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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Sunday, August 12, 2018


Bets ‘N Pieces


Three For the Money at the Spa: The run of New York-bred open company success is a theme that refuses to play itself out

Under a great race-ride from Junior Alvarado, state-bred Sue’s Fortune showed another dimension in her mild upset of the Grade 2 Adirondack for juvenile fillies.

Taking a comfortable spot behind an ultimately disappointing Lyrical Lady, Alvarado pounced on the leader nearing headstretch and separated herself, all of which was needed to hold off rapid finishing Virginia Eloise.

Now 2-for-2 following a debut front-end maiden breaker, Jeremiah Englehart will enjoy this one before he re-enters his filly. Meanwhile, note that the runnerup will get only stronger with added distance.

Inspector Lynley impressed favorable taking the rescheduled Lure for Shug McGaughey, giving Jose Lezcano a natural double following an exciting-finish Fourstardave score.

Enjoying class relief, he rallied from last to first after tipping into the 5-path at headstretch before withstand late-running favorite, Projected, to the finish.

Imagine, a Chad Brown trainee that couldn’t catch a rival down the lane? Crazy, right?

Remarkable effort by remarkable Voodoo Song, the New York-bred giving owner Barry Schwartz his first Grade 1 Saratoga score.

Last week it was Diversify vs. Mind Your Biscuits in the storied Whitney. This Saturday it was the grassy Voodoo Song beating a gateful of previous Grade 1 winners, showing great grit in doing so.

His task was made easier when Heart to Heart failed to show his customary zip, allowing ‘Voodoo’ to shake loose. (Even though it was a Grade 1 score, I’m not sure it’s the equal of his winning all four Spa starts last year).

The four-year-old chestnut colt could not have chosen a better-named event to establish his budding Spa-legend status.

Runnerup Delta Prince handled the cut in the ground better than expected but not good enough as the wire approached. The laughably overbet favorite, Yoshida, was awful; empty all the way.

Chad-ca-go, Chad-ca-go, a Turf Winning TownSo what’s that, five Beverley D’s and four straight for a human New York-bred, a.k.a. the “Pride of Mechanicville.”

However, this winner came by way of Chile. And Sistercharlie is as tough as she is good, as is her rider, Johnny Velazquez, who returned from three days in a Saratoga sick bay, to win his second Grade 1 of the afternoon.

Johnny skillfully guided Carrick to a huge upset score in the Secretariat 30 minutes earlier. It was the first horse trainer Tom Morley ever saddled at Arlington and his first Grade 1. Think he’ll ever forget Million day 2018?

Getting back to Chad, he ran Sistercharlie back on shorter rest than he would normally, but only after the mare touted herself in a workout last weekend.

Chad finished one-two when Fourstar Crook, New York-bred Fourstar Crook, finished with a rush. Brown’s only bummer was Carrick’s narrow score over Analyze It, who proved he could finish second by a neck to anyone.

Alas, Brown’s disappointment didn’t last long as his Robert Bruce and tough-tripping Almanaar went one-two in the Million. The Million’s downer was Oscar Performance being pulled up after taking “two bad steps.”

Brilliant four-year-old turf specialist checked out OK Saturday night but issues normally reveal themselves the following day. No recent advisories prior to this post.

Very cool watching a three-year-old maiden-breaking turf debut around two turns on turf, a colt named Duchossois—on Million Day yet! Dick Duchossois was one of the most passionate racetrack owners, ever.

Takter, the Chad Brown of Harness Racing?
It does seem that way, even though Takter has been at the top of his sport longer. Jimmy Takter started two horses in the Midwest over the weekend and won with both.

After a sensation Meadowlands qualifier, Takter shipped Lazarus N, the latest “Wonder from Down Under,” into Hoosier Friday night. Six-year-old pacer withstood all challengers to win the Dan Patch, improving his lifetime slate to 36-for-46.

Saturday night, Takter invaded Northfield Park and won that track’s signature Milstein Memorial with three-year-old Thinkbig Dreambig, pacing a mile in 1:50, a perfect trip score aided by two rivals breaking stride at critical junctures. Good to be great and lucky.

A Star Is Born at Del Mar: If you missed Saturday’s G2 Best Pal for juvenile colts, get thee to a replay machine. It was a WOW performance (please note all caps) by Instagrand, now 2-for-2 lifetime.

Haven’t seen a colt in the East who looks like he can stay with him going short. No, I don’t know what was behind him, but the feeling is he could make any man’s good horse look ordinary.

Jerry Hollendorfer’s colt won by 10-1/4 lengths, eased up under the line in 1:10.27, getting his final quarter-mile in 23.73, virtually a two-move performance while on the lead throughout.

By Into Mischief from the Lawyer Ron mare, Assets of War, there’s no telling how good. Note that Derby winning Nyquist won this race at 2.

Just Where Does the Buck Stop, Anyway? Off the top, let’s begin with three stewards, a patrol and placing judge. There’s the infield crew, the starting gate tractor-driver and track superintendent. But, wait, there’s more:

There is the starter and assistant starters, the person who works for the gate company and an assistant starter who provides the runups for Equibase and Sheets publications…

Then there’s the official track timer, the Teletimer clocker and, just for snark’s sake, there’s the in-house TV crew--talent and techs--and, of course, nine trainers and the absolute last line of defense, nine jockeys.

Starting a race at the wrong distance was overshadowed by were two things: The breathtaking performance by well-named New York-bred juvenile Somelikeithotbrown, breaking maiden by 8 explosive lengths beneath Jose Ortiz. Mike Maker is going to have a lot of fun with this boy.

The other angle? How about official result-chart conditions that read: “One and One-Eighth Miles on the Turf – Originally scheduled for 1 1/16 Miles on the Turf.”

Written by John Pricci

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