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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Friday, January 25, 2019


Eclipse Form Holds Thursday Night at Gulfsteam


While there was some drama attached to Thursday night Eclipse Awards ceremony, none of the outcomes really could be considered surprising.

The most contentious categories featured the sport’s two-legged competitors as Chad Brown won his third straight Outstanding Trainer Eclipse over Triple Crown-winning Bob Baffert.

Good things happen when you saddle 20 Grade 1 winners in a single season.

The jockey category was dramatic as well. Irad Ortiz Jr., with an assist from his Eclipse winning client, won out over ‘Money Mike’ Smith, who took down graded states all over the country throughout 2018 and never blinked in the glare of the Triple Crown spotlight.

Speaking of Justify, perhaps his winning margin over Horse of the Year rival Accelerate was more commanding than expected, given the amount of conversation on the topic. His curse-breaking run of 112 days garnered 191 of the 249 votes cast.

The winners in the more contested categories were deserving as Jaywalk’s dirt overcame Newspaperofrecord’s turf brilliance among the juvenile fillies; John Gunther as 2018’s Breeder over prolific Winstar Farm. The Juvenile Fillies was a surprisingly wide margin of 214-31.

Finally, Sistercharlie’s four Grade 1s over Enable’s precedent winning Turf, a sprinter as Male Turf champion in a disappointing year for distance-running grass specialists with Unique Bella’s brief campaign enough to secure Female Dirt honors. The vote was close: 130-119.

This year, the voters were disinclined to reward one-race outlander achievement; witness the 85-66 of Stormy Liberal over Mile winner Expert Eye. (Don't personally believe these divisions are comparable in prestige or achievement, complete dominance notwithstanding, although 'Stormy' was a BC repeater).

Two elements of the TVG broadcast made me smile: Chad Brown showing a sense of humor when musicians attempted to play him off, and the fact that the program itself ended 18 minutes early at the home of the post drag.

Wished, however, that some of the winners were a bit more generous accepting their honors. Thought Kenny Trout might have tipped his cap to Accelerate’s great campaign and that Chad might have acknowledged what Mr Baffert achieved with Justify.

Two charming moments for me came from the riders; Irad dedicating his award to brother Jose—reciprocity for last year—and likable young apprentice Weston Hamilton, who could not have been more appreciative and humble.

Eclipse voter participation was nearly 92% of 271 eligible voters. Clearly, turf writers take their responsibility a lot more seriously American voters for public office.

HALLANDALE BEACH, January 25, 2019

Written by John Pricci

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