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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Friday, August 24, 2018

Excellent Travers Renewal a Bettor’s Delight

This was supposed to be easy. After I saw Tuesday night's draw sheet, it was “what’s there to know, I've been following these horses all year?”

Then I took a closer look. Should have known; it’s never that easy.

On the overnight, Good Magic got the automatic check mark. If I could take him twice against Justify, and there’s no Justify…

I still think he’s the best horse in here; think being the operative word. After all, it is the second season. Horses, especially young ones, change. Some get stronger; some stay the same.

Good Magic may be a bit of both as he won the Haskell with authority. And he is expected to run his race. Again. That's what Good Magic does.

Curiously, Chad Brown has been throwing a little shade over the colt's mile and a quarter ability. I understand that and, truth be told, I too believe that Good Magic is more nine furlongs than 10.

But I’m basing that opinion on his failure to complete the deal against Justify. Then again, it was Justify, the horse that no one’s ever beaten. And ‘Magic’ was the only rival to give the sport's 13th Triple Crown winner a serious scare.

The reason for my hesitation is a horse in that’s much faster than Good Magic on the Thoro-Graph scale. That horse is Mendelssohn.

There are several intriguing things about the European speedster. Mendelssohn freaked in the desert, but his Derby, between getting bounced around badly at the break and his unfamiliarity with a sloppy American surface, resulted in a legitimate line-through-it performance.

And he surprised me in the Dwyer; not that he showed speed, but because he was head to fetlock in rapid fractions and still finished a respectable third by 9-1/2 lengths.

In the Dwyer, it was Firenze Fire who freaked, showing his preference for both the one-mile trip and Belmont Park surface. The Jason Servis enhanced trainee made up nine of those nine of that nine and a half length defeat.

Now stretching to two turns at suitably longer distance for the O’Brien/Moore team, and seven weeks fresh, Mendelssohn might not win but the rival who goes first-over could pay the price. And that figures to be Good Magic.

Jose Ortiz doesn’t need anyone to tell him how to ride a horse with natural speed. But if I were giving the pre-race pep talk, I might say when/if you make your move, don’t grind it out with the leader—out-brush him and put him away.

Good Magic is consistently faster than the rest and owns a good developmental pattern. Brown’s horses don’t bounce as high as other barns do, but I’m sure he would have preferred five weeks instead of the four he got to work with.

There are others in here with a good puncher’s chance: In no particular order, Bravazo, Vino Rosso and Tenfold among them. Admittedly, I don’t know how to read Gronkowski, an underlay at 4-1. I’m picking up mixed signals.

I have loved, and have backed, Wonder Gadot all year long, including the time she snatched defeat from victory’s jaws at 16-1 in the Kentucky Oaks.

But since adding blinkers, she’s beaten males twice by an aggregate 10-1/2 lengths. However, today’s males look too fast for her.


Tom Jicha:

1. Good Magic -- Chad wants this and he has the horse
2. Catholic Boy -- Might be as good on dirt as he is on turf
3. Wonder Gadot -- Casse says she loves 10 furlongs
4. Bravazo -- Coach gets a piece with iron horse

Mark Berner:

1. Gronkowski -- Was an off-slowly second in Belmont and setup suits.
2. Good Magic -- Looks for first win beyond 9F off smart Haskell score.
3. King Zachery -- Trained sharply and adds value to exotics.
4- Vino Rosso -- Closed well in local prep and must use underneath.


DH-Gronkowski – Brown Exacta Box
DH-Good Magic – Not "Other Brown," "Either Brown"
3. Vino Rossi – Next best TRI/SPR candidate
4. Bravazo or Tenfold – Can’t decide: Haskell 2nd or Jim Dandy winner?

John Pricci:

1. Good Magic – Yes, Virginia, there is a sanity clause
2. Mendelssohn – Upsets with repeat of UAE Derby
3. Vino Rosso – Downgrade on anything other than fast track
4. Bravazo – An iron horse, indeed

Check THE BET section in Saturday's Feature Race Analysis for more

Written by John Pricci

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