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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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Saturday Form Takes A Beating at Keeneland, Big A

As tough is this game is, trainers usually are content the morning after they win a race. But dont show up Sunday morning expecting to find Allen Jerkens and Patrick Biancone wearing ear-to-ear smiles.

Biancone won two races prior to the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes, the last major race of the Kentucky Derby pre season. Both those winners were coming off lengthy layups, as was Biancones Lexington favorite, Belgravia.

The three-year-old was awful. He stalked comfortably in predictable Polytrack fractions but had nothing to offer when the real running came, where it always comes these days at the new Keeneland; in the lane. Slews Tizzy was close up but he fired, drawing off with shocking ease.

Is Tizzy a serious Derby contender? Lets put it this way; I dont think winning jockey Robbie Albarado Jr. will give up the Derby mount on Curlin for Gregory Foxs upstart. But credit Fox for pointing to the Lexington and being correct at 40-1. Tizzy will win his share if not spotted too ambitiously.

Jerkens, meanwhile, had a virtual lock on the Bed o Roses at Aqueduct. He had the lead covered with the sudden Any Limit, and the rear locked up with distance specialist Swap Fliperoo. As it turned out, Any Limit left her best form in Florida and Swap Fliperoo was d-u-l-l, a very hard-ridden third. Any Limit, odds-on, finished off the board.

Carmandia got good this winter. She stayed good yesterday, coming from last, up the fence, beneath Mike Luzzi as the well meant second favorite. She ran her race; Jerkens fillies didnt. Magnolia Jackson stayed gamely for place after racing Any Limit into defeat.

Meanwhile, it wasnt a wasted trip for Any Limits rider, Rafael Bejarano. He won the nightcap for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who was winning with the third of his last five Florida shippers.

Written by John Pricci

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Committees Decision To Deny Grade 1 Status Disingenuous

Americas graded stakes committee, in charge of America's Graded Stakes Committee, whose job it is to separate the stakes wheat from the chaff, this week denied the three new Breeders Cup races Grade 1 status. Expected? Yes. Disappointing? Of course. Striking a blow for tradition? Whoa, not so fast!

Without question, the GSC followed precedent by not assigning a grade; according to guideline, a race must exist for a minimum of two years. But when Breeders Cup debuted in 1984 all races were Grade 1, again when the Filly & Mare Turf was instituted 15 years later. All Breeders Cup were anticipated to be of world class. That assessment proved resoundingly correct.

No one argues that the new Filly & Mare Sprint deserves instant Grade 1 status for reasons obvious to even the most casual fan. But when Breeders Cup officials made their presentation, they took an all-or-nothing-at-all posture. After all, no event calling itself world championship wants any race to be regarded as less-than.

So, a dirt miler doesnt have a formal Eclipse category? But until that becomes a reality, cant Americas best miler be a sprint or handicap champion, even Horse of the Year? The answer: highly unusual but, of course, it could. The Juvenile Turf superfluous and meaningless? Wasnt turf specialist Wait A While the open three-year-old filly champion of 2006?

This is horse racing. Eclipse Award voters dont follow hard, fast rules because there arent any. Anything can happen and often does.

This does not denigrate the committees decision in this matter but grades have been changed in the past for less, more as a function of power politics and geography. After that, the game is to follow the money. Too many graded stakes exist already. But then there wouldnt be all that black type cluttering up the pages of a sales catalogue.

Written by John Pricci

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

American Broadcasters Should Be So Lucky

As HorseRaceInsider contributing staffer Vic Zast pointed out in a recent blog, American horseplayers have little or no interest in steeplechasing. In Great Britain, however, horses not only are a way of life but horse racing is considered a major sport. And no more so than in the coverage of the rough-and-tumble Grand National Steeplechase.

As a young boy, I caught my first glimpse of the Grand National in a movie theater news reel between feature films. (Yes, boys and girls, there was a time you could get two first run movies, albeit one of B-movie status, not unlike on the flip side of a 33 rpm vinyl record. Indeed, back in the day thered be two features, a news reel and, at Saturday matinees, a Tom and Jerry or Felix the Cat cartoon). But I digress.

In the last three years, the Kentucky Derby, a.k.a. Americas Race, has drawn television ratings of 7-plus with roughly a 15 share. Would you believe last Saturdays Grand National attracted a 66.5% share? That means two of every three television sets in use were tuned into the great horse race.

This week, the British media have been discussing the possibility of moving post time back 45 minutes, to 5 PM, thereby attracting more Saturday viewers. But that decision is not the no-brainer you might infer.

The Grand National is seen live in 140 countries with a potential reach of 600 million viewers. The fear is that the later post time would adversely effect the huge Asian market by airing too late.

Theres been no hint of how this issue might get resolved. Eventually, interested parties would do well to follow the money. In any event, it's a nice problem to have.

Written by John Pricci

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