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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Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Alan Garcia’s Star On the Rise


At the Saratoga Harness simulcast last weekend, a crescendo was beginning to rise as Hunting beneath Alan Garcia was beginning to cut Utopias leading margin with every stride. After Hunting reached the finish line first in the Stuyvesant Handicap, someone in the group behind me said: Looks like this kid Garcia is going to be the next Bailey.

Actually, Hall of Famer Jerry Dale Bailey already has a successor, the heir apparent to the unofficial title of Go-To Stakes Jockey.

Garcia is a truly exciting star jockey prospect. But its not because his performance aboard Hunting was anything special. The favored Utopia had done the dirty work, racing a loose leader into defeat. To Garcias credit, he didnt rattle, instead waiting until the last instant before putting a ride on his late running colt.

Rather, it was his effort aboard Dantastic that was anything but routine. It was the kind of ride that one day will vault the young man into the pantheon that will make him the equal of Bailey, a fellow Hall of Famer.

Coincidentally, it was on the turf, the surface over which Bailey became celebrated and earned him the nickname Greenlight because of the way the inside path, the shortest way home, was always there when he needed it.

Saving ground into the stretch, Garcia found room to the outside between rivals, ducked back to the fence when a lane opened, and waited until the final split second to swing out a second time and nail the leader right on the line.

The maneuver compelled racecaller John Imbriale to shout: Dantastic won it, what a ride by Alan Garcia!

And it was Garcia that was absolutely the difference between victory and defeat aboard Lahudood at Belmont Park and Shakis in Saratoga.

But it is Garrett Gomez, who last weekend became the all-time leading single-season stakes winning jockey with his 71st victory of the year, who is the heir apparent. Its Gomez whos first on the speed dial of every trainer in America with a good horse.

This weekend, GG will ride the stakes favorite at Churchill Downs tomorrow, have two stakes rides at Hollywood Park Friday, will return East to ride Midnight Lute in the Hill n Dale Cigar Mile on Saturday, then return to Hollywood to ride favorites in two Grade 1s grass stakes on Sunday.

Garrett Gomez is not the next Bailey. Gomez already is the new Bailey.


Written by John Pricci

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Monday, November 19, 2007


New York Horseplayers Give Thanks--on Saturday!


Once the Breeders Cup is over, so is the high profile part of the racing year--openings of the Fair Grounds on Thanksgiving Day and the prestigious Santa Anita winter meet the day after Christmas notwithstanding.

The prime time schedule in New York, meanwhile, is regarded to end with the conclusion of the Belmont Fall meet. But thats not entirely true.

Until racing on the winterized inner track begins early next month, the traditional powerhouse New York outfits are still in town and, as we saw this past Saturday, debuting juveniles worthy of next years classics can still surface on Aqueducts main track. Resultantly, fans are still in danger of seeing a good horse.

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Ill head down the Thruway for one final day of live sport until my annual sojourn to South Florida.

The Cigar Mile day program that includes the 9-furlong Remsen and Demoiselle for juvenile colts and fillies, respectively, is one of my favorite days on the New York racing calendar. If you love the game, its probably yours, too.

In recent years, Bluegrass Cat and Nobiz Like Shobiz confirmed in the Remsen they would be major classics players. While the Demoiselle hasnt exactly been a harbinger of Oaks fillies, it nonetheless has been useful in the development of juvenile fillies having their own three-year-old aspirations.

This year, the Discovery Handicap for older horses will comprise an all stakes Pick Four.

The centerpiece will be, of course, the Hill n Dale Cigar Mile featuring inevitable Eclipse sprint champion Midnight Lute.

The Cigar is no afterthought for trainer Bob Baffert, whos won the race three times since 2000 including back-to-back victories by Congaree. It is hoped that Kairan McLaughlins late developing four-year-old, Daaher, will challenge the Baffert runner. It will be, I promise you, a horse race.

The Cigar Mile alone would be worth the price of admission. For one more day at least, until the 2008 Wood Memorial, Aqueduct will command center stage on the national schedule.


Written by John Pricci

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Saturday, November 17, 2007


Impressive Saturday for Two Horsemen and Two Babies


Last week, Barclay Tagg. This week, Shug McGaughey.

Last week, a Red Smith upset with Dave. This week, a Stuyvesant upset with Hunting. Thats how a Hall of Famer keeps up with a future Hall of Famer on their home grounds in New York.

But just like Tagg shipped into Churchill to complete a stakes double with favorite Bit of Whimsy, so did McGaughey ship back home to Louisville to win the Cardinal with favorite Criminologist.

* * *

Looks like the good Edgar Prado is back. It was unusual that he returned to resume riding at Aqueduct. We thought more of an extended break following his most recent mishap we'd see him return in Florida. But he probably wanted to get the rust out, get his timing back.

All of it was on display in yesterdays Aqueduct finale. Saving ground, riding aggressively yet saving horse, he finished strongly to complete the daily double while being challenged by a rival in the stretch throughout. It was vintage Prado. The message was clear: Edgars back.

* * *

This late in the fall at Aqueduct, its not often that debuting two-year-olds surface that show some extraordinary talent. In yesterdays fourth race, Saratoga Russell, not expected to be fast away from the gate, left the barrier like a shot. He set strong fractions, opened the lead out after straightening away into the stretch, and appeared home free.

Enter National Pride on the scene. He made a big stretch burst, settled suddenly, then went into overdrive, blowing by the leader inside the sixteenth pole, lunging out of his skin in the shadow of the wire to win going away in 1:09 4/5. His stride appeared a hundred feet long.

If you get a chance to see a replay, do so. His action at the finish was nothing less than remarkable. Cant wait to see it again myself.


Written by John Pricci

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