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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Tuesday, March 28, 2017


Gems in a Rough Game


In response to several email suggestions, the following is a reproduction of our Tote Busters analysis of the Late Pick 4 at Gulfstream Park, Saturday, March 25. For more information on this and other handicapping services, proceed to https://www.JohnPricci.com

GULFSTREAM PARK LATE PICK 4 MARCH 25, 2017


RACE 10: Maiden Special Weight 3YOs 7-1/2 Furlongs (TURF)


1 – ****SECRETARY AT WAR (2-1) Pricci Energy Ability Rating: 81
From stable mail: Alternated on the pace through from post 12 showing improved speed after apparent greenness in post parade. Benefits from the move inside and switch to Jose Ortiz. Jerkens profitable 29% going long to shorter.

2 – **KEEPING IT QUIET (9-2) PR: First-Time-Starter
Bred both sides for grass and dam has produced two turf winners from four winning runners, including a stakes winner. But Todd not known for turf-debut types (11%). Working steadily, but unspectacularly.

3 – **CRUZ DIEZ (15-1) PR: 71 (dirt)
Trailed throughout strongly run dirt debut going a mile. Grandson of Smart Strike should like turf -- of dam’s six winners from 11 starters, including two SWs, none won on turf. Cold barn adding blinkers.

4 – ***SILVER DEFENSE (4-1) PR: 78
Raced well in both turf starts, showing improvement second time and earning competitive Pricci Rating. Wismer barn had upset winner last Saturday and is profitable in all relevant categories. However, Bravo opts for another here but Lanerie switch does suit runner’s style.

5 – *OMENED BY (15-1) PR: 48
Set pressured pace throughout [turf] debut then tired badly in deep stretch at 67-1. Rider switch to Trujillo here suits, but barn is icy 1-for-94 at this meet through Monday’s racing.

6 – ****STORM TEAM (3-1) PR: 77 (5F)
Earned highly competitive figure while placing second start albeit in 5F sprint—winner repeated on Thursday here--and Goldberg a worthy 24% effective with beaten favorites. Top side of pedigree won’t mind the stretch-out. Paco sticks with this strong contender.

7 - **HERECOMESYOURMAN (10-1) PR: 67
Showed improved speed in recent turf debut at today’s trip despite racing wide throughout. Barn got off the duck here recently and Bravo chooses this one. Returns with good spacing and blinkers off; intriguing price shot at early line odds or greater.

8 – *CHESAPEAKE CITY (15-1) PR: [NA]
Trailed throughout dirt-sprint debut and was beaten off after having excuse-filled break. Has some turf pedigree and mare’s lone winner from two starters won on grass. Capable outfit names Prado but draw did him no favors.



RACE 11: ANY LIMIT STAKES 3YO Fillies 6 Furlongs


1 – **FAITH N HOPE (6-1) PR: 83
Likes to stalk from close range—the likely the tack here assuming sharp break. Stayed fairly well last out after making rally into the lane, earning a competitive PR. Loses Saez but is acquainted with Olivero.

2 – **FASHION RUNAWAY (12-1) PR: 77
Chased the pace and tired going 7F following lifetime best score previously at hybrid 6-1/2F, both at Tampa. Had useful blowout over surface for GP debut but meeting faster/tougher on speedier ground.

3 - ***CURSOR (6-5) PR: 81
Earned highly competitive PR when second in debut at this trip before breaking maiden stretching out, then was even finish in G3 Tempted going 8F. Turn-back makes sense in 3YO de but, as does switch to Jose Ortiz.

4 – ***TRUGE (9-2) PR: 83
Might have been best when beaten a neck by undefeated Who’s the Lady last out at today’s trip with six-wide rally into the lane in second fast-track start. Breeze of 5F 3rd fastest of 23 peers week of 4/24, but loses Ortiz to early line, class tested fave.

5 – ***WHO’S THE LADY (7-2) PR: 84
Three for three lifetime including two at GP, winning from both on and just-off the pace. Versatile filly is well-spotted by O’Connell in this listed event and goes first time for Paco. May offer surprising value; note.

6 - COLORINCOLONEL (30-1) PR:
Filly is 1-for-17 lifetime and barn is 1-for-94 at this meet—and that win was for maiden claiming $12,500.

7 - *MIA (6-1) PR: 68
Has shown high early speed going shorter on occasion but lone win came going 4-1/2F here in June. Generally fails to stay, figures to be chasing wide throughout but 1:01 1 BG was 6th fastest of 58 peers week of 3/19.



RACE 12: G3 SKIP AWAY 4 & UP 1-1/8 Miles

1 – **HY RIVERSIDE (10-1) PR: 88
Game winner of the Sunshine Millions Classic at today’s route then subsequently bounced, chased a strong pace in rapidly run G2 Gulfstream Park Handicap, then prepped by racing needlessly wide in backstretch run of G3 Hooper mile. Stretchout and pole a big help, but loses Ortiz to Zulu.

2 – ***FLASHY JEWEL (3-1) PR: 93
Was impressively game taking shorter-stretch 1-1/16-mile Old Hickory after being pressed throughout in his latest. Kenneally is 18% effective with repeaters and this one looms controlling--and possibly lone—speed. Has inside position and stretches to distance at which he’s 1-for-1. Takes catching beneath Bravo.

3 – ****FEAR THE COWBOY (4-1) PR: 94
Was scratched from recent local stakes awaiting this favorable spot. Last was first rate placing at today’s distance, he likes the game, given (19) 6-5-1 lifetime slate, and a surface lover, too: (4) 2-1-1. Goes very well for Rios; major player and potential value for barn that’s otherworldly 34% effective with shippers.

4 – ***ZULU (2-1) PR: 92
Second in the G2 Fountain of Youth here at 3 and won restricted Tamarac in GP return in December. Raced wide at critical juncture of rapidly G2 mile last out, losing any chance, now stretches to suitably longer trip over a strip he loves (5) 3-1-0 and gets Ortiz. Logical Todd favorite.

5 – JOSHUA’S COMPRISE (30-1) PR: 73
Two-for-58 lifetime and barn is 0-for-53 at the meet; next.

6 – ***TEAM COLORS (5-2) PR: 90
Was a good second in last year’s Skip Away and badly needed his recent Hal’s Hope return from an eight-month layup. Jerkens profitable in all relevant categories and an otherworldly 36% going turf to dirt. Switch to Paco may provide perfect speed-battling stalking trip. Very competitive six-horse feature.



RACE 13: Maiden Special Weight F&M 3&UP 7-1/2 Furlongs (TURF)


1 - **GOLDGATE (8-1) PR: FTS
Excellent turf connections on both sides of the tack but Goldberg not known for winning grass firsters. Bred for turf both sides and has been working bullets at PMM base since New Year’s Day. A tricky read.

2 – **LOVIN EMPIRE (6-1) PR: FTS
Has two-sided turf pedigree but of dam’s four winners only one won on grass. Workline a tad spotty for Todd but this one is drawn well and does get Ortiz. More mixed signals here.

3 – ***NIGHT BEFORE (30-1) PR: 61
Raced mid-pack and one-paced in slowly run debut at this trip at 58-1. But barn’s horses improve as second-time starters—19% profitable with 3YOs--and Meneses is one for three with a placing for the barn at this meet. Pedigree is turf and distance meant. Has puncher’s chance at huge odds.

4 – ***EASE HIS PAIN (20-1) PR: 73
Improved after adding blinkers for turf debut in latest, albeit at 75K claiming level, was hampered by rough trip and still beaten only three lengths. Loses Johnny to Dubai but attracts Jaramillo. Has worked thrice since last, nicely drawn and returns with good spacing. Another live price shot.

5 – **GLOBAL AFFAIR (15-1) PR: FTS
Had long series of works in Kentucky, then a three-month break, before getting back into training at Payson this winter. Dam’s lone winner won on turf but Rusty only 3% with his first-timers and jock currently riding at 6%. Yet another requiring a leap of faith.

6 – EVERYTHING’S COPA (20-1) PR: FTS
Preciado capable with firsters but not known for developing grass runners. Not particularly turf bred either but this is dam’s first foal. Alvarez 8% lifetime on turf; has much to overcome.

7 – ****GAME FACTOR (9-5) PR: 76
Made strong move to the lead, battled head-to-head thereafter but drifted in deep stretch costing him the victory on debut. Gets underrated grass partner Panici and Clement, 21% efficient this meet, is 28% profitable with second-time turf runners. Deserving favorite and obvious one to beat.

8 – ***JUNO MOON (10-1) PR: 64
Had tough break from wide post in turf debut, losing too much ground into the lane, finishing fourth but ahead of eight rivals in lone grass start as juvenile. Appeared in need of season’s debut but should benefit, as should the switch to Juarez. Value on early line given 3YO maturity factor.

9 – **EGG ROLL (8-1) PR: FTS
Has two-sided pedigree for grass, but draws tough outside post with inexperienced rider. Mott is bred for turf, too, and this runner has trained at GP, as opposed to Mott’s primary base at Payson. Intrigues but would need every bit of 8-1 or greater. Many tricked-up firsters here…

10 – *SKY RANGER (15-1) PR: 43
Chased the pace and weakened going a mile in sloppy-track off-turfer in Feb. 22 debut. Gets switch to grass-savvy Prado and adds first-Lasix. Four-year-old vs. threes here and looms super-exotics price player.

11 - **KUPURI (20-1) PR: 20-1
Trailed throughout in racing debut on turf at this trip Feb. 12 at nearly 20-1, but now returns for Kenneally who’s 21% effective with second-time starters and Lanerie sticks. Intrigues at anything near early line quote.

12 – ***SILVER SHAKER (5-1) PR: FTS
Makes debut for top connections on all sides of equation—small but classy outfit, Paco, and Chad calling the shots. Brown profitable with turf-debut runners and with first-timers in general but worktab is a bit spotty here. Dam’s five starters are winners, two in stakes, including a grass victor. Live newcomer.

LEGEND:

PRICCI RATINGS (PR): 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.

**** Prime Bets are must-inclusions in any horizontal wager or vertical wager key. 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 and/or in conjunction with Prime Bets; bettor’s call.
** Solid contenders are best used to fill out vertical wagers or can be value-added inclusions for larger horizontal bankrolls. Can become strong contenders if late changes alter race dynamics.
*Single stars are intended as super-exotics filler, determined by the individual handicapper.
No stars are given to obviously overmatched entrants.

NOTE: Star ratings can be upgraded or downgraded one notch based on changing race dynamics and value, or lack thereof. Our testing strongly advises against upgrading or downgrading more than one level.

LEGEND SHORTHAND: ****Potential P4 Single; must use. ***Must Use. **Money shots (3-star upgrade possible). *Exotics Only. No star, no chance. Races with two **** runners are key to smaller-bankroll plays. ***Runners should be included if only one **** horse appears. Alternatively, one ****runner also can stand alone as dictated by bankroll.

HANDICAPPING VARIABLES: The star rating method includes examination of time-honored tenets including demonstrated class; form-cycle analysis; prevailing race dynamics; running-style suitability to race conditions; pedigree suitability; visual trip analysis; jockey ability and trends; trainer ability and trends; race spacing; workout patterns and dynamics in historical context 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.

Written by John Pricci

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Friday, March 24, 2017


Skip to the Windows


The following handicapping thumbnail of Saturday's Gulfstream Park feature race courtesy of JohnPricci.com. Read about a brand new product line with new player-friendly price points and combo packages coming after Florida Derby for major circuits on the national racing calendar at https://www.JohnPricci.com

RACE 12: G3 SKIP AWAY 4 & UP 1-1/8 Miles


1 – HY RIVERSIDE (10-1)
Pricci Energy Rating: 88
Game winner of the Sunshine Millions Classic at today’s route then subsequently bounced, chased a strong pace in rapidly run G2 Gulfstream Park Handicap, then prepped by racing needlessly wide in backstretch run of G3 Hooper mile. Stretch-out and pole a big help, but loses Ortiz to Zulu.

2 – FLASHY JEWEL (3-1) PR: 93
Was impressively game taking shorter-stretch 1-1/16-mile Old Hickory after being pressed throughout in his latest. Kenneally is 18% effective with repeaters and this one looms controlling--and possibly lone—speed. Has inside position and stretches to distance at which he’s 1-for-1. Takes catching beneath Bravo.

3 – FEAR THE COWBOY (4-1) PR: 94
Was scratched from recent local stakes awaiting this favorable spot. Last was first rate placing at today’s distance, he likes the game, given (19) 6-5-1 lifetime slate, and a surface lover, too: (4) 2-1-1. Goes very well for Rios; major player and potential value for barn that’s otherworldly 34% effective with shippers.

4 – ZULU (2-1) PR: 92
Second in the G2 Fountain of Youth here at 3 and won restricted Tamarac in GP return in December. Raced wide at critical juncture of rapidly G2 mile last out, losing any chance, now stretches to suitably longer trip over a strip he loves (5) 3-1-0 and gets Ortiz. Logical Todd favorite.

5 – JOSHUA’S COMPRISE (30-1) PR: 73
Two-for-58 lifetime and barn is 0-for-53 at the meet; next.

6 – TEAM COLORS (5-2) PR: 90
Was a good second in last year’s Skip Away and badly needed his recent Hal’s Hope return from an eight-month layup. Jerkens profitable in all relevant categories and an otherworldly 36% going turf to dirt. Switch to Paco may provide perfect speed-battling stalking trip. Very competitive six-horse feature.

For on-the-record selections for this and other feature races, see Saturday's Feature Race Analysis

Written by John Pricci

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Behind Scenes Progress in Santa Anita Boycott Dispute


As far as the Santa Anita Boycott, scheduled for Mar. 23-27, is concerned, there is good news and bad news. But it appears a mini-crisis has been averted.

The bad is that without official backing of the Horseplayers Association of North America, it is highly unlikely that a boycott would be as successful as previous actions leveled against Santa Anita and Churchill Downs in the recent past.

The boycott does have the support of enough big bettors to make a dent, at least, have some negative impact on betting handle.

The good news is that a boycott may not be necessary at all. All the elements are currently in place to correct the poor California rule with respect to the Perfect 6 jackpot carryover, which occurs in the event of one race becoming an “ALL” and there is no perfect ticket.

Jeff Platt, President of HANA, called this morning to bring HRI up to speed about how his organization has been dealing with the issue behind the scenes in the name of political expediency.

After contacting the California Horse Racing Board, Platt was told the first thing he would need to do was to secure the backing of the host track. According to Platt, Santa Anita was on board with the rule change within a matter of days.

Subsequently, Del Mar and Golden Gate also lent their support to a possible amendment.

After getting Santa Anita’s approval, said Platt, he approached, the Thoroughbred Owners of California and horsemen. They, too, agreed in principle to a rule change. All that remained was administrative approval from the state of California.

After speaking with a representative in the state Attorney General’s office, Platt learned that there was an administrative provision in the law which allows the rule to be amended.

Now, it’s all about waiting for California to put that in writing. All parties—mostly the state--want assurances that all legal I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed before an amendment is put in place. No one wants blowback on this.

The thing is that this sounds reasonable if Platt is correct. At this point, it’s logical that horseplayers cool their heels just a tad longer before the industry take a Players First stance. Alas, we all wish to see the proof.

This is a good compromise, providing everyone keeps their word. If they do not, a boycott, with HANA’s future backing, would almost certainly succeed--and that would be a huge stresser for California tracks already having their difficulties.

Written by John Pricci

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