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, July 01, 2007


Where’s Mark Twain When You Really Need Him?


I found recent press release from AtlanticCity.com interesting on several levels. In it, the cooperative site that serves all the prominent hotels was bemoaning the fact they again might have to prop up a dying industry.

In 2004, the hotels struck a four-year deal with the New Jersey tracks; Monmouth, Freehold and The Meadowlands, paying them a combined $84 million if the racetracks agreed not to pursue VLTs.

As 2008 approaches and with VLTs still not approved, the struggling tracks want a bigger slice of that AC pie. The hotels are not interested in either subsidizing the tracks or allowing VLTs.

VLTs would hurt casino revenues, undermine Atlantic Citys growth, and jeopardize hundreds of millions in revenue that goes to the state.

Whoa!

While Im sure VLTs would impact casino revenues, I dont know what kind of growth they refer to unless it means building more hotels. When the hotels got a franchise to conduct gambling in the moribund city, they promised jobs and revitalization. Venture a couple of blocks west of the boardwalk. Where is all the building, wheres all the growth? Cant blame that on the tracks.

As far as the revenue that goes to New Jersey, are casino dollars worth more than racetrack dollars? Money is money, from whatever source. Am I missing something?

Maybe Atlantic City growth has stalled because VLTs are now in virtually every surrounding state.

And can slots players, an older demographic that doesnt skew upscale, really afford $3-a-gallon gas to get there, much less spend, on average, over $200 for weekday rooms and more than $400 on weekends? Is the food free? Are the shows free? Do slot players break the comp bank?

Maybe if Atlantic City hotels lowered their rates and offered better entertainment choices they might be able to better compete with Las Vegas. With more and cheaper choices available in Nevada, the cost of a plane ticket turns out to be a wash. And is there really a comparison between the two?

Horserace wagering is flat, yes. But racing still handles $15 billion annually. The Triple Crown tracks attracted a combined quarter of a million people to see a classic live.

The racing industry hurting? Positively. Can it do better? Absolutely. But dying? Those reports are greatly exaggerated at least. At best, theyre patented false.


Written by John Pricci

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Saturday, June 30, 2007


Cheering On A Couple of Old Pros


As everyone knows the now, the defending Horse of the Year will not run in tomorrows Grade 1 Suburban Handicap.

But it warms a racing heart to know that while the recently retired Invasor and Grade 1 winning Scat Daddy, and the likely soon-to-be retired Street Sense and Hard Spun, wont be racing this weekend, there are some old-timers still doing their thing.

He might not have much of a chance to win, but nine-year-old Evening Attire, a Grade 1 winner with career earnings of $2.6-million, will complete the Suburban field at Belmont Park where Met Mile winner Corinthian, five years younger, is a deserving favorite

On the left coast, a pair of six-year-olds, Lava Man and Molengao, are the top choices in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup. And it will be rarified air for Lava Man should he be successful. He would join Hall of Famer Native Diver as the only winner of three consecutive Gold Cups.

Lava Man will be spotting his field from four to 10 pounds as the 124-pound highweight. He is seeking his 17th career win and will try to add to earnings of $4.7-million.

But its another nine-year-old, the redoubtable The Tin Man, a 13-time winner with earnings of $3.3-million, who deserves equal billing with Lava Man despite competing in only a Grade 2, the American Invitational Handicap.

The Tin Man, remarkably, a winner of three consecutive Grade 1s despite his advanced age, is seeking a defense of his American Invitational title. He spots his field from five to 10 pounds as the 123-pound highweight.


Written by John Pricci

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Thursday, June 28, 2007


Molina Not Only Guilty Party After Gate Incident


No one condones jockey Victor Molina for striking back in anger when an obstreperous mount he was about to ride at Philadelphia Park injured him in the starting gate. Clearly, kicking a horse in the stomach is not an appropriate response, only a human one.

Molina deserved a fine and suspension, but the 30 days he received from the Philadelphia Park stewards without precedent seems excessive, as did ejecting him from the grounds.

Molinas real crime was being caught on television, creating an immediate unfavorable response from the public. The jockey apologized for his actions, reached out to the fans, and is considering volunteer work with the SPCA during his suspension.

Horsemen should not abuse the animals in their care, obviously. But some strong-willed, tough racehorses are mean spirited. The trait makes them good on the racetrack makes them lousy pets.

In that context, the punishment didnt fit the crime. Molina didnt kick the horse in the ankle or knee, nor did he punch it in the face in an attempt to injure. Again, this does not excuse his actions but 30 days smacks more of political correctness than justice. The $1,000 fine will pale when compared to lost purse money and future mounts.

The stewards missed an opportunity here. They also should have fined and suspended the Pennsylvania Racing Commission for forbiding them to comment on the actions they take when meting out racing justice.

Quoting musician Willy Nile; the rights of man don't mean a damn we're in the age of style.


Written by John Pricci

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