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, July 04, 2007

Fireworks Galore In Both Holiday Features

On paper, todays Grade 2 Dwyer at Belmont Park might appear a two-horse race between Kentucky Derby also-rans Nobiz Like Shobiz and Any Given Saturday. Down the road it could have even more implications, however.

Sightseeing, who split those two in the Wood Memorial then came back to win the Peter Pan, subsequently skipped the Belmont in addition to skipping the Derby. Shug McGaughey is clearly pointing towards a Midsummer Derby. But if a couple of heavy heads show up in the Travers, its possible the Phipps runner might skip that dance, too.

As an aid in reaching his goal, Shug is adding blinkers--perhaps borrowing Barclay Taggs, whos removing the eyewear from Nobiz in todays primary feature--in an attempt to get the colt to react quicker to his riders cues. McGaughey, and videotape study, concluded Sightseeing was a little late getting Edgar Prados message in the Peter Pan.

Meanwhile, who knows how good First Defence is? As a two-year-old he finished second to Zanjero going long at Churchill Downs before the latter underscored his talent with a fine effort subsequently in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.

Making his three-year-old debut for Bobby Frankel on May 28th, First Defence won a seven furlong allowances easily over the track in 1:20 4/5. Hes 2-for-2at Belmont Park and todays added ground is no problem. He is the Dwyers dominant early speed.

Speaking of zip, Commentator, the horse with issues but also with immense talent, will try to dominate the Grade 2 Tom Fool with early gas.

Should he add the Tom Fool trophy to his record of nine lifetime wins in 12 starts--including four victories at the seven-furlong distance and over the Belmont surface--it will be interesting to see if trainer Nick Zito runs him back in the Whitney.

Commentator won that storied Saratoga Grade 1 two years ago. But first things first. The six-year-old gelding needs to defeat a speed-laden group and have enough strength left to attempt the Whitneys additional two furlongs.

In all, a good day to be a racing fan. Enjoy your holiday.

Written by John Pricci

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

He Shed His Grace On We

Cant get used to the idea that tomorrow is Independence Day. How can there be a 4th of July weekend when the big day falls on a Wednesday?

Never got a five-day holiday weekend when I was in school.

When I was a kid, July 4th was a huge racing day. Actually, still is, but because of the way the calendar falls this year, my big-race barometer is more than a little askew.

At Belmont Park tomorrow, there will be two big races to celebrate the countrys birthday; the Dwyer Stakes for three-year-olds, and the Tom Fool, a seven furlong event that almost always attracts some of the countrys top sprinters.

But the big action is not limited to New York, New York. In upstate Canandaigua, just outside Rochester, a Kentucky Derby winner will appear for the first time in Finger Lakes racetrack history. We speak of the celebrated New York-bred, Funny Cide, seeking a field he can defeat.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

But the highlight, of course, will be the return of two current Kentucky Derby three-year-olds in the Dwyer.

Perhaps Nobiz Like Shobiz and Any Given Saturday might have a better second half beneath the glaring sophomore lights than they had earlier this season. If they have developed further since May, it could be one hell of a Saratoga and fall.

Alas, we shall see. But in the meantime, lets celebrate whats truly great about this country at this time in our storied history: Scooter Libby walks among us a free man.

Written by John Pricci

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Where’s Mark Twain When You Really Need Him?

I found recent press release from interesting on several levels. In it, the cooperative site that serves all the prominent hotels was bemoaning the fact they again might have to prop up a dying industry.

In 2004, the hotels struck a four-year deal with the New Jersey tracks; Monmouth, Freehold and The Meadowlands, paying them a combined $84 million if the racetracks agreed not to pursue VLTs.

As 2008 approaches and with VLTs still not approved, the struggling tracks want a bigger slice of that AC pie. The hotels are not interested in either subsidizing the tracks or allowing VLTs.

VLTs would hurt casino revenues, undermine Atlantic Citys growth, and jeopardize hundreds of millions in revenue that goes to the state.


While Im sure VLTs would impact casino revenues, I dont know what kind of growth they refer to unless it means building more hotels. When the hotels got a franchise to conduct gambling in the moribund city, they promised jobs and revitalization. Venture a couple of blocks west of the boardwalk. Where is all the building, wheres all the growth? Cant blame that on the tracks.

As far as the revenue that goes to New Jersey, are casino dollars worth more than racetrack dollars? Money is money, from whatever source. Am I missing something?

Maybe Atlantic City growth has stalled because VLTs are now in virtually every surrounding state.

And can slots players, an older demographic that doesnt skew upscale, really afford $3-a-gallon gas to get there, much less spend, on average, over $200 for weekday rooms and more than $400 on weekends? Is the food free? Are the shows free? Do slot players break the comp bank?

Maybe if Atlantic City hotels lowered their rates and offered better entertainment choices they might be able to better compete with Las Vegas. With more and cheaper choices available in Nevada, the cost of a plane ticket turns out to be a wash. And is there really a comparison between the two?

Horserace wagering is flat, yes. But racing still handles $15 billion annually. The Triple Crown tracks attracted a combined quarter of a million people to see a classic live.

The racing industry hurting? Positively. Can it do better? Absolutely. But dying? Those reports are greatly exaggerated at least. At best, theyre patented false.

Written by John Pricci

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