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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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Where In The World Is Discreet Cat?

One of the more interesting races this weekend will be the Grade 1 Vosburgh for world class sprinters that features the return of the phenom of 2005, Discreet Cat.

While many of his rivals will be using the Vosburgh as a prep for the Breeders Cup Sprint-- ideally the same goal for Discreet Cat--for him it will be something more.

At stake is his reputation as the invincible racehorse of boundless talent and speed, possessor of the kind of brilliance that blew the doors off every rival he met, even at the Grade 1 level.

That is until that uneventful try in the Dubai World Cup where we never got to find out whether he was the equal of, or better than, defending Horse of the Year Invasor.

The real Discreet Cat never showed up that night. Not even a reasonable facsimile of a juvenile that won his debut at Saratoga so impressively he subsequently was sold for $5-million.

As a Grade 1 winner of extraordinary brilliance, hes been worth that money and more as a stallion prospect. But he never did prove that he was one of the ones. His body of work is simply not there.

For Discreet Cat, the Vosburgh question will be what, and where, is he now. Is he the same Discreet Cat that was undefeated before a reported throat infection stopped him in the World Cup?

Its taken five months to get him back into a starting gate, about the same amount of time as last year when he raced in Dubai, won the G2 United Arab Emirates Derby, then summarily disappeared for most of the season.

On a grand scale, it will be interesting to see whether he is the same horse that made the hair on the back of your neck stand at attention. That wont take a tour de force Vosburgh effort. Just one that shows the same kind of excitement only dominating brilliance provides.

On a more mundane note, however, we need to see that hes alright, that he's his old self, routinely capable of running three-quarters in nine.

Discreet Cat has been in serious training only since August. His five furlong workout in 1:00.80 Monday was only his fifth recorded work since then. Hes done enough to get fit. Sharp, however, is another matter.

If indeed he proves to be further along than even his handlers believe, he could run himself right into the Sprint.

But even if he does, however, wouldn't he be better off in the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile, run at one mile and 70 yards over the Monmouth Park configuration? It certainly would be easier on him physically.

And maybe thats what he really needs most right now.

Written by John Pricci

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hard Spun Will Upset Street Sense On Saturday

This final weekend of September will feature the last prep appearance of the likely morning line favorite for the Breeders Cup Classic, the new and very much improved Lawyer Ron, in Sundays Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

Just as anticipated, however, will be the day before at Turfway Park, showcasing the first two finishers of this years Kentucky Derby; Street Sense and Hard Spun, in the G2 Kentucky Cup Classic.

The racing office in Florence will be scrambling all week to get as many as three or four hardy equine souls to meet the big two, even if they have older rivals to fill the bill.

This spot makes sense for Carl Nafzgers colt. No traveling to Chicago or New York from his Churchill Downs base in. Just a short van ride instead. No 10-furlong gut-wrencher. And past performances that include two top-flight scores in major spots following a Polytrack prep.

But it might be easier for Hard Spun to beat him at nine furlongs at Turfway than it will be for Lawyer Ron to beat Street Sense at Monmouth Park going 10 furlongs.

The most obvious reason is that while hes OK on artificial surfaces, Street Sense is much better on dirt. And, of course, this isnt the main goal. That will come four weeks later, so those screws won't be fastened tightly. Finally, its a speed-friendlier nine furlongs; not a demanding, class-defining mile and a quarter.

Then theres Hard Spuns talent, and the fact he does well when stretching out from one turn to two. He was an impressive winner on Polytrack this spring. He looms the controlling speed and comes off a new pace top on the Equiform scale, a positive pattern.

What this all means from a handicapping perspective is that Hard Spun has the edge and should loom a narrow favorite. But the public loves Derby winners, Travers-winning Derby winners at that. Street Sense will be the favorite. Which makes Hard Spun the upset play in the Kentucky Cup Classic.

Written by John Pricci

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

On Any Given Saturday, Rider Can Get Best Horse Beat

On Any Given Saturday, favorites in major races can and will be beaten. Like Grasshopper in the Super Derby. But you were warned on that one.

Remember Saturdays blog? If Grasshopper doesnt get the job done, trainer Neil Howard will be past the point of going ballistic.

But maybe he should go ballistic. On Robbie Albarado.

Its not like Albarado didnt have a good day. Looks like he lined up a couple of mounts for the Juvenile Filly and Colt Turf, respectively, if he wants.

Albarado waited until the last moment to spring Zee Zee loose for Bill Mott and she took off like a big bird to win the Happy Ticket impressively. That was after he did virtually the same thing aboard Cherokee Triangle for Michael Maker in the Sunday Silence.

Both youngsters impressed, especially the colt. It will be interesting to see how the American turf juveniles fair against the Europeans, most likely our best vs. their second string. But you never know, the Euros might take those two races more seriously than we think.

Back to Albarado. On the main track, aboard heavy favorites, he tends to be overcautious. Several years ago aboard a future Horse of the Year, he moved wide and prematurely and blew a chance to win the Grade 1 Stephen Foster.

Not that he was beating Any Given Saturday in the Haskell, but he seemed a little too cautious aboard Curlin. In the Super Derby, he didnt go for the lead, didnt take back, just stayed out there, stalking three wide throughout.

Then he put Grasshopper into a hard drive while still wide on the final turn, did all the dirty work, but the tack allowed Going Ballistic to make the final strong run down the center of the track to get the money.

It was a good result for me. I was very lucky it came out that way, especially because the price was so fair. But thats beside the point. As the race was run, Grasshopper was probably the best horse. Whether he goes on to the Jersey Shore, well have to wait and see.

Now back to Any Given Saturday. He punched his ticket to Eatontown with a professional score in the Brooklyn, nine furlongs in 1:48.31, stalking a lively pace from well off the pace in second.

The Classic stage is set for this three-year-old. He won the Haskell decisively off a one-turn prep at Belmont, a pattern hell repeat in five weeks.

Given his affinity for Monmouth Park and its speed-favoring nature, hell be a very strong contender. Hell get weight from his elders, too, but the waters will get much deeper. Then theres the matter of that pesky extra furlong.

Written by John Pricci

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