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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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Wait Is Over, Sort Of

Its all over but the waiting and, trust me, its worth the wait.

When 141 horses were pre-entered in Breeders Cup XXIV, all the elements were there, including a Classic field where the winners of the Kentucky Derby and Travers, Preakness and Jockey Club Gold Cup, and the Whitney and Woodward will battle for the title Horse of the Year 2007.

But dont expect Any Given Saturday, Hard Spun or Tiago to roll over when Street Sense, Curlin and Lawyer Ron, respectively, enter the Monmouth Park starting gate. This Classic has the potential to be the best one ever by the time 5:40 rolls around next Saturday evening.

I hate the analogy, but how could it be described any other way: Its War at the Shore.

In all, there will be 11 races over two days, three of them brand new, worth an aggregate $23 million. The event will attract nine hours of national television coverage. ESPN2 will devote two hours to the three new races Friday. ESPN will be on the air from noon Saturday to 7 p.m.

Depending on the broadcast, racings media-starved fans will find out whether too much racing is, well, too much.

My guess is that if you win, it was racing greatest day ever.

Cant get to a TV? No problem. All 11 can be seen on the Internet at and broadcast nationally on radio at HRRN.

A look at the pre-entries with all its first- and second preference permutations is a little weighty at first but, of course, there remains plenty of time to sort it all out.

The next few days will, and should, be spent eliminating the pretenders, researching the unknowns [read Europeans], then wait again, until Tuesday, when final entries are drawn and post positions set.

Then the real eliminating begins.

The fact that the Classic will be a race for the ages is a no-brainer. And its always interesting to see how our best matches up with Europes best on grass or dirt.

Personally, I really havent fallen in love with any filly since, I dont know, Ruffian, Shuvee, Ta Wee, all sentimental favorites. When it comes to racing, guess Im just not a filly guy.

But I am curious about Nashobas Key, the undefeated Californian, ridden by 17-year-old sensation Joe Talamo. I know hes for real. Just want to find out whether shes some feline Lava Man.

Her seven wins are all in California, four on turf, three on synthetics. Not only hasnt she raced outside the Golden State but never has run on legit dirt. Her trainer, Carla Gaines, will saddle her first Breeders Cup runner.

If that doesnt set the racing blood boiling, check your pulse.

Nine days, and counting.

Written by John Pricci

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Are You Ready for Some Thoroughbred Action?

As we await the release of Breeders Cup pre-entries Wednesday, heres an advance look at the betting menu. Interestingly, there will be some new wrinkles.

For the last few weeks, weve been talking a lot at HRI about fractional betting and the various kind of bets offered. And how much, for instance, we like the idea of a 50-Cent Pick Five.

Well, it will be available on both Breeders Cup days, Oct. 26 and 27. And Monmouth Park and the Breeders Cup want you to get engaged early. The bet will commence with the first race each day.

While it wasnt in the literature weve seen, well assume it will be a mandatory payout regardless of the result: 5 winners, 4 winners, etc., etc.

Pick Threes will be rolling throughout both cards from the first race--no indication of what will be offered Wednesday and Thursday at the abbreviated four-day meet--a $1 wager.

There will be two Pick Fours offered each day, also a $1 wager, with the two Pick Fours on Saturday offered on the eight Breeders Cup events. Each Saturday Pick Four will have $2 million guarantee.

The Pick Six will be a $2 minimum each day. There will be a carryover provision for Friday into Saturday, but Saturdays pool will have a mandatory payoff with a $3 million guaranteed pool.

Win, place, show, exacta, trifecta and superfecta wagering will be available on every race. And, yes, the 10-Cent superfecta that has been growing steadily in popularity, will be offered. The other wagers are $2 bets. (We presume that exacta and trifecta boxes and part wheels for $1 will be available).

There will be three special Daily Double wagers combining the three new Breeders Cup races on Friday with three Breeders Cup events on Saturday. The bet has a $1 minimum.

The order for all Breeders Cup races will be set Oct. 17. First post on Friday is 12:30 p.m. First post Saturday is 11:00 a.m.

The first Breeders Cup race on Friday is scheduled for 4:20 p.m. Saturdays first championship event goes at 12:30 p.m. The final race each day, including Saturdays Breeders Cup Classic, is scheduled for 5:35 p.m.

Ready, set

Written by John Pricci

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Not Your Father’s Keeneland Anymore

Need to give props to Keeneland Race Course as their 2007 fall meet winds down until next spring.

Who do you like in the 2008 Blue Grass? Wicked Style, right?

Anyway, the brain trust in Lexington no longer employs their fathers track management philosophies.

It wasnt too long ago when these guys thought a race caller was an extravagance. Then came the simulcast era, and someone was needed to tell the customer who was winning the races. A track announcer no longer was regarded a luxury.

But Keeneland gets kudos for three reasons; four if you believe, as I do, they are more responsive to horseplayer's needs.

First, I dont care for Polytrack racing. But I will say the surface has played more honestly this fall.

Even if front-running winners remain at a premium.

But not only did Keeneland embrace the 10-Cent superfecta rather early in the game, but this week instituted another fractional wager, the 50-Cent trifecta.

(Kudos to Arlington Park for first breaking that ground).

The betting menu for the average player that shows up with $100 and change in his pocket gives him a chance to make a score on the cheap.

It starts with the 10-Cent super, whose low cost provides needed leverage. Its still not easy to cash, mind you, but losses are held well within affordable limits while coverage is optimized.

Now, for a half a buck, you can come back and optimize your play using your preferred choices without worrying about that impossible 40-1 shot that finishes fourth and busts you out.

Unless, of course, you used him.

For a dollar, the betting sequence is completed in exactas. A winning exacta, still inexpensive at that price, can yield a profit even if you lose the tri and super.

Weve said it before. But it bears repeating for those venues who remain out of touch with how their customers play the modern game.

Given todays technology, theres no excuse not to make fractional betting available everywhere, at least in intra-race pools.

Once thats done well start working on the 50-Cent Pick Five, to be offered somewhere between the early and late Pick Fours. What do you think?

The Pick Six can remain a $2 wager. Happy, Mr. Whale?

Written by John Pricci

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