparation and race handling by Doug O’Neill and Mario Gutierrez, respectively. Has maintained his energy level according to his trainer who continues to love the energetic, powerful stride this colt demonstrates during morning workouts. He has marched forward in every two turn start this year, including a lifetime best 77½ in Louisville. It’s thisclose between the two favorites on figures and the winning difference will be whether he can compensate for Bodemeister’s brilliance and anticipated loose lead. This will be young Gutierrez’s biggest challenge to date.

10-OPTIMIZER 30-1 Even considering that new rider Corey Nakatani is enjoying a bit of resurgence in business and confidence this season, this is a very tall order. He is on a favorable pattern, threatening to move forward here, but it is unlikely that it will matter enough for him to gain even a small share. It will be back to the turf course before long.

11-COZZETTI 30-1 Trainer Dale Romans believes that had he entered Derby third Dullahan back in the Preakness, he would have won it; instead we get Cozzetti, which Romans hinted is a bit of a morning glory, unable to run back to his promising a.m. workouts. Nevertheless, five weeks from the Arkansas Derby is good spacing coming off a lifetime best 73½. Most likely to move forward, which might be good enough for a minor share.

Written by John Pricci

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