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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Sunday, December 30, 2007


NYRA’s Temporary Franchise Extension? Whoa Back!


Unless you stayed with the storyline after Senator Joseph Bruno and NYRA president Charlie Hayward appeared on the Down the Stretch cable racing show Saturday morning, you probably think--given Thursday's agreement--there definitely will be racing New Years Day through midnight Jan. 24 while franchise negotiations continue.

However, you might be wrong.

After he finished pointing out NYRAs same-old same-old shortcomings and blaming the Democrats for not taking the issue seriously--which, when youre talking about House Leader Sheldon Silver, is probably true--Bruno wondered why businessmen and casino operators shouldnt run the business while the NYRA runs the racing.

At this late date, theres no indication of who these mystery businessmen and would-be casino operators might be. Or if they have ties to any lawmakers.

Bruno later said he was confident a deal would be struck before the new Jan. 24 deadline: Its down to a couple of details. Practically speaking, its a done deal, said Bruno.

Hayward, appearing live on the same program following Brunos phone interview, had a different opinion. I wish I could share the Senators view that we are close, Hayward said. All parties are talking, but I think there still are substantial issues.

Hayward said he was in Schenectady to appear with NYRAs house counsel before the State Racing and Wagering Board to apply for a temporary license. While they agreed in principle, afterward the SWRB failed to take a formal vote, effectively denying the license.

While the NYRA is free to conduct racing Jan. 1 through 24, according to an agreement reached with the New York State Oversight Committee Thursday, it might not race on New Years if it has concerns that opening without a formal extension might somehow jeopardize its land claim issue vis a vis bankruptcy proceedings.

There is racing today; Monday is a dark day; Tuesday is Jan. 1. At this posting, Aqueduct is no cinch to be open.

Should there be racing, NYRAs popular calendar, traditionally the first giveaway promotion of the year, will be offered to fans in attendance. This one will be a real collector's item. It's not often when calendars include but 23 days.


Written by John Pricci

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Saturday, December 29, 2007


Bruno and Hayward Coming Saturday to a Computer Near You


The New York Racing Association and the New York State oversight committee reached an agreement following a marathon negotiating session Thursday that extends the NYRA franchise through Jan. 23. The original deadline was Dec. 31. Should no final solution be reached by the new date, the oversight committee by law takes over the responsibility of conducting racing in New York.

Unless the parties compromise on the issues of length of term for a new NYRA franchise accord in exchange for its land claims; on a reconstituted NYRA Board of Directors that includes the resignation of NYRA president Charles Hayward and board chairman Steven Duncker; and a resolution of the simulcasting operations scenario, the temporary extension will achieve nothing by the new deadline.

The temporary agreement needs State Racing and Wagering Board approval. That should not be a problem.

In the interests of morbid curiosity, you can tune into Down the Stretch, Capital OTB's weekly magazine show hosted by Mark Cusano and Michael Veitch. The show airs in New Yorks Capital District on basic cable channel 12 and begins at 10 a.m., EST. Scheduled as guests are Senator Bruno and Charlie Hayward.

Hayward refused to comment on the extension yesterday but it will be interesting to see if that position changes overnight. At the close of business yesterday, NYRA announced that it had signed non-exclusive wagering-platform agreements with Youbet.com and TrackNet Media. Resultantly, NYRA's races will be available for simulcast wagering virtually everywhere, and would seen on both HRTV and TVG. That appears to solve the simulcast issue from NYRA's perspective. It will be interesting to see Bruno's reaction to this development and how the 11th-hour simulcasting accords ultimately affects resolution of the franchise question. The ball clearly has moved into Mr. Bruno's court.

If you live outside the New York area, you can see "Down the Stretch" by logging on to http://www.capitalotb.com and clicking on the program link.


Written by John Pricci

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Thursday, December 27, 2007


Fresh, Fit and Semi-Dangerous


Havent begun thinking about an end of year piece yet and I think Ive seen three Kentucky Derby Top Ten lists. Nothing like being the first kid on your block, I guess.

Figure Ill wait long enough before finding the time to look over the past performances on a rather comprehensive list of Kentucky Derby nominees published by Brisnet, over 600 soon to be three-year-olds.

But Im still working on my freshening. Horseplayers may not need six weeks between wagers, but a short layup is good.

You get stale, you get beat.

And what better time of year to freshen up. Family, friends, food. Not always in that order.

Sometimes a first run movie is good.

Not to worry, no full blown review. But I will say that the new Will Smith flick, I Am Legend, would be worth your time if youre freshening up, too, and were looking for a little mind candy.

Im not a sci-fi kind of guy, but this was some pretty good stuff. Smith is always solid, and my daughters tell me that post-apocalyptic movies are the rage right now.

Who knew?

Anyway, it was good, right down to the War of the Worlds ending. Smiths daughter Willow appeared in the movie, like his son was in Pursuit of Happyness.

And Smiths German Shepherd movie sidekick was rescued from an animal shelter by the films producers. From pound to big screen. Only in America.

Meanwhile, wonder what will happen today when serious negotiations on the New York racing franchise resumes? What is it, the 27th? Good. Five days. Plenty of time.

Just think. Since VLTs were approved, Albanys been freshening up for six years.

But thats OK because the games getting good again: To Fair Grounds now add Santa Anita, which opened yesterday, and Gulfstream Park, starting a week from today.

Maybe I should begin thinking about those six hundred soon to be sophomores after all. Maybe give Cary a call, start looking at the figures.

The Derbys early this year, May 3. Thats 129 days from now. Including today, of course.


Written by John Pricci

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