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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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pletcher Taps America’s Best Jockeys For First Derby Win

Its only been two years since a trainer started five horses in the Kentucky Derby. But the best a Nick Zito-trained runner could muster was a seventh-place finish. The only other trainer to start as many as five was Darrell Wayne Lukas 11 years ago. One of them, Grindstone, won it.

Interesting that Lukass protg, Todd Pletcher, whos never won a classic, will run five in Derby 133 and might even have a sixth starter if Soaring By wins Saturdays Lexington impressively. But even if he doesnt, Pletchers not backing away from his position. Id have to say with three weeks remaining that were holding our strongest hand ever.

Ya think?

Know this much: Pletcher recently named the five jockeys that will partner his Derby starters. Four of them, arguably, are Americas best. The other, at 19, exploded onto the stakes scene last year and has become the regular rider of defending Horse of the Year champion, Invasor.

And so Garrett Gomez will ride quick-footed Any Given Saturday. Eclipse-winning Edgar Prado, who won the Florida Derby on Scat Daddy, retains the mount. Pletchers first-call rider, Johnny Velazquez, sticks with Circular Quay, widely perceived as the best of Pletcher's quints. Ramon Dominguez guides the Derby fortunes of long-winded Sam P. and Fernando Jara re-rides Illinois Derby-winning Coaltown Cat.

Now if only the five were coupled in the wagering handicapping this Derby would be easy. But what fun would that be? Degree of difficulty for both horse and handicapper is what the Kentucky Derbys all about.

Written by John Pricci

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Value A Scarce Commodity In Kentucky Derby Futures

Kentucky Derby Futures Pool bettors sent a resounding message Sunday to racing historians everywhere: Fuggedaboudit!

Never mind that the last Derby horse to win the roses with only a three-race resume was the filly Regret, 92 years ago. And who cares if the last Derby winner that hadnt had a two-year-old campaign was Apollo, in 1882.

Nevertheless, the undefeated tour de force winner of the Arkansas Derby, Curlin, was the 7-2 favorite when the betting closed in the third and final Futures pool. One can get that price on Derby day, probably higher. But the public loves an undefeated horse, especially one with a combined victory margin of 28- lengths.

Realistically, the post time favorite for Derby 133 should be no less than 5-1. At those odds, it would mean that if the race were run 100 times, your 5-1 shot would win on 16 occasions. Given the size of the field and depth of talent, more than that would seem unreasonable. At 14-1, Tiago, the 30-1 upset winner of the Santa Anita Derby, is a joke.

The only prices remotely interesting at the end of Pool 3 betting were Scat Daddy at 11-1 and Hard Spun at 13-1. All Scat Daddy has done this year is win, beating some very nice horses in the process. Hard Spun? At his best, he is reminiscent of Curlin, tactical ability with an electric turn of foot. He has dominated opponents, albeit not as impressively as his undefeated foe.

Excellent talent. Great Depth. Eighteen days. Cant waitI just cant wait.

Written by John Pricci

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Outstanding Performances Highlight Final Major Prep Races

For months, we've been writing about how much we like and respect the three-year-old class of 2007. Once again, they didn't fail to live up to my lofty expectations.

Once and for all, all now know that Curlin is a special racehorse. He remains undefeated in three starts, going from a soft-paced front-running maiden win at seven furlongs, to an off-the-pace authoritative score in a Grade 3 at a different racetrack and into a whole new dimension yesterday, a drawing-away nine furlong tour-de-force in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby.

Curlin now has won three lifetime starts by an aggregate 28-1/2 lengths. It was the most dominating Kentucky Derby prep performance since Bellamy Road decimated the Wood Memorial field two years ago in New York.

In the Toyota Blue Grass, meanwhile, all Street Sense lost was a horse race. In fact, the margins separating the first four finishers; Dominican, Street Sense, Zanjero and Teuflesberg were a nose and two heads, respectively. All ran very well, Great Hunter, stopped cold in midstretch, notwithstanding.

And so Dominican jumps onto everyone's Derby radar with a strong-finish score coming from last off laughably slow fractions. (More on Keeneland's Polytrack surface later this week). Derby newcomer, trainer Darrin Miller, needed a big performance from his horse which lacked sufficient graded stakes earnings. That's no longer an issue.

Only next weekend's Lexington Stakes remains as a viable Derby prep. It might produce another starter, depending on who starts, how he performs and--the most significant variable--how he comes out of the race.

Twenty days. And counting.

Written by John Pricci

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