John Pricci

HorseRaceInsider.com 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 MSNBC.com, 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 21, 2012


New York-Bred Class of 2012: The Deepest Ever


ELMONT, NY, October 20, 2012—With each passing year, and with each succeeding foal crop, the New York-Bred program and its signature event, Showcase Day at Belmont Park puts those early “Muskrat Ramble” days in the rear view.

Of course, it was dual Classic winner Funny Cide that made everyone “Get with the Program” nine years ago, putting Empire State-breds on the same map with those bigger guns from Kentucky and Florida.

Saturday’s program, in fact, marked Funny Cide’s 10th anniversary of his Showcase Day victory in the Sleepy Hollow. (This year, the Sleepy Hollow was supplanted by the Bertram F. Bongard, won emphatically by Weekend Hideaway).

With three of 2012’s candidates for New York Bred of the Year in action Saturday at Belmont Park, the thought occurred that this year’s state-bred class for that distinction might be the deepest in this history of the program. To wit:

There are six horses in consideration for that honor, a battle that will extend even beyond next month’s Breeders’ Cup championships.

In 2012, the Big Apple Half Dozen have compiled an aggregate 32 victories from 44 starts, 21 in stakes company, with five placings.

Of the three runners that raced on the Showcase Day program, Hessonite and Lunar Victory were winners; odds-on Saginaw finished second to Mine Over Matter that was getting three pounds and the expertise of Ramon Dominguez in the Hudson Stakes at 6 furlongs, not his optimal trip.

My thought was to present the New York Bred of the Year contenders in ascending order until I realized that I couldn’t easily separate most of them and there was still some major racing on a couple of the dockets.

Saginaw has been nothing short of a win machine with eight victories in 11 starts. Prior to yesterday’s placing, he had won three minor stakes and the John Morrissey, which has a little history in the program.

Saginaw reportedly was doing so well after his victory in the Affirmed Success that trainer David Jacobson ventured into the really deep waters of the storied Met Mile. He finished sixth, the only other time he was worse than second.

Jacobson would later tell people that he ran the horse as a favor to the racing office but seeing that the Met came only nine days after the Affirmed Success, the trainer certainly had a legitimate out if he needed one.

The remaining five runners we’ll take in alphabetical order:

Dayatthespa, from early in the season to the present day, is the favorite for best managed runner of 2012. The three-year-old turf specialist Dayatthespa is a perfect 5-for-5 beginning with the Sweetest Chant at Gulfstream Park.

Following her season’s debut, she repeated in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride, the G3 Appalachian at Keeneland then, after a layup for a minor issue, she was spotted well in Saratoga’s Riskaverse.

That ungraded run turned out to be a perfect stepping stone to the prestigious G1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Stakes, her third graded victory of the year.

But rather than throw her into the deep waters of the Filly & Mare Turf, Dayatthespa will make her final appearance against her own age group at Hollywood Park later this year.

Hessonite is simply a complete sweetheart, Dominguez saying at Saturday’s Ticonderoga that this turf specialist is one of his favorite all-time rides, which says quite a lot.

David Donk’s filly didn’t win all her starts, finishing second in the Mount Vernon and G3 Penny Memorial at Parx Racing. But she did win the Irish Linnet, Yaddo and John Hettinger prior to Saturday’s Ticonderoga.

Empire Classic winner Lunar Victory has been a revelation within the division and, later on, possibly beyond and gives further testimony to Hall of Famer Bill Mott’s acumen as a horseman.

Lunar Victory won five of his six starts this year and finished second, taking the Evan Shipman prior to the signature event of the Showcase, showing his class and toughness to defeat an extremely stubborn, and very gifted, Saratoga Snacks.

Thinking out loud following the Empire Classic, Mott mentioned the Grade 1 Clark at Churchill as a possible late-November challenge, saying that he will talk it over with the Juddmonte folks, who had an absolutely giddy Saturday.

The Lumber Guy is an excellent example of why 2012 is a career year for trainer Mike Hushion--and it’s not over yet. This talented sophomore won Laurel’s Miracle Wood back in February, the G2 Jerome this summer, and the G1 Vosburgh this fall.

A victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint--and he fits the Sprint profile perfectly—would earn him the Eclipse Sprint title which would certainly make him the leader in the New York-Bred of the Year clubhouse.

Which brings us to another three-year-old; Willy Beamin. ‘Willy’ has won six of eight this year, including the Mike Lee and Albany, two-thirds of the Big Apple Triple, and, of course, took the King’s Bishop on two days rest following his Albany score. Last out he finished second in the Oklahoma Derby.

If deciding among these Big Apple Half Dozen gives you a migraine, who is more deserving of the title New York-Bred Trainer of the Year: Chad Brown, Rick Dutrow, Mike Hushion…?

Written by John Pricci

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