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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Wednesday, July 04, 2012

To All. a Happy Second Season

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, July 4, 2012—When the first NTRA Poll of 2012 was published, Ron The Greek was widely regarded as little more than a classics disappointment of 2010, Havre De Grace was about to begin her title defense, and not many folks outside Doug O’Neill’s shedrow heard of a colt named I’ll Have Another.

Now, as racing’s second season begins in earnest, Ron The Greek is king of the hill, top of the heap, A#1, and all that remains from the careers of the Horse of the Year 2011 and the 2012 dual classics winner are memories and laments of what might have been.

All of it sometimes makes you wonder why anyone stays in love with this game; the disappointments can be so crushing.

But the fans and horseplayers soldier on in the hope that upcoming events might take the sting out of the body punches the sport has absorbed during the first half of this year.

With that in mind, some possibilities and maybe a few things we would like to see this summer and fall:

THAT in preparation for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and beyond, well-bred babies will make their debuts in Saratoga and Del Mar without an encircled L appearing next to their names in the track program.

What we wouldn’t want to see is youngsters that have raced on Lasix, won a stakes race or two, ship into LAX, run without Lasix on Breeders’ Cup day, finish up the track, and have medication-dependent trainers stick out their collective tongues and shout: “We told you so ban people; these badly beaten favorites are on you!”

In Week 18, Bill Mott, who swept both 2011 Classics, trains the #1 rated horse in the country and one hell of a talented entry-mate in To Honor And Serve.

BUT sorry, Bill, we’d love to see Royal Delta try to emulate Zenyatta and win the Breeders’ Cup Classic over the same racetrack come the first Saturday of November.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since the great mare’s historic victory. Interesting, and ironic, too, that in the year Zenyatta accomplished the feat, she lost the Horse of the Year battle to Rachel Alexandra.

Zenyatta finally won the ultimate prize, but only after tasting her first career defeat in that same event. And now Royal Delta is taking the Rachel path (see Fleur De Lis results) to the Breeders’ Cup in whatever race she decides to dance in next.

Owner Benjamin Leon was sporting enough to try males in the Dubai World Cup but his Royal Delta never had a chance, between racing on a Tapeta surface for the first time and getting roughed up along the way.

There is a school of thought that believes if females are to be successful against males in a big spot, that a successful experience vs. the opposite sex is requisite. If that’s true, her World Cup effort cannot be taken seriously.

That race by any measure is a throw-out and she’s deserving of another chance. And Royal Delta has just the right the temperament and physique for the job.

Of course, racing the mare in the Classic puts Mott in a tough spot. But in the racing world--and real world, too--this is known as a nice problem to have. Obviously, the competition will be MUCH more difficult, especially given this year’s strong class of older and 3-year-old males.

But what a race it would be!

THAT Hansen parlays his romp in the Iowa Derby into a similar effort in the West Virginia Derby en route to the Travers, so that he walks into the Saratoga starting gate on August 25 in top form. Why?

Because I’d love to find out whether added maturity will get him the entire 10 furlongs in top company, and because he’s such a cool horse that he would no longer need publicity stunts for people to stand up and take notice that he’s more than just another handsome face.

I’D like to see Rosie Napravnik, at this stage developmentally ahead of Hall of Famer Julie Krone, win a Breeders’ Cup race.

Wouldn’t it be great if Ms. Napravnik could secure a live mount in the Classic and get done what Chantal Sutherland came so agonizingly close to accomplishing last year with Game On Dude?

Wouldn’t it be even better if Game On Dude, who appears right on time, can get there again and the world could watch two women go at it in what would be no less than a stretch duel for the ages?

I’D like to see Bodemeister win an important Grade 1 so that the wag who voted him the #1 horse in all the land can regain some dignity.

If Bode (#8) could win the Haskell, beating Union Rags (#10) in the process, the results would make all who care about the NTRA rankings feel better about an overall standing that places a dual Classics runnerup ahead of an actual Classics winner.

Personalities, opinions, and handicapping notwithstanding, isn’t victory ultimately a greater accomplishment?

Written by John Pricci

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