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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, September 20, 2012


For Fink and Lopresti, a Nice Problem to Have


SARATOGA SPRINGS, September 18, 2012—There’s a new #1 at the top of the NTRA Poll this week and his name is Wise Dan. Considering that he supplanted Game On Dude as titular head of the Horse of the Year class, that news is welcome here.

Voters tend to be attracted to dominant performances and his Grade 1 romp in the Woodbine Mile was a fitting reprise of his G2 Fourstardave in Saratoga.

This, of course, makes Wise Dan a three-surface star which—for me at least—is a valuable new definition to what a true Horse of the Year might be. My ballot had him ranked #2 behind retired dual classic winner, I’ll Have Another.

And this is the fall of the year, when the scores can really change and change quickly. At this late stage of the 2012 season, the Horse of the Year race is one of the most open it has been in years.

There are plenty of runners capable of stringing together back-to-back scores to be recognized as the best in show, most especially if the Breeders’ Cup Classic is one of them.

Unless, of course, we’re talking about the Ladies Classic and, somewhat unbelievable, a filly named Questing can become the first the first 3-year-old distaffer to become Horse of the Year since, well, Rachel Alexandra, three years ago.

Yes, Virginia, and the other swing states, too, Thoroughbred racing’s highest honor might go to a female racehorse for the fourth consecutive year. It boggles the mind, really: Who would believe that such a thing could even be possible?!

Questing currently is ranked at #8, two spots behind I’ll Have Another, and will seek her third consecutive Grade 1 in the Cotillion Stakes Saturday at Parx Racing.

Morton Fink, owner of Wise Dan, and trainer Charles Lopresti, said after the Woodbine Mile that they would have to consider a run in the Classic, though the trainer believes ‘Dan’ is better on synthetics and especially turf.

This year, Wise Dan is one narrow, very tough-trip defeat in the Stephen Foster from being undefeated in four starts, having romped in the G3 Ben Ali in the spring, his season’s debut.

When Wise Dan won the G1 Clark at Churchill Downs last fall at 9 furlongs, it didn’t appear that another eighth of a mile would be an issue. But the 5-year-old gelding is not terribly stoutly bred and that might be something nagging at his trainer.

But this is one guy who certainly acts the part, looks it, is extremely well put together and apparently has, in trainer-speak, a good mind.

So it will depend on the connections of Wise Dan whether they want to go the dough or the gusto, the brass ring, the big enchilada, and hope that Questing doesn’t continue her extraordinary ways.

Or what if horses like Game On Dude or Mucho Macho Man, to name two, win a G1 prep before also taking the Classic, making either very difficult to defeat at the ballot box?

It is said that geldings come into peak at age 5. The Classic and Horse of the Year are out there for Wise Dan, and here’s the thing: He’s proven that he can defeat Grade 1 horses on dirt and has already won a G1 prep.

Horsemen are fond of saying that you run in the Kentucky Derby because you only get one chance. No one knows what the future may bring. For Wise Dan, the time is now.


Could English Racing History’s Loss Be Breeders’ Cup’s Gain?

The defeat of Camelot over the weekend, insuring there will not be a Triple Crown winner on the other side of the pond may be a loss for history but perhaps a gain for Breeders’ Cup day.

Clearly, the concerns expressed by his connections, that the formerly undefeated colt might be compromised by the St. Leger’s 14-1/2 furlongs, were misplaced. Or, in the words of trainer Aidan O’Brien: “Maybe I should have run a rabbit.”

Well, it works for Frankel.

In the final analysis, it was the pace and race dynamics that prevented this very talented 3-year-old from becoming the first horse since the great Nijinsky in 1970 to sweep the English Triple Crown.

And considering that he won the English and Irish Derbies from closer to the pace, watching this colt sit covered up and against the fence for much of the journey must have been frustrating for his connections.

Young Joseph O’Brien might have been, at once, overconfident and overcautious, too. Given the conditions, finishing well and just missing after altering course behind a fresh rival that got the first run, indicates Camelot should have won it.

Young Joseph won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf for his dad aboard St. Nicholas Abbey for the Coolmore folks that also own Camelot. If the Arc de Triomphe isn’t on his radar, he certainly could lend his star power to America’s premier grass test.

Written by John Pricci

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