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, September 07, 2012

How About a Handicapping Convention?

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, September 6, 2012—Every so often during the past five years, I have gotten requests wanting to know when a) I’m going to write a handicapping book; b) giving a seminar or c), a request to just answer the damn question.

Well, if you want to have some fun, share your insights and learn from an array of successful handicapping practitioners and authors at every level, I have two words for you: Las Vegas!

And, wouldn’t you know, just in time for Breeders’ Cup.

For the uninitiated, I’ve given seminars just about everywhere: at Siro’s in Saratoga for Daily Racing Form, as a panelist at the very first Handicapping Expo hosted by Jim Quinn when I was a handicapper/columnist for Newsday, and as a co-host on Harvey Pack’s replay and magazine shows, “Thoroughbred Action” and “Inside Racing.”

And, as they say, when you’re the first you’re the best. No, not me. The reference is to Harvey “Never-Ask-A-Horse-To-Do-What-It’s-Never-Done-Before-As-The-Favorite” Pack, the original, brilliant, self-deprecating curmudgeonly handicapping megalomaniac who introduced the replay show to the racing world.

In that role, Pack was peerless, then and now.

I fancied myself as one of the originators of the term “trip handicapper.” I still do. In fact, it was my stock and trade in those early days at Newsday where in my first column, as race watcher “par excellence,” I boldly predicted a week before the 1977 Kentucky Derby that Seattle Slew would become the first undefeated Triple Crown winner in racing history.

In retrospect, my prescience was an exercise in idiocy: I had no idea what was involved in pulling off such a feat. In my own defense, I was young and, up to that point, I don’t ever remember having made a mistake.

But I’ve been humbled since those early days because as Newsday’s public handicapper I got tired of getting whipped meet after meet by Russ Harris of the New York Daily News. Invariably, my ROI was higher than his at every meet but I could never pick as many winners.

Harris was a great practitioner of speed handicapping--remember Coastal?--and I knew I had to join him if I ever was to beat him.

So I learned how to make speed figures using the Par Times methodology of the brilliant Dr. William Quirin.

And that’s when I began to realize, given the handicapping explosion due to the popular contributions of Andrew Beyer and Steve Davidowitz, that while specialization was extremely important, a well-rounded handicapping arsenal was the real way, truth and the light.

While at Newsday I picked enough winners to keep the wolf away from my door and have done so throughout my career, but I was not even close to the horseplayer that I’ve evolved into today.

That came only after I realized what it took to be successful at this art-science and developed a new handicapping credo: Grow or die.

And so, while I will be a lecturer at the Speed and Pace Symposium in Las Vegas on October 18 through October 20, I will also be a student, seeking out new methodologies and angles so that I can keep pace with the latest innovations in an attempt to stay ahead of the curve in today’s highly competitive handicapping environment.

The organizers at the Speed and Pace Symposium seem to have thought of everything in the way of illuminating handicapping methodology, data-mining techniques, and an intelligent approach to wagering with speakers prepared to provide their insights-- whatever an attendee’s level of expertise.

Speakers include Ed Bain, whose extensive research has made him the preeminent authority on trainer patterns; Ted Craven, professional handicapper and expert practitioner of the Sartin Methodology; Frank DiTondo, professional handicapper and best-selling author; Jeff Dunn, professional handicapper and developer of handicapping software for Smart phones and iPads; Cary Fotias, professional gambler and acclaimed author who’s taken sheet-style figures to the next level with innovative energy distribution concepts and patterns; successful professional handicappers George Kaywood and Craig Peterson, program director at Hollywood Park; Bob Pitlak, author and handicapping software developer; Dave Schwartz, successful handicapping software developer and David Siegel, CEO and President of Trackmaster.

There is much I can learn from these gentlemen and am looking forward to the experience.

This three-day handicapping convention begins with a four-hour meet-n-greet cocktail hour beginning at 5pm Thursday on Oct., 18. The Friday and Saturday sessions will be jammed with activities.

Beginning at 8 a.m. on both days, one of the professional handicappers will analyze the card from Belmont Park and Santa Anita, each presentation lasting one hour until 10 a.m.

Interactive Informational Presentations will then begin at 10:00am and continue through 6:30pm. Each presenter will speak for approximately 45 minutes followed by a 15-minute Q & A. At 1 pm, a break for lunch.

There will be three more presentations in which speakers lecture for a one-hour duration in the afternoon, with the same 45 minute talk--15 minute Q & A format. That day’s session ends and attendees are free to do whatever they wish until the program renews the next morning.

Arrangements have been made for Fotias to give away several copies of “Blinkers Off” and DiTondo will give every attendee a copy of his “One Minute Handicapper” workbook.

I am working with to distribute free copies of the Friday Pick 4 from Keeneland and the Late Pick 4 on Saturday at Belmont Park. Further, I have agreed to explain and demonstrate what variables I use to make selections and the best wagering strategies for playing the races that day or any future wagering session.

Many of us have spent the past two weeks watching two national political conventions in advance of what is surely the most important election of our lifetime to determine what kind of country we want our children to live in.

For the horseplayer, whether he/she is a weekend warrior or wants to immerse themselves at some deeper level, the Speed and Pace Symposium is a convention where players can decide what kind of handicapping and wagering future they want for themselves.

On the weekend of Oct. 18-20, what happens in Vegas doesn’t have to stay there. That’s for you to decide. For more information, as they say, click on

Written by John Pricci

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