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, November 02, 2018


Breeders’ Cup XXXV: Most Contentious Classic Ever?


Today’s featured Breeders’ Cup Classic may be the second most important race run in this country each year but unquestionably is the most prestigious event for older horses in America.

The Classic usually features ‘the Big Horse,” that year who is looking to assert his superior credentials, horses such as, most recently, Gun Runner, or other past cracks like American Pharoah, Zenyatta, Curlin and yesterday’s Skip Away, Cigar, Alysheba. And all succeeded.

The credentials of Classic 35 are no less imposing, but none are impeccable. Cases can be made for or against all horses save for two 30-1 early line choices. That’s right, 12 of the 14 runners are in this mile and a quarter with a chance, to varying degrees, of course. It might be the most contentious we’ve ever seen.

It is highly probable that the Churchill Downs surface will be fast and dry by 5:44 p.m. Saturday. There will be no built-in excuses for anyone, until the latch is sprung, of course. But these horses will be partnered by many of the world’s best riders. Simply stated, it doesn’t get any better than this.

May all horses in the 14 Breeders’ Cup events—and any of the horses that step foot on the racetrack—have speedy and safe journeys so that all the vanquished may live to fight another day.

The HRI staff has shared their opinions on the lynchpin races of Friday and Saturday, the Juvenile and Classic, and thoughts on races of particular interest to them, for the purposes of, you know, cashing! To wit: Breeders’ Cup 35, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018

By TOM JICHA

Breeders' Cup Classic:
1. Catholic Boy—He just keeps getting better. Back to back Grade 1 wins on turf and dirt, both at 10 furlongs and workout reports are glowing.
2. Thunder Sky—Been pointed to this for months. Tight loss in JCGC can be excused. Race was intended as a final prep for this.
3. Accelerate—Has been beating mostly over-matched foes in short fields, all in California. Only road trip was a loss. Trainer 0-41 at BC.
4. McKinzie—The other Baffert came back sharp. BB liked him more than Justify in spring.
5. West Coast—Runnerup last year will be sharper than he was off layoff in prep.

Catholic Boy to win and using first and second in exactas with 2 through 5, extra tickets with Catholic Boy on top.

Play of the Day Distaff:

1. Blue Prize--Argentine took a while to get acclimated, as many do. Reminiscent of Bayakoa and Paseana. Could not be sharper now with three straight stakes win, two at Churchill. Presence of big names will inflate her price.
2. Monomoy Girl—Beaten to finish only once but this is her first against older.
3. Abel Tasman—Baffert has explanation for dismal last but he’s only guessing.
4. Midnight Bisou—Despite DQ win in last, Monomoy Girl has her number.
5. Vale Dori—Other Baffert is back in top form.

Blue Prize to win, saver on Vale Dori if better than 15-1. Box top three in exactas, extra tickets with Blue Prize on top of next three.

By MARK BERNER

Classic:
1- McKinzie returned with smart score and gets CD win six months late.
2- Accelerate, in top form and legitimate favorite, is the one to beat.
3- Mind Your Biscuits has been sharp all season; acid test here.
4- Catholic Boy looked good in Travers win and races well when fresh.
5- Yoshida won dirt bow in Woodward and could be this good.

The Play: Pick 3 races 10-11-12
Enable / McKinzie / Moonlit Garden, Awestruck, Divine Miss Grey & Berned

Play of the Day Dirt Mile:
1- Catalina Cruiser has tactical speed and will remain unbeaten in one-turn mile.
2- City of Light trained smartly and races well when fresh.
3- Firenze Fire stretches to best distance in third start off a layoff.
4- Seeking the Soul won last at same track and distance.
5- Giant Expectations starts slowly and has good late pace.

Tri: Catalina Cruiser & City of Hope / Catalina Cruiser, City of Hope, Firenze Fire & Seeking the Soul / Catalina Cruiser, City of Hope, Firenze Fire, Seeking the Soul & Giant Expectations.

Super: Catalina Cruiser & City of Hope / Catalina Cruiser, City of Hope, Firenze Fire & Seeking the Soul / Firenze Fire, Seeking the Soul & Giant Expectations / Firenze Fire, Seeking the Soul & Giant Expectations.

DD 4&5: Hembree, Disco Partner & Chanteline / Catalina Cruiser & City of Hope

P3 4-5-6: Hembree, Disco Partner & Chanteline / Catalina Cruiser & City of Hope / Mysistercharlie.

By INDULTO

The Classic:

1. Accelerate – Swept California G1 routes, versatile enough for post
2. Thunder Snow – Dubai WCup winner needed JCGC tightener
3. West Coast – Last year’s 3YO champ beaten by top two in last two
4. Catholic Boy – Travers Winner may still be improving
5. McKenzie – PA Derby winner should improve off the return

The Play: Box the top 2 (Accelerate, Thunder Snow) in the first 2 Super slots, over the bottom 3 (West Coast, Catholic Boy, McKenzie) in third and fourth slots
SPR: Top 2 // Top 2 // Bottom 3 // Bottom 3
SPR: Top 1 // Bottom 4 // Bottom 4 // Bottom 4
TRI: Box Top 3

Play of the Day Dirt Mile:

1. City of Light – Crack sprinter conquered Accelerate at 9f
2. Isotherm – Improved on dirt against Accelerate and West Coast
3. Seeking the Soul - Horse for Course and distance
4. Giant Expectations – Conquered Accelerate at 8.5f
5. Catalina Cruiser – Unbeaten WAYI winner

The Play: With 20-1 ML Isotherm in the mix, a Dime Super 5-horse box seems worth a shot. Saver WIN play on Isotherm at ML or higher.

By JOHN PRICCI

Classic:
1. Thunder Snow (12-1) was encouraged to move at leaders on turn in rapidly paced JCGC rounding 1-1/2 turns, ran leaders down but couldn’t hold last run winner but staying very well. Fresh, pointed, suited by dynamics. Watch paddock & parade for pre-race antics.
2. Mind Your Biscuits (6-1) will be meeting much tougher here but has the important winning race over surface he obviously loves and continues to defy detractors, actually improving with added distance as a five-year-old. Would be one hell of a swansong.
3. Mendelssohn (12-1) chased that extraordinary Belmont Park pace, was urged hard to get by the leader and understandably tired late. Will benefit from moderating tempo and two turns in third run off the layup.
4. McKinzie (6-1) was a sharp winner of the quickly run Pennsylvania Derby in return from long layup. Has continued series of rapid drills, Smith sticks, is eligible for another move forward and 3-year-old getting four pounds from elders.
5. Accelerate (5-2) benefits from outside draw, has high cruising speed and kick, is a worthy 3-for-4 at 1-1/4 miles. But his Awesome Again is a tricky read: Did he go into it soft and needing the race, or did Pacific Classic sap his reserves. Using defensively.

The Play: Five-horse trifecta box. Keying both Thunder Road and Mind Your Biscuits 1st and 2nd in Exactas with all named runners, extra tickets with ‘Thunder’ and ‘Biscuits’ on top. Thunder Road to win at 9-1 or greater. Saver win wager on Mind Your Biscuits at 6-1 or greater.

Play of the Day Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint:
1. Marley’s Freedom (8-5) moved up dramatically with the barn switch to Baffert, has the style that fits race dynamics and trip, is well drawn outside and owns excellent figures on all scales.
2. Chalon (15-1) was overconfidently handled in recent return from layup, resulting in wide trip and narrow defeat. Cozy draw, second-time Javier can trip out at a price, but must do so to win.
3. Finley’sluckycharm (10-1) is a two-time winner at the trip and a lofty 6-for-7 on this surface; has tactical speed, an outside draw with sufficient kick, exits key race with hot Kentucky rider.
4. Stormy Embrace (20-1) went to a new level with blowout win in 7F Princess Rooney then regressed in recent return from brief freshening in key race. Stalker will take catching at a very big price.
5. Mia Mischief (15-1) loves the local surface, owns competitive figures, stalk-and-pounce style sets up for money run, given outside draw at a trip she handles.

The Play: Key Marley’s Freedom 1st and 2nd in Exactas with Chalon, ‘Finley’ and ‘Stormy’, extra ticket with Marley on top. Trifecta and Superfecta keying ‘Marley’ over all others named, extra ticket in Trifecta. Marley’s Freedom to win at 8-5 or greater.

Written by John Pricci

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