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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Friday, February 17, 2017

A Handicapping Look-In on Saturday’s White Pearl at Gulfstream

A look at Saturday's Late Pick 4 feature race as it appears without the star ratings. If interested in more, as well as an analysis of the other three races comprising the P4 sequence, information is available at

RACE 11: WHITE PEARL STAKES F & M 4 & UP 7 Furlongs

1 - MOMENT OF DELIGHT (6-1) PR: 93
Was a good third mid-moving into strong pace in quickly run Sunshine Millions Sprint going 6F Jan 21. Best Pricci Rating earned at this trip and track lover is (13) 4-3-1 here, 1-for-6 everywhere else. Might try shaking loose from pole on the stretchout assuming alert break beneath Saez.

2 – MINES AND MAGIC (4-1) PR: 94
Makes GP debut at a trip she likes (2) 1-1-0 while making first start after winning the Dogwood in her Churchill finale last fall. Well spotted at this grade and has been working well at deepish Payson, but barn not particularly known for prowess with returnees. Very tricky call.

3 - SAVINGTIME (20-1) PR: 86
Was a much improved second in second start off the layup vs. weaker last time now stretches to preferred trip for low-profile connections. All three lifetime wins have come on this oval. Superfecta player?

4 - JULERETTE (15-1) PR: 86
Benefitted from patient handling from Bravo to win last, her GP debut, following good-figure third at same-distance prior. Five furlong breeze was 2nd fastest of 47 peers the week of Feb 11 and exits a key race that produced 2 winners from 4 subsequent starters. Price shot at early line odds.

5 – BODACIOUS BABE (6-1) PR: 87
Set pressured pace throughout G3 Hurricane Bertie following troubled start after winning restricted Margate previously, returning from brief freshening. Lightly raced 4YO has some promise, winning at the trip and over this track. Reunites with winning rider Juarez for Cibelli, profitable in non-graded stakes.

6 – MY AWESOME MOM (12-1) PR: 78
A winner at the trip but no match for Bodacious Babe in the Margate before coming back with another even third. Dave Kassen effective enough turning back from route to sprint but these appear too quick for her. Has money prospects.

7 - DISTINTA (5-1) PR: 89
Two of her three lifetime wins have come at this distance and she was a willing, albeit one-paced third in G3 ‘Bertie’. Barboza 30% effective in LAY-3 scenarios and also 21% profitable overall since 2016. Regular partner Zayas sticks. Fits dynamics and is nicely posted, a player.

8 – FUSAICHI RED (6-1) PR: 82

Makes first start for Jimmy Jerkens, a profitable scenario, and is getting some class relief here. Gets Paco, too, but is winless in three starts on this oval. Recent 5F breeze in 2nd fastest of 32 peers week of Feb 12. Getting mixed signals.

9 – SOPHIA’S SONG (3-1) PR: 88
Hasn’t started since G2 Ravens Run after just missing when third in G3 Charles Town Oaks. Training steadily since Jan. 2 at PBD base, is reunited with winning partner Castellano, and won her only start on this surface. As mentioned, Todd 29% with this spacing and filly had good company work @ PBD 2/11.

See Saturday's Feature Race Analysis for On-the-Record Selections

Written by John Pricci

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Sunday, February 05, 2017

Pardon the Interruption

Our apologies for site interruption. We are at Tampa Bay Downs covering Tampa Derby Preview Day. Will report on it Monday. Thanks once again for your patience and understanding.

Today's Feature Race is the Tampa Bay Stakes taking Coco Mon (8-1) to win at 5-1 or greater, exacta box with Kasaqui (3-1).

As the first meaningful prep day of the Kentucky Derby season, the races provided a decidedly mixed bag of results.

In Aqueduct’s Withers Stakes, El Areeb’s star status was confirmed in a completely comprehensive victory. Alas, one can't say the same for Santa Anita’s Robert B. Lewis, but Gulfstream Park's Holy Bull Stakes sent two messages; one positive, one mystifying.

What it all means, especially including the return of the 2016 juvenile champion Classic Empire, will probably require a little more time to provide conclusive Derby perspective.
Out West, the lesser known stablemate of Sham winner Gormley, Royal Mo, both trained by John Shirreffs, entered the ranks of Derby prospects with a comprehensive victory beneath Victor Espinoza in the Lewis.

The mitigating aspect, however, is that yesterday’s renewal was quite possibly the least inspiring edition ever staged. ‘Mo’ beat four rivals, three from one barn, and like the first two races we viewed on the Santa Anita card, it was won by speed type racing closest to the rail.

From his pole position, Royal Mo was sent along for the lead, set moderate splits, and never was seriously threatened at any time in the straight. The time for the 1-1/16 miles was a very solid 1:43.48 and was a worthy effort for a colt that hadn’t run since November.

It appears at this time that Gormley is targeting the San Felipe while Royal Mo may be headed to Hot Springs. The Rebel, with its obscene purse of $900,000, is a tempting target indeed, a good way to handle those separation blues.

Back East, El Areeb won his third straight by stalking from perfect position third, close up and in the clear throughout, before making his move to the lead at headstretch, leaving the overmatched group in his wake. When added to his three straight prior wins, the combined margin over those victories is a heady 29 lengths.

As Trevor McCarthy, who also happened to ride Irish War Cry to win his first victories prior to Saturday’s Holy Bull, said, the most impressive aspect of the win is that the speedster turned off, amenable to the rating tactics employed.

Nit picking, the horse he defeated for second stumbled badly at the start, was rushed to command on the first turn, and still had no serious challenger for place until the final two jumps.

Still, runnerup True Timber deserves some credit for hanging in there and show-finishing J Boys Echo was good also, racing four wide all the way around and still had punch at the finish, narrowing the place gap. But El Areeb? He was gone; a very nice colt is he.

With Mo Town expected to make his three-year-old debut, among others, in the Gotham Stakes, and with trainer Brian Lynch not wanting four preps into a possible Derby start, El Areeb is likely to skip the Gotham in favor of the 9-furlong Wood Memorial, April 8.

While McCarthy's away,
Rosario will play...

With Joel Rosario subbing for McCarthy, Irish War Cry dominated the G2 Hold Bull from flag-fall to finish by 3-3/4 lengths over strong finishing Gunnevera. Juvenile champion Classic Empire, finished five lengths farther back in third. For the champ, the race was lost well before post time.

When Classic Empire, who tends to get a little warm pre-race, was warm the first time he passed us in the walking ring. On his second pass, he began to develop a little kidney sweat.

By the time he approached the starting gate, he was completely lathered up and balked before being loaded. “Yesterday was the first time he ever had to ship and run in the same day," said Mark Casse from his Palm Meadows base Sunday morning.

“He’s shipped all the time and never fretted before... I don’t know what was going on with him. Yesterday was also the first time I ever saw him balk about going into the gate.”

Even if he had been a happy horse, he might have found it extremely difficult to defeat Irish War Cry, a very talented three-year-old who extended his undefeated career to 3-for-3. And in doing so. he checked every box, some inexperienced greenness notwithstanding.

He came from the clouds on debut to break his maiden going away by open lengths. Stretching out for an overnight stakes at Laurel second time out, he was so sharp, said trainer Graham Motion, that he broke running, set a pressured pace and still gamely prevailed in a stretch-long duel. Saturday was Irish War Cry’s two-turn debut.

Doubtlessly aided by the late scratch of a fast and talented Fact Finding, Motion wasn’t surprised that his horse made the lead and was allowed to get away soft in 24.14 and 47.92, leaving the competition with a lot to do.

Runners-up get a birds-eye view...

Despite racing greenly into the stretch, Irish War Cry maintained his daylight margin and never was seriously threatened. Delta Jackpot winner Gunnevera finished very well in late stretch in a promising three-year-old debut. But the day belonged for Irish War Cry.

“He’s a really nice horse and I was obviously really high on him, but when you’re running against the juvenile champion, you have reservations,” Motion said post-race Saturday. “There’s nothing quite like being involved in these three-year-old races,” he added. “It’s a great atmosphere here today. It’s pretty exciting.”

As for the champion, he will live to fight another day. “He’s fine today,” Casse added, before saying he has not decided on what’s next. “I would say more than likely you won’t see him back at Gulfstream but wherever it is, it will be somewhere he will train a little bit there before he runs.

“Yesterday came as a complete surprise to us, but the battle is far from over.”

No plans have been made for Irish War Cry’s next start either. “I really haven’t gotten beyond this race, Motion said. “I don’t know if I want to run in every race [at Gulfstream] but we’ll figure it out.” Apparently, the horse came out of the race well and is giving Motion added confidence.

Motion tells Acacia Courtney
about Irish War Cry's trip...

“We’ll see how things go, said Motion Sunday morning. “I just feel like I’ve thrown a lot at this horse in a short period of time and that is the only reason that I have some reservations about both races. We’ll keep him in Florida because it makes sense. We’re not going to get too clever about it. I see no reason to go anywhere else.”

BETS ‘N PIECES: Favorable Outcome was very good winning his three-year-old debut, the 7-furlong G2 Swale Stakes, for Chad Brown, running down Three Rules in the shadow of the wire... “About three weeks ago I just started breezing him and he was much fitter than I thought,” explained ground, who said that Favorable Outcome had only five works prior to the Swale. “I figured let’s run him in here and if he wins that would be great knowing that he is not even a 100% fit and it should set up well for him and we can build on it. He ran terrific; he should get a lot out of it...” So will the runnerup. Three Rules chased the pace while rating three-wide throughout. He gained the lead into the stretch and appeared as if he’d make it to the wire first but Favorable Outcome was resolute, snatching victory away from the apparent winner... All that Three Rules lost Saturday was a horse race. The effort looked like a great building block for what comes next... Rymska unleashed a powerful turn of foot to take the G3 Sweetest Chant for three-year-old turf fillies in the final strides from the promising Compelled, giving Brown his second stakes on the day. Both fillies, certainly Rymska, are Grade 1 fillies in the making... Pretty City Dancer, making her season’s debut for the Casse barn was a very good second in the G2 Forward Gal. It looked as if she would get up then finished one-paced, as if in need of the race; another good race to build on... Tequilita was very good for Michael Matz in the upset beneath hot-riding Luis Saez. A scopey, good-looking filly, two turns appears well within her scope... On the heels of a $40-million handle day for the inaugural Pegasus program, Gulfstream Park handled $19.7 million on Saturday’s Holy Bull card, smashing last year’s prior record for that day of $17 million as it continues to defy all U.S. wagering trends.

Hallandale Beach, FL, February 5

Photos by Toni Pricci

Written by John Pricci

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Friday, February 03, 2017

Gulfstream To Offer 50-Cent Pick 3s

Starting Wednesday, February 8, Gulfstream Park will offer a 50-Cent Pick 3 wager.

"We've found that every time we lowered our minimums, bettors responded and handle went up," said Gulfstream Park President and Stronach Group COO Tim Ritvo.

"We also learned that when handle increased because of the lower minimums, churn increased and none of the other pools were cannibalized...they all responded favorably."

Currently, the Pick 3 is offered in $1 increments.

Written by John Pricci

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