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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Friday, July 06, 2012


Smile Princess, it’s the Summit of Speed


ELMONT, NY, July 6, 2012--Can’t wait to see Saturday’s Suburban, which came up huge, and whether Agave Kiss can continue her all-victory ride. Monmouth Park has two excellent graded stakes on tap and the “Dude” will try to win only his third career Grade 1 at Hollywood Park.

But for me, it’s Calder that wins the day with its unique Summit of Speed program. Hard to believe it’s been 13 years since it was first inaugurated a after a few tweaks here and there, it remains a top class event.

The day always features a strong supporting card that includes four graded stakes, including the centerpiece Princess Rooney, Grade 1 for fillies and mares at 6 furlongs. But I have a selfish reason, too.

I stood to make a small fortune had Musical Romance, the eventual female sprint champion of 2011, upset last year’s renewal. But she was nosed out by Sassy Image in the very last jump, coming from last of 12 beneath Mike Smith to nail the local heroine.

Still can’t believe Sassy Image won it and Musical Romance, pluperfectly ridden Willie Martinez, lost it. On Saturday, the defending Eclipse champion is the 5-2 early line favorite. So much for retrieving any significant portion of that $7K Pick 5 photo.

Born in 2000, the Summit of Speed has produced Breeders’ Cup and Eclipse champions, including Awesome Feather, Benny the Bull, Big Drama, and Lost in the Fog. That streak continued last year when Musical Romance rebounded to take a Grade 2 at Presque Isle en route to Churchill Downs.

In addition to the Princess Rooney, the program includes the G2 Smile Sprint Handicap, the G3 Azalea Stakes and the G3 Carry Back Stakes. Non-graded stakes include the Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint and Hollywood Wildcat.

The All Stakes Pick 5, a 50-Cent minimum wager, begins with Race 8 and has a very fan friendly takeout rate of 12 percent--as opposed to the 27 percent hold in the Pick 3, Pick 4, Trifecta and Superfecta.

Makes the decision about which pool to jump into a no-brainer, yes?

Only four quality sprinters are shipping into South Florida this year and that’s too bad. But maybe it’s because in the signature events, the Princess Rooney Carry Back, feature some very talented locals.

The big two, of course, are the aforementioned champion, Musical Romance, and Trinniberg, the only 3-year-old this season to win three graded stakes this side of dual classics winner I’ll Have Another with four.

Musical Romance is a five time winner over the quirky Calder surface and only missed money positions thrice in 15 career runs. This year, after taking Gulfstream’s G2 Inside Information, she chased a fast pace on Keeneland’s Polytrack prior to a game runnerup effort in Churchill’s Humana Distaff.

Two legitimate out-of-towners will challenge the champ; Nicole H., down from New York in a new barn, and the Midwesterner, Bouquet Booth. The trainer taking dead aim on this event, however, is local mainstay Marty Wolfson.

We have no idea how many fillies and mares will run under his flag saddle, but Wolfson entered six horses in the 11-horse field.

For his part, Bill Kaplan also entered Musical Romance’s stablemate, 4-year-old Wild Bout Tiffany, a local course lover with six exacta finishes in seven starts, including three scores.

In addition to the musical trainers scenario above, I’m curious to see whether Trinniberg stays with his own age group or if the Parboo family decides to take on the richer, more prestigious Smile against older instead.

With little to prove against his own age group, since he’s universally acknowledged as America’s top 3-year-old sprinter, the question is whether he will take the path of lesser resistance for a lot less money ($150,000), or whether he sees where he stands with open class sprinters for $400,000.

Interesting that he rolled a pair of 3s, having drawn that starting position in either race. Although stabled here, it’s interesting to note that he’s not run at Calder since breaking maiden at 2 and is winless in two starts at furlongs.

At 118 pounds he’s actual co-highweight with two of the most accomplished runners of the 10 entered; Bayou owned and trained Gantry, a gaudy 5-for-5 at the trip but without Calder experience.

The other highweight is Field Commission, a Canadian that won the Ponche impressively last out, prepping for this in his Calder debut. It was also his first start for trainer Curtis Garrison, a 29% wunderkind from 34 starters this year, according to BRIS, and an eye-opening 6-for-10 at the meet.

Next at 117 is Indiano, who won the Carry Back at 3, is a lofty 5-for-8 at the distance and 3-for-3 at Calder. Making his first start at 4, he is the only sprinter Wolfson entered in the Smile.

So watcha’ gonna’ do Parboo?

Written by John Pricci

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