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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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ignore Hunches at Your Own Peril

As it turns out, theres only one Evening Attire. Remember him? It was only last week, a stirring stretch run and a Grade 3 photo won, three weeks short of his 10th birthday.

I was hoping for more of the same yesterday at Calder. Revved Up, now two weeks from his 10th birthday, was looking to win the G2 William L McKnight at Calder. Again.

His form was promising, too. He won the prep for it, his third win in four lifetime starts over the course, and yesterday he was looking for his fifth win at a mile and a half.

Not every nine-year-old is Evening Attire. Kent Desormeaux really didnt help him that much, either. He started out great, stalking a moderate pace while saving ground, a textbook tack for winning on the grass.

But the jock gave up that position, angled him off the fence, and while leaving the backstretch for the third of three turns, a rival went up the fence, another went outside, and the rider needed to stay his mount.

A grinding mover until he unleashes his substantial kick, he was taken out of his game, and the big run was not forthcoming. In fact, he was a flat fifth through the lane.

Not that the winner was plausible, unless youre a fan of a hot jockey. Precious Passion is a nice developing four-year-old and hes been keeping pretty dicey company of late. But not only was he lacking a marathon win at any distance, he had never even run that far.

And he was off the board in his only Calder start. So then why did Elvis Trujillo, a winner of nine of his last 33 rides through Thursday, take the call? I couldnt figure it out, but I kept on looking at Precious Passion because of Trujillo. And Elvis was proving to be the king of the Grand Slam II program, having already won the Kenny Noe and Fred Hooper handicaps earlier.

You know how this story ends, right? Would you believe, $136.20 to win?

But it really looked like such a great spot for the old boy, and 7-2 was a fair price. I was looking for some of that Evening Attire karma.

Sometimes, though, youve just got to take a clue from your subconscious and throw caution to the wind. Because sometimes its just jockey racing and you're allowed to be right for the wrong reason.

Written by John Pricci

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New York Racing Running Out of Hope for Timely Settlement

With 18 days remaining to the end of racing in New York for the year, and possibly beyond, no progress has been made made in Albany.

It seems all parties are content to treat New Yorks racing industry with the same respect it normally reserves for the budget process: It will get done when it gets done. So what if its late?

Nobody in the Assembly, absolutely nobody, knows whats going on, Assemblyman Roy McDonald of Wilton told the local newspaper, the Saratogian.

Instead of sitting by our phones, we should be in Albany at our desks, doing things, McDonald added. Its a terrible way to do business. Its so unprofessional its embarrassing.

The State Senate will be in the Capitol today, presumably doing something. The Assembly will not.

Dont suppose that matters. The Democratic majority in the Assembly is expected to rubber-stamp whatever compromise is reached between fellow Democrat Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the Republican Senate led by its Majority Leader, Senator Joe Bruno.

The whispers and hunches we hear, and have, is that the Governor will get off the 30-year extension for the New York Racing Assn and perhaps try to convince the Assembly to accept a casino operation at Belmont Park.

For this, Bruno gets off his state-appointed public authority plan and actually allows NYRA to conduct its marketing and simulcast operations, like any real company. It could be, too, that he wants Capital Play to replace Excelsior Associates as the gaming operators.

The NYRA would probably have to cave somewhat and seriously reduce the current number of NYRA-elected Trustees on its Board. And, of course, cede the the title of the properties to the state.

But, at this point, who really knows anything?

Theres no date for the Assembly to return to Albany this month, and there wont until some progress is made between Spitzers and Brunos people. A Bruno spokesperson said that some progress has been made and that theyre really arent any differences that cannot be overcome. But don't be surprised if that involves a short extension beyond the Dec. 31 deadline.

So all this is unprofessional and embarrassing. Thats true. But theres another word for it, as this situation affects every citizen in this state. That word is criminal.

Written by John Pricci

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For Now, New Breeders’ Cup Races All About the Handle

I fully expect that when all precincts are heard from, the addition of three new Breeders Cup announced on Monday will not be reviewed favorably. On balance, those critics by definition would be correct.

The newly created Breeders Cup Turf Sprint, Dirt Marathon and Juvenile Fillies Turf does not add prestige to the overall event and in all probability weakens it from a prestige perspective.

New Breeders Cup races are superfluous when measured against the intent of the events founding fathers, unless the races properly result in the creation of new divisional championship categories. Talk about the age of specialization.

However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Expansion in major sports has not blunted their popularity nor has it muffled the enthusiastic cheers of its followers. But expansion undoubtedly has compromised overall quality, the New England Patriots notwithstanding.

Consider: Does expanded racing opportunities really do any more harm to the collective quality of the thoroughbred sport than does the premature retirement of its athletes?

When added to the new races introduced this year at Monmouth Park, the three new races brings the total of Breeders Cup events to 14, double the original magnificent seven, and expands purse opportunities from racings original $10-million Day to a two-day $25.5-million bonanza.

Between 1984 and today, the term World Championships was added to the Breeders Cup brand and that does have a modicum of truth to it. There has, after all, been significant European participation, albeit preciously little from anywhere else.

The six new races, and the Filly & Mare Turf, for that matter, do nothing to enhance that world championship concept. All they do is further segment existing championship divisions. And while that might be more ecumenical, it does nothing to define true greatness.

The sport of racing has always been a business but never more so than it is today. And since the true measure of the modern games popularity is betting handle, from a business perspective Breeders Cup event days have been a huge success.

More than $27 million was wagered on the first two-day Breeders Cup card, on races that were neither inspiring nor memorable and were run under abysmal conditions. The wet track at Monmouth that Friday reduced the races to truly chaotic events from a handicapping perspective.

With three more Breeders Cup branded events scheduled for the last Saturday in October, 2008 at Santa Anita Park, that Monmouth handle figure easily could double.

Despite their chaotic nature, turf sprints are popular with bettors due to the generally higher payoffs. But they prove nothing from a sporting sense and wont until theyre recognized with their own Eclipse category. Further, the Turf Sprint has a high probability of adversely impacting the quality of the Mile field.

Think a lot of horses were cross-entered this year? Wait until next year.

The Juvenile Fillies Turf is a natural extension to this years Juvenile Turf. But until they get their own Eclipse category, all juvenile turf races will be are terrific betting races and another opportunity for owners and trainers to earn more black type. Even if these races remain non-graded, Breeders Cup winner will appear in bold black type in sales catalogues.

All this is in sync with the reality that too many graded races exist already, blunting a horses true achievements at the sports highest levels.

Racing in America has lived with the fact that this fractured sport is less than it can because of provincial competition. Now it seems the same might be said of the international racing: Its every continent for itself.

Until such time that thoroughbred racing has uniform drug rules and an international schedule that makes sense, every region in the world will host its own version of World Championships. For the time being, more will be just have to be more.

Written by John Pricci

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