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, January 27, 2017


A Tote Busters Look at Saturday’s McKnight at Gulfstream


Knowing that most you are likely go two deep in the last leg of whichever horizontal wager is your preference, a look at Saturday's 11th race from Gulfstream, the McKnight turf marathon:

1 - ***TAGHLEEB (6-1) Pricci Energy Rating: 68 [extremely slow pace]
Certainly has needed conditioning coming off a win in the Allen Jerkens Marathon, finishing up with a sharp turn of foot home under excellent handling from Tyler G. But course lover turns back with tougher set here and will need a very good trip to repeat for McLaughlin, despite his gaudy 25% record with repeaters. Super sharp ‘now horse’.

2 - *MONTCLAIR (10-1) PER: 67 [@10 F]
Another who received brilliant handling [Prado] when second in the Jerkens, saved ground all the way in a bulky field. Shifts inside and might get to use some tactical speed to gain better position. Gelded 7YO has improved since claimed by sharp connects. Current trainer De la Cerda is 4-for-12 at the graded level.

3 – DIAMOND BACHELOR (30-1) PER: 49 [@9 F]
His best game is speed, which is always a challenge rounding three turns despite what usually turns out to be soft fractions. But doesn’t necessarily have to shake loose with these either unless he’s on the dead send.

4 – ****DANISH DYNAFORMER (5-1) PER: 92
Pointed to this by the legendary Attfield. A two-time winner at the trip and victorious in one of two local starts, does own tactical speed and late kick, comes in fresh and off a strong workline at PMM base. Gets reacquainted with hot-riding Lezcano here, is certainly fast enough, and appears to be peaking as early-season 5YO.

5 - APPLICATOR (50-1) PER: 63
Set pressed pace in two mile Jerkens marathon, tiring late, then returned with middle-move going 7-1/2 furlongs in what appears an attempt to sharpen him up. Did win on course and at trip but not against this kind.

6 – ***CHARMING KITTEN (9-2) PER: 91 [@2 miles]
Won two straight last season for Todd then Ramseys went looking for bigger game in Ireland, failing badly in the St. Leger Trial. Recycled by Maker, he sports purposeful and strong workline in return to favorite venue (8) 4-2-0 and has two exacta finishes at the trip, including a win. Magic Mike named; think he’s live?

7 – ****TWILIGHT ECLIPSE (4-1) PER: 96
Lots of seconds and third on his card but he’s been competing effectively his entire career at the highest levels, compiling a (37) 8-5-11 slate worth over $2 million in earnings. Certainly has excellent figures on anyone’s scale, likes this course (6) 2-1-1, winning twice at the trip, now goes first-time Jose Ortiz. Very well spotted here.

8 – *GENEROUS KITTEN (15-1) PER: 85
Uncoupled Ramsey/Maker entrant has won over this course but not at the trip, goes second off the layup (Maker 23% effective), given a conditioning run when a willing in the Jerkens off two month break now switches to Geroux. Not as accomplished as mate but not without money prospects.

9 – PATTERSON CROSS (20-1) PER: 62 [@11 F, extremely slow pace]
In top hands with Mott/Lezcano team, likes this course (2) 1-1-0 and has enough pedigree for the trip. Mott a worthy 24% effective with repeaters, but waters are much deeper here.

10 – ***MR MAYBE (6-1) PER: 94 [@13 F]
Winner of the 13-furlongs Glens Falls at the Spa so trip not an issue. Third in G2 MacDiarmida in 2016 here, Chad has come back firing where he left off in his Eclipse season, is 26% effective with this type of spacing and picks up Javier. This one owns powerful late turn of foot but move must be perfectly timed.

11 – *SADLER’S JOY (8-1) PER: 69 [@11 F, extremely slow pace]
Moves way up in company here but is the “now horse” seeking his fourth straight. Won his only start at the trip, his figures on both scales are straight forward, Albertrani has been live at meet but he loses Javier to Mr Maybe.

12 – *HUNTER O’RILEY (15-1) PER: 77 [@9.5 F]
Continued on very gamely for third after chasing the pace 3-wide throughout the two-mile Jerkens--no easy task. Toner has sharpened him up with two recent shorter drills, Johnny takes the re-ride but does cut back with better.

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

Written by John Pricci

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017


GREEN BAY PACKERS 35 - KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 10


Prior to the post draw for the inaugural Pegasus World Cup Invitational, master of ceremonies Pete Aiello, a race caller who has come very far, very fast, introduced Frank Stronach, who has come very far over a very long period of time.

“At the beginning a lot of people asked me how come, why the Pegasus?”

“First of all,” Stronach began to explain, “I were fortunate enough to buy this racetrack.

“After we came up with the idea for a race, I started looking in books for a good name. Pegasus was a great icon. Since life is sometimes a battle of good spirits and bad spirits, we thought it was a good name.

“The horse has always served mankind. There wouldn’t have been an America without the horse in the West.

“The Breeders’ Cup does a great job for racing, and the Dubai World Cup is a great race. We thought the end of January would be a perfect time between the two. Good horses can run in this race and still make their stud dates for the year.

“We have two very good horses to start. We all must do what we can do, band together for the good of the sport.”

The Triple Crown has long been acknowledged as American racing’s best hoof forward. And the Breeders’ Cup--which had a profound effect this year as the recent Eclipse Award ceremony demonstrated--often has been described as racing’s Super Bowl because of its end-of-year championship implications.

But both events are a series of races. The Pegasus is a singular event, the world’s richest horse race, and no one, not even Stronach, Mr. Zeus himself, knows how it will all come out in the end, so appropriate for 2017.

And so a post-position draw was conducted and it turns out that one of the two very good horses will start closest to the rail, the other from the grandstand. Interesting how, given their physical attributes and style, each was given a unique obstacle to overcome.

As we watched the draw ceremonies at Frankey’s sports bar, not eponymously named but rather for Stronach’s grandson, we couldn’t help draw similarities with the inaugural running of the Marlboro Cup Invitational at Belmont Park in 1973.

That event was billed as “The Battle of Stablemates” between two champions; the 1972 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes-winning Riva Ridge versus that year’s Triple Crown champion, the mighty Secretariat.

The handicap race had a storied and impactful history and was the first major outside-the-box sponsored event. But, alas it had a short run--not meant to Bee Bee Bee.

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Stronach in front of the icon he conjured
The inaugural Pegasus is best branded as “The Rematch” between a two-time Horse of the Year champion and his Breeders’ Cup Classic champion conqueror, the only time the two have met on a playing field.

Among the dozen Pegasus entrants is a handful of strong supporting characters and the post positions lend an added element of intrigue, also providing a slightly better chance to produce what would remain an upset of major proportions.

In a larger context, the Pegasus can be more than a great horse race. It just could represent the future, a sign of the way major racing events will be conducted long after most of us are on the wrong side of the turf course.

It could even travel the globe one day, the way Breeders’ Cup used to travel across North America. No one knows what will be, just as no one knows how it all will go on Saturday.

But make no mistake. Frank Stronach, as he often has--admittedly not always with the best results—created a unique event staged at a unique, forward-looking latter-day American racetrack.

Saturday’s racing Super Bowl doesn’t figure to be a blowout in the manner of the first meeting between the National Football League and a bastard child D.B.A. the American Football League.

For this game’s sake, the hope is that at the end of the day, the score will be as it stands right now: Pegasus 1 – Chimera 0.

b>Photo by Toni Pricci

Hallandale Beach, FL., January 24, 2017


Written by John Pricci

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Thursday, January 19, 2017


Vegas Line: Chrome 4-5; Arrogate 1-1


By Press Release

Although defeated by Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), California Chrome was listed as the 4-5 favorite for the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) when the opening line at the Wynn Las Vegas Race & Sports Book was released.

Arrogate, who finished a half-length in front of California Chrome in the Classic, their first meeting, was made the second choice at even-money for the inaugural running of the 1 1/8-mile race.

The opening lines for the remainder of the expected 12-horse field is as follows: Noble Bird (12-1); Keen Ice (20-1); Neolithic (20-1); Shaman Ghost (25-1); Breaking Lucky (25-1); Eragon (40-1); War Envoy (50-1); War Story (50-1); Ralis (50-1); and Prayer for Relief (75-1).

CHROME: A Sunday Kind of Love

By John Pricci

It was the morning after his penultimate workout for the ultimate race of his life. America's richest race horse ever*, preparing for the world's richest race ever.

After a routine five-furlong breeze Saturday morning before a larger than usual breakfast crowd at Gulfstream Park, California Chrome was relaxing, which was hard for a newcomer to know because he's just so focused, with a "what's next?" look about him.

We're not anthropomorphizing here. I've been on the other side of the webbing of plenty of race horses and, as horsemen like to say about the great ones, this horse actually looks like he is breathing different air.

He never stops moving. We were there at lunch time, 10:14 a.m. Sunday, and Chrome shows that he loves the equine version of surf and turf: Some oats from the lunch bucket out front then a little parry and thrust with his hay rack; especially thrust. He attacks the damn thing.

In between he's constant motion, moving head from side to side, ears going every which way. Nothing escapes his attention. He's so fun to watch, even when he's not racing. He looks restive but not in an edgy or agitated way, just quietly intense. "It's his way," his personal security person, Jorge Gonzalez, informs us. "He has his routines."

California Chrome is loving life right now and it shows, whether it's on the racetrack or in his stall. He's a remarkable animal.

The Pegasus World Cup Invitational is 13 days hence. And we can't wait to see what his game face looks like for real.

image
Tell Arrogate I'm Looking for Him

*****

Multiple graded stakes winning Arles, pictured here on the outside, gets the best of her stablemate Tuesday morning on the Palm Meadows training center grass course.

Owned by Barry Irwin et al, she currently is being pointed to the Grade 3 La Prevoyante later this month at Gulfstream Park.


image

* * * * *
What Bellavais lacks in size she makes up for in heart. She proved that when she won Saturday's Ginger Brew Stakes, overcoming some tight quarters, bulling her way between rivals and drew off late demonstrating a high turn of foot.

All that after altering stride in midstretch, first being inadvertently struck by a rival's whip, getting her so angry that she jumped up a second time while trying to savage her rival inside.

Johnny Velazquez finally got her mind right and the attractive chestnut exploded straight to the wire. Gulfstream's G3 Herecomesthebride in March is the most likely target.

image

Photos by Toni Pricci

*correction made 012017

Written by John Pricci

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