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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Thursday, May 04, 2017

HRI Staff Oaks and Derby Selections

HRI Staff selections for the 2017 Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. These races celebrate not only racing in this country but Thoroughbreds as a way of life and a living for scores of many, many more. It may bet wet and wild in Kentucky, but may the sun shine bright on your favorites late Saturday afternoon.

A safe and speedy journey to all the players and may the best horse and team win.



1-Farrell--Couldn't be any sharper
2-Paradise Woods--Brilliant SA Oaks; these are much tougher
3-Salty--Gulfstream Oaks an eye-opener
4-Abel Tasman--No shot vs. free running winner at SA


1-Thunder Snow--UAE Derby was an extraordinary performance. Post could be better.
2-Always Dreaming--Best of the U.S. and fits Derby undefeated as 3YO pattern.
3-Gunnevera--Always puts in a big late run. If race comes apart late, he's there.
4-Classic Empire--Which horse do we get in the crazy Churchill atmosphere?



1-Paradise Woods earned top figure at Santa Anita.
2-Miss Sky Warrior won nicely at the distance.
3-Abel Tasman had excuse when second to top pick.
4- Farrell won four straight against weaker.


1-McCraken should benefit from return and trained smartly since; 3-for-3 at Churchill.
2-Gunnevera had an insurmountable task in last and will provide value here.
3-Always Dreaming has been too eager training this week; tough if not overly keen Saturday.
4- Classic Empire has not been able to duplicate top freshman effort as a sophomore.



1-Paradise Woods
– Mandella Charge exploded in G1
2-Farrell – Versatile multiple stakes winner on a roll
3-Salty – Overcomes obstacles
4-Miss Sky Warrior – Distance suits streaking filly


1-Hence - Toyed with strong field for Asmussen
2-Classic Empire – Juv champ edged same horse as #1
3-Irap – O’Neil magic prevailed over strong opposition
4-Irish War Cry – Motion engineered 2 powerful preps



1-Abel Tasman-Second-time Baffert/Smith; race shape dictates
2-Farrell-Stalking style, speedy, forward upside and loves the surface
3-Lockdown-Badly needed latest; Bill Mott pointing; huge work at CD
4-Salty-Post a killer but helps price; forward lines and could be special filly


See Feature Race Analysis on Friday

Written by John Pricci

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Racing Around the Weekend

SoCal shippers had themselves a day Saturday, as did the resurgent Hall of Famer nominee, Javier Castellano.

Ironic, too, that the only mention of California horses on the national stage this year has been how disappointing Golden State three-year-olds have been this season, ill-fated Mastery notwithstanding.

But it’s sophomoric to count them out of Kentucky Derby mix quite yet; more on that later.

As for senior Californian equines, Itsintheday carried the day, virtually doing the same thing in Keeneland's Elkhorn field that he did to Left Coast marathoners in the San Luis Rey last month: He held off the deep closers from mid-stretch to wire for a hard-fought victory.

It was the second straight Grade 2 title for the team of Jeff Mullins and Tyler Baze.

Mullins said afterward that he wasn’t sure if there is more distance left in the five-year-old’s tank, which may explain why he didn’t stay home for a run in the 1-3/4 mile San Juan Capistrano, even if the latter-day version is somewhat diminished.

It’s impossible to conjure up the ‘San Juan’ without thinking of legendary Hall of Famer Charlie Whittingham, who won 14 of these marathons: Harvey Pack always said that they started the race, ran round and round, and stopped it when a Whittingham horse got to the front.

Several hours after the Elkhorn, Bob Hess Jr. struck casino gold by shipping cross-country to win West Virginia’s richest race, the $1.25 Charles Town Classic, beneath Javier Castellano, who ironically used ‘Belmont Balcony” tactics on a bullring by making a 5-path sweep to victory.

The win was Castellano’s third in the event, leading all riders in that category, as he continues on his recent roll, looking like the Castellano who in 2016 won his fourth consecutive Eclipse Award as America's champion rider.

The year didn’t start out well for Castellano, probably owing to a modicum of pushback after having changed agents. Castellano was riding at an uncharacteristically poor 18% rate the first half of the Gulfstream Park meet, a session he has dominated in recent record-breaking seasons.

Then came the news of his Hall of Fame nomination and immediately his confidence was restored and he’s now working his magic once again. Ironically, Castellano has zero Derby victories when compared to the CT Classic, a scenario he hopes to remedy.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: It might be that Castellano’s Derby could end aboard Gunnevera a fortnight from now. Actually, at about the time the HRI faithful catches up with this post, the late running Fountain of Youth hero should have arrived at Churchill Downs.

He was vanned from Miami via Larry’s Kelly’s Elite Horse Transport, with Gunnevera in tow along with trusted groom Luis Cabello. Perhaps in search of some good Derby karma, he was bedded down Saturday night at Horatio Luro’s Old Mill Farm in Cartersville, Georgia.

Senor Luro, as he reverently was known, saddled two Derby winners, Decidedly in 1962 and the great Northern Dancer two years later. Kelly, himself a son of legendary Hall of Famer Thomas (T.J.) Kelly, is licensed in about a half-dozen stakes, so Gunnevera will get top hands-on care along the way.

Gunnevera worked a solid five furlongs at “Calder” Friday before leaving Miami Gardens for the Midwest and a shot at immortality.

Saturday morning was to be the first official day of Kentucky Derby workouts at Churchill Downs, but timed moves were scrapped owing to the sloppy conditions. The Downs has carved out a window from 8:30 to 8:45 a.m. each morning for Derby and Oaks horses only.

The workouts are available via live stream at that time by clicking on at

Typical work from Dale Romans as J Boys Echo worked a maintenance 5/8s this morning around the lower first turn in 1:02 and change, galloping out in 1:16 and a couple, on a fast track. He will be honed for speed+stamina next weekend…Gormley had a nice trial out west Saturday. He appears to be learning his speed-rationing lessons well…

RACING ON TV?: 60 Minutes will have a segment on Timber Racing tonight (check local listings) in advance of Saturday’s Maryland Hunt Cup. The race is approximately four miles over timber fences, not the brushy type that American chasers jump over and through on the steeplechase circuit.

In addition to the distance, horses must clear 22 fences. There will be a featured interview with the legendary Paddy Neilson, 75. Neilson has won the event three times.

HRI DERBY SIX-PACK: With the Illinois Derby, won by Multiplier, a non-qualifying Kentucky Derby event, there was no new poll taken this week for HRI's Derby Hi-5. These were the top vote-getters with our staffers last week, on a 6-4-2-1-1 consensus basis.


1 - (Tie) Always Dreaming [20]
1 - (Tie) Classic Empire [20]
3 - McCraken [4]
4 - (Tie) Girvin [3]
4 - (Tie) Gunnevera [3]
4 - (Tie) Irish War Cry [3]

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., April 23, 2017

Written by John Pricci

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Last Stops on Triple Crown Road Saturday

The G3 Lexington Stakes portion of Tote Busters Down n' Dirty Pick 4 on Saturday's program at Keeneland courtesy of


1 - *RESILIENCY (6-1) PER: 83
Up to added distance perfectly, stoutly bred, Florent re-rides, pole, purposeful works since latest, big test here

Class relief G2 LA Derby, mini-turnback lends conditioning, 2-for-2 at trip, 3-for-5 since Lasix, returns w/ short rest

4 – ****NO DOZING (4-1) PER: 87
Graded placed, class relief, surprise early speed latest, switch to Rosario, 5F B 4th fastest 33 peers week of 4-10, no excuses today

5 – ***TIME TO TRAVEL (4-1) PER: 91 (7F)
Impressive maiden sprint win at GP Apr. 1, kin to stakes winner, bred for added trip, Edgar sticks, fastest figure LR

10 – ****WEST COAST (3-1) PER: 87
Personal trip note from 3/12: “At first reluctant to go by entering stretch, greenly, pinned ears and rallied, striding out @ finish, out-well, purposefully asked to gallop out as if training race…” BB shooting bullets

See Saturday's Feature Race Analysis for on-the-record selections, including the Arkansas Derby


PRICCI ENERGY RATINGS (PER): Measures the relationship between pace energy or velocity expended and final measure of that factor needed to complete the effort, expressed in figures, yielding a final Pricci Rating. Our beta-tests revealed that a 5-point PR spread is a significant edge for the higher rated horse. Horses within two PR points are virtually equal, post time odds determining bettability of each entrant. The greatest PR success has come in higher classes; the MSW, ALW and Stakes levels. An important tool, the PR is an integral part of the total picture. Figure shown is lifetime best given the conditions noted, unless indicated otherwise, not a projection of how fast they will run today.

: The ****Star and ***Star rating methodology goes beyond Pricci Energy Ratings. They are based on all handicapping tenets as spelled out in “Handicapping Variables” section below and intended as a predictive measure.
**** Prime Bets are must-inclusions in any horizontal wager or as vertical wager keys. There never will be more than two in any race, also-eligibles notwithstanding.
*** Strong Contenders are key runners that should be included in chaos or “spread” races or when bettor value in available elsewhere so as to maximize payouts. Therefore, they are to be used in conjunction with Prime Bets, especially in races where only one ****Star-rated horse appears.

NOTE: Star ratings can be upgraded or downgraded one notch based on changing race dynamics and where value--or lack thereof--exists. *Star would indicate in-the-money price shots for vertical exotics.

: ****Potential P4 Single; must use in all sequences. ***Must Use when only ****Star runner appears and, of course, any race lacking a ****Star-rated horse.

: The star-rating method includes examination of time-honored tenets beyond performance figures, including demonstrated class; form-cycle analysis; prevailing race dynamics; running-style suitability to conditions; pedigree suitability; visual trip analysis; inherent jockey ability and trends; inherent trainer ability and trends; race spacing; workout patterns and historical dynamics relative to winning patterns of horses, individuals, or both.

Please remember that this methodology is multi-purposed: It provides a comprehensive picture to aid individual handicappers, or as a stand-alone tool that has produced favorable results since mid-2014 or in our own beta-testing.

The TOTE BUSTERS© Legend for "10-1 or Bettor" and "Making the Grade" is also available online at

Written by John Pricci

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