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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, July 12, 2012


The New Math: UR + JR = ER


SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, July 12, 2012—Sometimes, this game is a cruel joke. First we learn early this week that Johnny Velazquez is mending on or a little ahead of schedule. Chances are good, in fact, that he will be able to ride by Haskell Day.

The bad news is that he’ll need to find another mount. Union Rags suffered a tendon injury, according to the earliest reports, and he’s out for the year, maybe forever.

Tendon injuries have been highly contagious this season; first I’ll Have Another, now Union Rags.

Note to Michael Matz: Doug O’Neill might have a shockwave therapy apparatus he won’t be using for at least 45 days that you can borrow.

(Look, I’ll try anything to get through this, even a little dark humor. In the vernacular, this news really sucks).

Note to Congress and the New York Times: Shockwave therapy is an accepted treatment for soft tissue injuries and has been around for more than a decade. (It’s not an illegal performance enhancer when used legally; so look other some other rock).

The Haskell, Travers and beyond, a second season following a first that turned out to be weird, exciting and unsatisfying all at once. A second sophomore season that lost a major player and much of the drama.

Could Union Rags catch I’ll Have Another in the polls? Hell, could Union Rags catch Bodemeister on the racetrack? We’ll never know, at least not in 2012, if ever.

The loss of Union Rags obviously hurts the Haskell and likewise the Jim Dandy. Having lost one of the big three major Haskell horses—Bode and Dullahan being the other two, of course—those headed to the Jim Dandy might now opt for an extra quarter-million bucks and Grade 1 status, too.

Both happenstances weaken the Travers as well. Clearly, Matz knew that if he wanted to win the three-year-old championship he’d have to run the table. But if he were beaten in the Haskell, that might be forgotten if he rebounded in the Derby of Midsummer.

Now, obviously, that dream is over and all any of Union Rags’ fans, or racing fans in general, can hope is that he comes back to race at 4; look at how much fun last year’s 3-year-olds are having in 2012.

But no matter how “minor,” tendon issues are always big-picture serious. Most horses, but especially this one, deserved a little better luck.

Come to think of it, so does the game.

Written by John Pricci

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