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, February 26, 2016


Betting Gulfstream Saturday? Bring Money


123BET.com WEEKEND STAKES PREVIEW FEBRUARY 27, 2016

By John Pricci


Exclusive to 123GAMING.com, reprinted via special promotional consideration

On the final weekend in January, the undefeated Mohaymen made his three-year-old debut in South Florida and by the time the Holy Bull Stakes was over, the athletic gray had become the protem 2016 Kentucky Derby favorite.

On Saturday at Gulfstream Park, he needs to do it all over again. And the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes concludes a day on which eight stakes, six of them graded, will be contested on a 13-race docket.

Meanwhile, there are eight other stakes restricted to three-year-olds around the country Saturday but none of consequence as it pertains to Derby colts.

But the G2 Davona Dale on the Fountain of Youth undercard and the Busher Stakes from Aqueduct are a couple of 50-pointers for fillies who have the Kentucky Oaks as a potential ultimate goal.

More on the Fountain of Youth Davona Dale below along with four other stakes run at the Hallandale track in our handicapping advance.

HANDICAPPERS NOTE:
The number appearing next to each horse’s name in the analyses is the Pricci Performance Profile. More than just a performance figure, it is an energy-based rating that includes traditional handicapping factors integrated to produce a final figure projection. [In route races, (s) indicates PPP figures were earned sprinting].

A difference of 10 points between the top two point-getters in any race yields an extremely high win rate, according to over a year’s worth of beta-testing on Saturday feature races at tracks throughout North America, including national events such as the Triple Crown, Breeders’ Cup, the Saratoga race meet, etc.

Comments, questions or information about the ratings can be sent to our e-mail address by going to the HorseRaceInsider.com site and following the instructions on how to send personal e-mail requests.


Now, the races:

GULFSTREAM PARK


Grade 3 GULFSTREAM PARK SPRINT STAKES 6 FURLONGS

The recently purchased X Y Jet (1-1), one of the country’s top sprinters, recently has been purchased privately but remains with super-trainer Jorge Navarro, meaning he can use this race as a prep for Dubai and still win. On paper, he appears unbeatable.

Ready for Rye (9-2) on his best day has similar ability but trainer Tom Albertrani says the four-year-old debuting gelding needed to get started somewhere and this looked like a good spot—sans X Y Jet. His first career Thoro-Graph top came AT GP and his Pricci Performance Profile puts him within hailing distance of the favorite.

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: X Y JET—204

BEST VALUE: READY FOR RYE—196

EXOTICA: GRAND BILL-190 (12-1), CANDIP-190 (6-1)

TOTE-BUSTER: VIVA MAJORCA-191 (12-1)

***

Grade 2 DAVONA DALE STAKES 3YO FILLIES 1 MILE


Here’s the problem: The three fastest fillies in this matchup Cathryn Sophia (6-5); Dearest (5-1) and R Girls a Charmer (9-2) have not earned their best ratings at distances beyond 7 furlongs. The good news is that the one-turn mile is a similar dynamic so, in theory, the best filly should win.

On paper, that’s Cathryn Sophia, and by a sizable margin. The most “accomplished.” Lewis Bay (4-1) and Thrilled (6-1) are making seasonal debuts for Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher, respectively, and the fillies’ forte, at least at 2, were going a distance of ground.

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: CATHRYN SOPHIA-199 (s)

BEST VALUE: DEAREST-185 (s)

EXOTICA: R GIRLS A CHARMER-185 (s), THRILLED-158, LEWIS BAY-158

***

Grade 3 HERECOMESTHEBRIDE STAKES 3YO F 1-1/16 MILES TURF


It became apparent on grass debut that Catch a Glimpse (6-5) was an extraordinary turf filly. Horses that make two distinct move while racing on the lead indicate as much. She went on to validate that assessment by remaining undefeated on grass, taking the G2 Natalma and the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Mark Casse charge has been training consistently fast for her season’s debut since late December at the Palm Meadows training center. But she will have competition from the undefeated Pletcher-trained Lira (2-1), who extricated herself in midstretch, taking the Ginger Brew with an excellent turn of foot.

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: CATCH A GLIMPSE-186

BEST VALUE: LIRA-163 (2-1)

EXOTICA: PULLED THE GOALIE-162 (6-1), WEDDING DRESS-158 (12-1), VIEJA LUNA-158 (30-1)

***

Grade 3 CANADIAN TURF STAKES 1 MILE TURF


Tried as I might, I couldn’t find anyone to run with Heart to Heart (2-1). Perhaps you’ll have better luck. An outside draw doesn’t help but he figures to shake loose on the first turn assuming an alert start. A three-time winner at the trip, Heart to Heart won his course debut, the G2 Fort Lauderdale, and has trained eagerly since for the very live Brian Lynch shed.

Bill Mott won this race last year with Long On Value (8-1) and will try to repeat here. He’s won fresh in the past and has been in training at Payson Park since late November. Avanzare (4-1) has a good deal of ability, is a multiple graded winner and has won half of his eight starts at the trip. Classy returnee Divisidero (6-1) is likely to need his return.

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: HEART TO HEART-182

BEST VALUE: LONG ON VALUE-177

EXOTICA: AVANZARE-180, TOWER OF TEXAS-182

TOTE-BUSTER: FREDERICKSBURG-177 (15-1)

***

Grade 3 PALM BEACH STAKES 3YO 1-1/16 MILES TURF


On first pass, we left seven of the 14 entrants open and that was after culling. Three of the 1 comes from the Pletcher barn and we’re taking the one with the worst draw. His bad post should be built into the odds on a colt whose line looks explosive. Further, G2 winning Azar (6-1) comes off a bad trip, elevated to second after being forced to check.

After that, who knows? Urban Bourbon (4-1) has the best PPPs--slower on the Thoro-Graph scale, however--is nicely posted and suited well by dynamics in this overstuffed field. Ousby (15-1), in contention for Claim of the Meet, could lead all the way from inside if left alone early, and there are enough classy returnees from top barns to make your hair hurt.

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: URBAN BOURBON-176

BEST VALUE: AZAR-170

EXOTICA: OUSBY-170, CONVERGE-172

TOTE-BUSTERS: SCHOLAR ATHLETE-172 (15-1), J.R’S HOLIDAY-161 (12-1), DON’T BE SO SALTY-156 (12-1)

***

Grade 2 FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH STAKES 3YO 1-1/16 MILES


Many believe, myself included, that Mohaymen (6-5) is a deserving Derby favorite at this stage of the prep season. All he needs to do to prove is to win his fifth straight and remain undefeated. Indeed, this will be his toughest test to date but it’s not supposed to matter. Can’t wait for post time Saturday, scheduled for 5:30 EST. Good luck with that…

Awesome Banner (7-2) has awesome speed, plenty of class but no experience beyond 7 furlongs; Awesome Speed (4-1) has awesome class, proving that by taking the Mucho Macho Man at a flat mile and has trained like a wild horse since. To us, Zulu (3-1) has something to prove, but don’t go to sleep on the big kicker, Fellowship (20-1).

MOST PROBABLE WINNER: MOHAYMEN-186

BEST VALUE: AWESOME SPEED-183

EXOTICA: AWESOME BANNER-195 (s)

TOTE-BUSTER: FELLOWSHIP (158)

For on-the-record selections, see Saturday's Feature Race Analysis section


Written by John Pricci

Comments (5)

 
 

Friday, February 19, 2016


Win and You’re In at Fair Grounds


123GAMING.com WEEKEND PREVIEW, FEBRUARY 20, 2016

Exclusive to 123GAMING.COM, reprinted via special promotional arrangement with http://www.123BET.com


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., February 19, 2016—The focus on Kentucky Derby prep races shifts to the Crescent City with a deep field signed on to contest the Risen Star Stakes, the ultimate prep for the March 26 Louisiana Derby.

In fact, just as last weekend was Tampa Bay Downs weekend to shine, the best card of the weekend is at Fair Grounds with six stakes, four of which are graded. Most are competitive, making them good betting races and the focus of this week’s Preview.

Further, as the first 50-pointer of the Kentucky Derby season, the Risen Star is an extremely likely Win-and-You’re-In Derby qualifier.

HANDICAPPERS NOTE: The number appearing next to each horse’s name in the analyses is the Pricci Performance Profile. More than just a performance figure, it is an energy-based rating that includes integrated traditional handicapping factors producing a final figure projection.

A difference of 10 points between the top two point-getters in any race yields an extremely high win rate, according to more than a year’s worth of beta-testing on Saturday featured events at whatever track was that weekend’s focus: Triple Crown, Breeders’ Cup, Saratoga, etc.

Any comments, questions or more information about the ratings can be sent to our e-mail address by going to the HorseRaceInsider.com and following instructions on how to send personal e-mail requests. Now, for the races at hand:



FAIR GROUNDS

GRADE 3 MINESHAFT HANDICAP 1-16 MILES


This event isn’t one of those good betting races eluded to earlier, but might be if the crowd over-bets the track loving International Star (8-5), last year’s Louisiana Derby winner seeking his fifth victory without defeat. Winning his season’s debut Jan. 16, he’s a worthy favorite.

But Eagle (2-1), second to ‘Star’ last out as the favorite, benefit from a seven-pound weight shift and is likely to get first run. At early line odds or greater, the four-time distance winner could prove the value play here:

PROBABLE WINNER: International Star-182
BEST VALUE: Eagle-180
TOTE BUSTER: Jessica's Star-174


***

KENNER STAKES 3 & UP 6 FURLONGS

Curiously, this ungraded stakes is almost always a competitive event and this year’s renewal is no exception. That, and it may produce the first value play on today’s card.

There’s nothing wrong with today’s favorite, Clearly Now, who rates the narrowest of edges. But at 7-5 on the early line, the classy public choice appears worth trying to beat; we simply believe he’s more seven-eighths than three-quarters.

Newly turned 4YO Cinco Charlie (7-2) has more upside. On a par with the favorite performance figure-wise, he gets four pounds in weight, is –for-6 at the trip and gets a switch to leading rider Florent Geroux.

PROBALE WINNER: Clearly Now-202
THE VALUE PLAY: Cinco Charlie-201
EXOTICA: Too Dim-198 (5-1)
TOTE BUSTER: Vigorous Titan-185 (15-1)


***

DAISY DEVINE STAKES F & M 1-1/16 MILES TURF


No shortage of fillies here with 10 signed on to go postward in a wide open event which, if we’re prescient, can produce excellent payoffs on the logical, top contenders.

The only obvious drawback for Notte d’Oro (9-2) is the extreme outside post in this two-turner.

However, the payoff could be relatively generous in light of his position and other factors weigh heavily for her success. A three-time winner at the trip and over the course, the tactical speedster benefits from a switch to grass maven Julien Leparoux.

But she will have her fetlock full with formidable rival Mizz Money (8-1), leaving from the pole at perhaps twice the price. Considering she’s 3-for-5 on this ground and 1-for-11 anywhere else, her case gets stronger. A tactical runner, she can lead throughout or stalk and pounce.

PROBABLE WINNER: Notte d'Oro-169
THE VALUE PLAY: Miss Money-169
EXOTICA: Pink Poppy-157 (9-2), Street of Gold-156 (7-2)


***

GRADE 2 RACHEL ALEXANDRA 3YO F 1-1/16 MILES


This prep for the Fair Grounds Oaks and beyond features the gifted Stageplay (7-5) who will be a very tough out in here. While a stepping stone, considering who this event is named for, trainer Steve Asmussen is probably treating this one a little more seriously than just a trial run. The Silverbulletday winner here gets Geroux on the re-ride.

While Stageplay may be the one to beat, invading Forever Darling (7-2) just might be the one to do it. Owning a significant edge on the PPP scale, she exits the fast G2 Santa Ynez sprint. Whether this translates to a two-turn victory away from Santa Anita is the issue. Given enough price, it’s worth finding out.

PROBABLE WINNER: Stageplay-159
THE VALUE PLAY: Forever Darling-177
TOTE BUSTERS: Shaken-157 (12-1), Finley'sluckycharm-156 (12-1)
EXOTICA: Midnight On Oconee-154 (5-1)


***

GRADE 3 FAIR GROUNDS HANDICAP 1-1/8 MILES


A couple of home town favorites hook up here but favored Chocolate Ride (7-5) holds a significant edge in many respects over the redoubtable La-Bred String King (10-1).

A distance (3-for-5) and course lover [6] 5-1-0, he is representing the profitable 36% meet leading Brad Cox and all the dynamics; race shape, post, style and Geroux all fit neatly in the favorite’s package.

But String King (10-1) is not easily dismissed; to the contrary. While not as proven at the trip, the gelded 8YO is as prolific as the come on turf [29] 14-7-2 and on this ground [13] 6-3-1, albeit mostly in state-bred company.

He should have been unsaddled two starts back if not for getting completely eliminated on the first turn (beaten a nose, incredibly) then raced dully in an apparent prep for this. Apparent prep? Since Charles Smith is a profitable 4 for his last 10 in LAY-3 scenarios, that guess seems fairly educated.

PROBABLE WINNER: Chocolate Ride-182
TOTE BUSTER: The Strong King-168
EXOTICA: Roman Approval-160 (4-1), Departing-159 (9-2)


***

GRADE 2 RISEN STAR STAKES 3YO 1-1/16 MILES


A beauty with a baker’s dozen signed on including the 1-2-3 finishers in the shorter, G3 LeComte including a few very talented new shooters including the season’s debut of Airoforce (5-2), a multiple graded winner on dirt and turf and also G1-placed.

The Risen Star will be the first for Airoforce on what is expected to be a fast, dry track. While his A-game might prove too much for these, he gives away recency and track familiarity.

LeComte winner Mo Tom (3-1) has proven best of the locals with a very-strong late run to win his season’s debut, appearing to have reserves as he crossed the wire. But his vanquished stablemate, Tom’s Ready (8-1) did the dirty work with a strong mid-race move, but understandably tired. He returns with sharp works and goes first-time Johnny V.

The most intriguing is potential Tote Buster and Greenpointcrusader’s stablemate, It’s All Relevant (15-1). His recent maiden breaker at Gulfstream was most impressive but then his pedigree was well suited to the sloppy conditions. But he has talent and may be worth a flyer at double-digit odds.

While fraught with danger, the Risen Star also is filled with parimutuel possibility. May your choices all have safe and speedy journeys.

PROBABLE WINNER: Airoforce-182
THE VALUE PLAY: Tom's Ready-171
TOTE BUSTER: It's All Relevant-171
EXOTICA: Mo Tom-168, Uncle Walter-169 (8-1), Bistraya-165 (15-1), Gun Runner-156 (6-1)


See Saturday's Feature Race Analysis section for on-the-record selections


Written by John Pricci

Comments (5)

 
 

Friday, February 12, 2016


Tampa Bay Downs in Saturday Spotlight


123BET.COM WEEKEND PREVIEW FEBRUARY 12, 2016

By John Pricci
Exclusively for 123GAMING.COM

Reprinted via special promotional arrangement with http://www.123BET.com


OLDSMAR, FL., February 12, 2016—The inexorable March toward Louisville continues this holiday weekend.

Champion Juvenile Nyquist returns on Presidents Day in Santa Anita’s G2 San Vicente, an important West Coast springboard, along with Oaklawn Park’s Southwest Stakes—with an expectant large field if the $500,000 means anything.

The Southwest is almost always a great betting race and Arkansas has become a trendy path to Churchill Downs ever since Smarty Jones, really, and especially thanks to 2015 Horse of the Year, American Pharoah.

Golden Gate Fields will take its second NoCal step to the Midwest with Saturday’s G3 El Camino Real Derby which, ironically, has proven over the years to be a better Preakness than Derby barometer. No less than 14 have been entered.

All Florida roads lead north on Alligator Alley this weekend when bettor-friendly Tampa Bay Downs offers the Sam F. Davis Memorial, a great leg-up, figuratively and literally, to the March 12 Tampa Derby and, hopefully for those entered, beyond.

The Grade 3 mile and a sixteenth took a recruiting hit several years ago when Churchill Downs removed it from the Derby points qualifier rotation, and this year the event lost some star power when the accomplished Airoforce got off to a late start to the campaign.

Nonetheless, Mark Casse will have an interesting prospect in Whatawonderflworld, a winner of three straight going long, including the recent Ocala Breeders’ Championship. The Davis will be his fifth career run but only his first on dirt.

Other horses that promise to make the Davis a good betting race are Rafting, a Tapit colt and winner of the Smooth Air for Graham Motion; Morning Fire, winner of the 7-furlong Pasco prep, and two from Mr. Pletcher—who’s bringing Johnny and Javier with him.

There are three other stakes of note on Tampa’s docket: the G3 Endeavour, featuring the return of Filly Turf Champion Tepin; the G3 Tampa Stakes that has attracted a field of 12, including more than a few graded winners, and finally the listed Suncoast featuring a dozen sophomore fillies going two turns.

In addition to those four races, we’re taking a handicapping look-in at Laurel’s G2 Barbara Fritchie—only seven entrants but a highly competitive event, and we’re going to try to help you make sense of the 14-horse El Camino Real.

To get there we’re going to go through the Campbell, a once important handicap fixture that’s been reduced in prestige and purse but is still sought after by Maryland horsemen. This year’s event features the redoubtable gelded six-year-old Page McKenney, bringing his lifetime slate of (42) 15-12-4 into the fray.

Now, on to Oldsmar!

TAMPA BAY DOWNS G3 SAM F. DAVIS 1-1/16 MILES


First, the Pletcher horses, who have things in common: Gettysburg is owned by Winstar, the nursery that has won this race five times, whole or in partnership, and both his recent works were in company with today’s stablemate, Destin, whose recent fourth in FG’s G3 LeComte was a too-late, better-than looked fourth with a good gallop out.

While Whatawonderflworld has yet to run on dirt, he has a record of experienced accomplishment and distance racing is his forte. Rafting, meanwhile, won the Smooth Air at ‘Calder’ Nov. 28 and has been training right along for Graham Motion. He showed high class holding off favorite Fellowship, recently third to Mohaymen in the Holy Bull.

PROBABLE WINNER: GETTYSBURG (5-2)
THE VALUE BET: RAFTING (7-2) at 3-1 or greater
EXOTICA: WHATAWONDERFLWORLD (7-2), MORNING FIRE (4-1)


G3 ENDEVOUR STAKES TURF 1-1/16 MILES


If this were a Grade 1 for all the marbles, then we couldn’t look past 2015 champion turf mare Tepin. Not that it will be easy to do that here with the best mare in the race. But it’s a G3 and 2016 is directly in front of her. She can be at 80% and still handle these.

However, we must give some of her rivals a look at what certainly will be betable prices:

Lady Lara took advantage of a ground saving trip to win the G3 My Charmer Nov. 21, runs well fresh and has an excellent turn of foot as demonstrated in her rough trip fourth, beaten 1-1/4 lengths by Tepin in the G1 Just a Game on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

Photo Call also makes her season’s debut but has won several times when fresh and has enough tactical speed to work out a good trip, especially with Javier at the reins. She ended 2015 a G1 Rodeo Drive score followed by a lost-ground throughout try behind Stephanie’s Kitten in the BC F & M Turf, beaten less than four lengths.

PROBABLE WINNER: TEPIN
THE VALUE BET: PHOTO CALL (9-2) at 4-1 or greater
EXOTICA: LADY LARA (4-1)
TOTE BUSTER: LEXIE LOU (8-1)


G3 TAMPA BAY STAKES TURF 1-1/16 MILES


Exiting a live race, War Correspondent looked badly in need of his first start in 10 months. He chased a soft pace three wide throughout the G2 Fort Lauderdale, was forced to commit on the turn before losing his action in midstretch.

Runnerup Lukas Alley came back to win the G1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. Christophe Clement came back with two works since, he draws the pole and reunites with winning rider Johnny Velazquez. But this is a wide open betting race.

Old Time Hockey, narrowly beaten in this last year, returns to his favorite course [(3) 2-1-0] and Ronnie Allen takes a return call from Tom Proctor. Special Envoy should benefit from last and is a three-time course and distance winner. Reload is training lights out for Shug at Payson and is reuniting with favorite partner Javier.


PANCOAST STAKES 3YO Fillies 1 MILE, 40 YARDS

On the basis of their place and show finishes behind talented R Girls Charmer in 7F Gasparilla here Jan. 23, Cosmic Girl and Missalaney are the established local form and will take beating to win this.

This 12-filly scramble boasts a half-dozen fillies on the come that have shown ability but the fact that most are very lightly raced just adds to the inscrutability of today’s two-turner. The good news is the chance of price play on some logical filly with a big shot.

Among these are Dreamup, uncoupled mate of Cosmic Girl; experienced course and distance winner Hey Girl Hey; highly regarded juvenile maiden breaker Smart Shopping, and recent Pletcher maiden breaker Holders Season.

PROBABLE WINNER
: COSMIC GIRL (3-1)
THE VALUE BET: DREAMUP (6-1) or greater
EXOTICA: SMART SHOPPING (4-1), HOLDERS SEASON (6-1)
TOTE BUSTERS: HEY GIRL HEY (10-1), MISSALANEY (8-1)


LAUREL JOHN B. CAMPBELL HANDICAP 1-1/8 MILES


It’s Page McKenney (7-5) against the world; 10 equines, anyway, including accomplished New York-bred Kid Cruz (7-2), post draw #11 doing him no favors with the race’s short run to the first turn.

The good news is that Hot City Girl’s stablemate is sometimes slow to begin; his best gambit might be to break last and drop over to the fence.

But the interesting runner is Horse for Course [(10) 4-5-1] Golden Glint (6-1), who gets four pounds from the fave and much improved since Kieron Magee’s three-back claim

PROBABLE WINNER
: PAGE MC KENNEY
THE VALUE BET: GOLDEN GLINT at 5-1 or greater
EXOTICA: KID CRUZ (7-2)


G2 BARBARA FRITCHIE STAKES F & M 7 FURLONGS


This race has a storied history and today’s field adds to this sprint’s respected past. Five of the seven entrants are graded stakes placed, two Grade 1 winners and a runnerup, and the defending Fritchie champion, a winner of 10 of 18 lifetime, seven on this track.

The leading contenders are Hot City Girl (9-5), an excellent second in the G1 La Brea last out, Princess Violet, winner of Keeneland’s G1 Madison, and the prolific Lady Sabelia (2-1), who beat Princess Violet (6-1) in the 2015 Fritchie.

PROBABLE WINNER
: LADY SABELIA
THE VALUE BET: PRINCESS VIOLET at 9-2 or greater
EXOTICA: HOT CITY GIRL
TOTE BUSTER: SWEET ON SMOKEY (20-1)


GOLDEN GATE FIELDS G3 EL CAMINO REAL DERBY 1-1/8 MILES


Since this will be run on an All-Weather surface, a race over the track is a huge edge. To that end, impressive California Cup winner ships back north to see if he can defeat the second in third finishers in that race, plus 11 others.

And this doesn’t include Gold Rush winner Mana Strike who won over the Tapeta here on Dec. 5.

But here’s a chance for bettors to go to school on the Sam F Davis run earlier in the afternoon and closely observe how Rafting performs in Northern Florida. If he runs well, then Kasseopia could wind up being the key to this.

A winner over a synthetic surface at Kempton, he finished second Woodbine’s G3 Grey Stakes in his juvenile finale now makes his sophomore debut going first time for Graham Motion. Training at Palm Meadows this winter, he’s been breezing fetlock to fetlock with Rafting (compare Jan. 23 and Jan. 30 workouts).

PROBABLE WINNER: FRANK CONVERSATION (2-1)
THE VALUE BET: KASSEOPIA (7-2) at 3-1 or greater
EXOTICA: MR. COKER (9-2)
TOTE BUSTERS: MANA STREAK (15-1), TUSK (15-1)

For on-the-record selections, see Saturday's Feature Race Analysis section

Written by John Pricci

Comments (11)

 
 

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