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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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

It’s A White Whale I Say!

Im not really starting racings second season, the championship season, in a good mood. Even with the Saratoga race meet just 15 days away, my passion is being blunted by apathy.

Horseplayers are the ones that have been most disappointing. Fans love to complain about whats wrong with the game. God knows theres much to complain about.

Medication issues, legal and otherwise, lagging technology, poor customer service, and overall product quality, are problems truly worthy of discussion. But then so is the cost of the product.

In the last decade, nationwide handle on horse racing grew from $10 billion to $15 billion annually. But in this millennium, its been flat. Why?

What does business do when sales are slow? It lowers the price, hoping to renew interest by making the product more affordable.

Racing is unique in the sporting world because its enjoyment is derived via fan participation. It is the greatest vehicle for gambling ever invented for the thinking man. So, what does the thinking handicapper do?

Absolutely nothing, if the response to a recent column on this site is any measure.

HRI is a new alternative in this data-driven game. Weve been happy to get five, six, or even more responses to some of the pieces that have appeared on this site.

But last weeks, on the four percent takeout on the Ellis Park Pick Four, got one response. One!

Could it be that no one understands the economics of wagering?

Im no math genius, far from it. But a wager that puts the odds in our favor over the long term, one where track executives and horsemen and legislators from the Commonwealth of Kentucky came together and took a risk for our gain and, ultimately, theirs?

This is a very big deal, and nobody seems to care.

Reaction, any reaction, yeah or nay, was anticipated. It would have been a welcome start to meaningful dialogue between racings considerable uncounted majority and the industry (simulcastors and OTBs dont take attendance). Instead, reaction was next to nothing.

Am I to believe that New Yorkers, for instance, are more interested in who gets the NYRA franchise than the current law that prevents OTBs from taking wagers on the Ellis Park Pick Four?

As if by just showing up the new operators of New York racing are going to put money back into horseplayers pockets?

And where is the racing media on this? Wheres the commentary? Again, yeah or nay, I dont care. But say something. Anything.

Written by John Pricci

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Doubling Your Pleasure Is Double The Fun

I was thinking as I watched Joe Talamo remain cool under fire, allowing the first Grade 1 of his career to come to him, that this could be the golden age of the apprentice.

What are the chances, after all, that a Julien Leparoux and a Joe Talamo would come along one right after the other?

And so Talamo won the Vanity with Nashobas Key, keeping his partner undefeated in five career starts, then the second Grade 1 of his career a few hours later on the unlikely Bilo at the expense of the heralded Surf Cat.

But then everyone was doubling up yesterday.

There was Rick Violette, getting a Grade 1 title for Prioress winner Dream Rush after he won the opener with maiden breaker Sacred Charm, his second impressive debut winner in as many days.

Clinton Potts shipped 3,000 miles and won a pair of graded stakes on the almost washed out Summit of Speed program at Calder, taking the Grade 1 Princess Rooney with Rivers Prayer and the Grade 2 Carry Back with Black Seventeen.

But then everyone was doubling yesterday. Veteran Jean Luc Samyn took the listed Crockadore with Junkanoo Party then went back to back aboard Inside Info. A natural for Samyn, fittingly, a Samyn on the Green double.

Alan Garcia won a pair, getting through inside on the entire field twice; one turf, one dirt. If you missed his first winner at $19, maybe you got his second at $38?

That turf win was for Barclay Tagg, who doubled after juvenile maiden Tale of Ekati graduated impressively in the second race, giving Eibar Coa a sweep of the early double.

And Robbie Albarado doubled, at Calder of all places. But then he probably would follow the four-year-filly Smittys Sunshine anywhere, which would make sense. Yesterday was her sixth straight win.

Written by John Pricci

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fireworks Galore In Both Holiday Features

On paper, todays Grade 2 Dwyer at Belmont Park might appear a two-horse race between Kentucky Derby also-rans Nobiz Like Shobiz and Any Given Saturday. Down the road it could have even more implications, however.

Sightseeing, who split those two in the Wood Memorial then came back to win the Peter Pan, subsequently skipped the Belmont in addition to skipping the Derby. Shug McGaughey is clearly pointing towards a Midsummer Derby. But if a couple of heavy heads show up in the Travers, its possible the Phipps runner might skip that dance, too.

As an aid in reaching his goal, Shug is adding blinkers--perhaps borrowing Barclay Taggs, whos removing the eyewear from Nobiz in todays primary feature--in an attempt to get the colt to react quicker to his riders cues. McGaughey, and videotape study, concluded Sightseeing was a little late getting Edgar Prados message in the Peter Pan.

Meanwhile, who knows how good First Defence is? As a two-year-old he finished second to Zanjero going long at Churchill Downs before the latter underscored his talent with a fine effort subsequently in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.

Making his three-year-old debut for Bobby Frankel on May 28th, First Defence won a seven furlong allowances easily over the track in 1:20 4/5. Hes 2-for-2at Belmont Park and todays added ground is no problem. He is the Dwyers dominant early speed.

Speaking of zip, Commentator, the horse with issues but also with immense talent, will try to dominate the Grade 2 Tom Fool with early gas.

Should he add the Tom Fool trophy to his record of nine lifetime wins in 12 starts--including four victories at the seven-furlong distance and over the Belmont surface--it will be interesting to see if trainer Nick Zito runs him back in the Whitney.

Commentator won that storied Saratoga Grade 1 two years ago. But first things first. The six-year-old gelding needs to defeat a speed-laden group and have enough strength left to attempt the Whitneys additional two furlongs.

In all, a good day to be a racing fan. Enjoy your holiday.

Written by John Pricci

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