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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Friday, September 28, 2007

Are You Ready For Some Breeders’ Cup Preps?

As far as Breeders Cup prep weekends go, this is it. This is the big one.

There will be at least 11 events at three different tracks that will impact the upcoming World Championships, one way or another.

Everybody thought tomorrow was the big day, with four Grade 1s at Belmont Park alone, including the Jockey Club Gold Cup that features protem Classic favorite Lawyer Ron.

But check this out.

The Kentucky Cup Day program at Turfway Park is for those wishing to prep on Polytrack while staying away from the glaring lights of either coast.

The showpiece of the five-stakes program, of course, is the G2 Kentucky Cup Classic, matching the Kentucky Derby exacta of Street Sense and Hard Spun.

Enough said.

The Ky. Cup Juvenile Fillies is seeking a viable challenger for next months crowning event at Monmouth Park. Sky Mom, via Saratoga and Steve Asmussen; Bassinet winner and runner-up, Kadira and Dreabons Legacy, respectively, and Dale Romans Love Buzz, will all get serious consideration from the crowd.

A gate-load of three-year-old sprinters will be seeking their identity in the Ky. Cup Sprint, as will two-year-old colts in the G3 Ky. Cup Juvenile. Pulaski Runner, from Bob Holthus, seems a bit more advanced than the rest.

The Ky. Cup Distaff is the most interesting, Derby colts notwithstanding. The most intriguing of them is late developing Pleasant Hill, a winner of the Gardenia at Ellis Park last out and working bullets ever since for Greg Foley.

There are three Grade 1s at Oak Tree, where it appears that Cushion Track once again has proven to be superior to Polytrack early on in terms of bias and race shape: It has played more like legit dirt.

The first things that jump out at Santa Anita are bookend events. Belmonts Flower Bowl vs. Santa Anitas Yellow Ribbon; both Grade 1; both 10 furlongs; Belmont Parks Wait a While vs. Oak Trees Citronnade.

Could make for a nice collision course in four weeks.

The G1 Goodwood will be Swaps winner Tiagos first go against elders after having been reserved from the Pacific Classic. Hell meet legendary Lava Man attempting to rebound from a poly-hating Pac Classic.

The G1 Oak Leaf for juvenile fillies has a deep cast: Set Play the most accomplished; The Golden Noodle most interesting for carrying Jack Van Berg back into the national spotlight.

In addition to Wait a Whiles 10 furlongs in the Flower Bowl, the Pilgrim for juvenile turf horses is interesting in that Todd Pletcher is shifting to grass with The Leopard, most recently a huge disappointment in the Futurity.

As usual the Kelso Mile is a beauty, even if still a G2 event. Multiple G1 winner After Market ships in from California turning back in distance; Bobby Frankel will saddle the very interesting Art Master, while a resurgent Angel Penna Jr. brings late developing English Colony to the fray, a winner of four of five lifetime.

Wait until you see tomorrow's lineup.

Written by John Pricci

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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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