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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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Today, the International, Next Month, Point of Honor?

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, October 13, 2012—Remember the Flower Bowl a few weeks ago, when Nahrain got a perfectly timed run beneath Johnny V. to nail the prize right on the line?

Her previous start was in Europe, where she showed that she was rounding back into winning form, gave her an excellent chance to ship over and get the money for Roger Varian.

That winning profile is eerily similar to Joshua Tree, the early line favorite for Sunday’s Canadian Grade 1 $1.5 million International. But don’t take my word for that.

“He seems to be coming into his best recently,” trainer Mario Botti said this week. “I haven’t trained many horses as tough as he is. Every time he comes back after a race, he’s full of life. He loves traveling.”

Then it would seem all he needs is a good trip to make amends for last year’s disappointing defeat in which he shipped into Etobicoke in defense of his 2010 International title.

And if he wins, he’s in the Breeders’ Cup Turf three weeks hence where, among others, Point of Honor will be waiting.

Botti was happy eniugh with Joshua Tree’s recent effort, a third in the Group 2 Prix Foy at Longchamp behind Orfevre, the Japanese wonder horse star who just missed in the storied Arc de Triomphe after making a premature lead at the top of the straight.

But this edition might be even tougher than either of the last two renewals of the mile and a half Canadian classic. Four European cohorts have made the trip, too, and one in particular, Imperial Monarch, figures to give Joshua all he can handle.

Trainer Aidan O’Brien tends to spot his horses aggressively, even at the end of the European season, but not Imperial Monarch, who’s been carefully pointed toward to this.

Imperial Monarch has been freshened after winning the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris in July. That’s what can happen when you have a Triple Crown aspirant like Camelot for a stablemate.

Imperial Monarch has won three of four for O’Brien, who’s won two Internationals and will have a fresh runner for the Breeders’ Cup--free ride or no free ride--should he be defeated here.

But the International is more than a match race: Reliable Man, Wigmore Hall and Lay Time all have a license.

Reliable Man, the 2011 French Derby winner, wasn’t beaten very far by Danedream in the King George & Queen Elizabeth at Ascot this summer, and Wigmore Hall was a repeat winner of the G1 Northern Dancer Turf, the traditional International prep. Under the circumstances, Reliable Man could offer some value.

As for Lay Time, she will try to emulate last year’s International winner by becoming the seventh female to win it. She prepped for the International by finishing third vs. the boys in an English G3 last out.

Three Americans are shipping north of the border. Air Support, who won the G2 Bowling Green in his last start, appears to have the best chance for Shug McGaughey, who won Saturday’s G2 Bowling Green with authority Saturday.

But Europeans play on a different level on the turf, which is why I can’t wait to see McGaughey’s Point of Honor at Santa Anita. I know there have been others in between, but it’s been a long time since America has shown the Euros the likes of a Theatrical or a Manila, a quarter century to be precise.

Written by John Pricci

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