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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Friday, October 12, 2012


Calder’s Sunshine Festival Tops Final Prep Weekend


SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, October 11, 2012—Until the calendar strikes November, this is the weekend Breeders’ Cup horseplayers have been awaiting; the final meaningful championship preps before the big weekend.

And that includes the Canadian International at Woodbine, as well as the Nearctic and E P Taylor, all Canadian Grade 1s.

Taking the lead, it will be Calder’s chance to step into the spotlight—or is that sunlight?—with their Festival of the Sun program on Saturday, featuring for players of every stripe, the All Stakes Pick 5.

The sequence--a 50-Cent wager with a player friendly industry-low 12% takeout--begins in race eight with the Frances (You’ve Won the Derby Mrs.) Genter on turf for three year old fillies and ends with the In Reality Division of the Florida Stallion series for juvenile colts.

Keeneland presents one of its signature events of the fall, the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes for three year fillies going nine furlongs on the turf; Delaware might produce a female sprinter out of Saturday’s Endine and Belmont Park offers two graded stakes on turf that have a chance to produce a possible turf runner or two.

But it’s Calder’s day to, well, shine.

While the two ungraded turf events might prove interesting betting propositions, the G3 Spend A Buck, while unlikely, could produce a possible runner for the Marathon, but it’s their juvenile races that very likely will have championships implications.

The finals of the Florida Stallion series almost always produces a two-year-old runner for the Juvenile or the Juvenile Fillies, as it has in the past, and now there’s juvenile turf events on the docket.

A field of 10 colts and geldings is has been entered in the In Reality, the natural match being opening-leg winner Two T’s At Two B vs. d’Nied Permission, upset winner of the second leg of the triad.

Two T’s At Two B has the profile of a possible Breeders’ Cup entrant, having won his first three career starts by an aggregate 16 ¼ lengths. However, it was d’Nied Permission that ran him down in the Affirmed Division’s third leg.

The My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes drew a field of nine including second-leg heroine Putyourdreamsaway and first-leg upset winner Candy Coded Kisses.

Trained by Bill Kaplan, who’s bringing defending champion Musical Romance into the Filly & Mare Sprint the right way, trains Putyourdreamsaway, which after breaking maiden by 5-¼ lengths in debut, finished second-place run in the Desert Vixen Division before rebounding to win the Susan’s Girl by daylight.

Musical Romance’s partner Juan Leyva has the mount on Kaplan’s filly.

It was Candy Coded Kisses that beat Putyourdreamsaway in the Desert Vixen. She followed that with a placing in the Susan’s Girl then was terrible when she returned for the Cassidy, finishing eighth.

When Putyourdreamsaway was bested in the Desert Vixen, it came at the hands of Candy Coded Kisses, who upset the field at odds of 24-1 that day. The daughter of Omega Code, trained by DeSouza, has since returned to run second in the Susan’s Girl before finishing a disappointing eighth in the $100,000 Cassidy Stakes.

Kaplan has also entered the uncoupled Putitinmypocket, but it’s Verso a Verso that looms the most interesting. Claimed for $16,000 by super owner Frank Calabrese from a winning sprint debut on a sealed sloppy track, she is trained by Luis Ramirez, who’s compiled some gaudy stats, indeed.

Through Wednesday, Ramirez was winning at an otherworldly 36% for the year and is 42% efficient with runners returning from a 46-90 day layoff. While “only” 17% effective first time off the claim, Ramirez has a 60% strike rate in non-graded stakes.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Clearly, the day’s signature event is Keeneland’s Queen Elizabeth, quite likely to produce a Breeders’ Cup entrant, maybe two, depending on how the result shakes out.

Centre Court ran too good to lo her last at Saratoga but had to settle for place when Stephanie’s Kitten and her tremendous turn of foot outfinished her late after finally shaking loose herself.

Then there’s Chad Brown’s pair of Dayatthespa, who raced well on Keeneland turf this spring and got what she needed from Saratoga’s Riskaverse, her first start since winning Keeneland’s Appalachian.

As for Samitar, she parlayed a narrow show-finish loss in the G2 Lake George into a Grade 1 title in the Garden City on Long Island September 15. She was life and death to do it, granted, but that’s what happens when horses are allowed to gallop along in nearly 1:14 while racing nine furlongs. But she sprinted home in :11 3/5 to get her job done.

This is a good group of three-year-olds. Whether any of them will be ready for prime time in three weeks is another matter. It’s why they’re called preps.

Written by John Pricci

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