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, November 02, 2013

Hollywood Ending Written in Arcadia

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, November 2, 2013

Whether you consider yourself a thoroughbred racing fan or grizzled gambler, if the result of Breeders' Classic 30 didn't put a lump in your throat or a tear in your eye for the cosmic karma of it all, then you might want a mate to check your pulse.

Kathy Ritvo, the first female and heart transplant survivor to win America's biggest horse race, ridden by a 50-year-old unretiree who booted home a baby huey of a late June foal who, at 5, had finally become a man, a Mucho Macho Man.

The race went according to Hoyle, as the speediest of the speed; Moreno, Fort Larned and Game On Dude, dominated the Breeders' Cup's crowning event from flag-fall to that's-all. The best of the three, Mucho Macho Man was allowed to take charge of the race by the brilliant Gary Stevens from the three-path in the middle of the final turn.

Urging his mount intermittently in early stretch, Stevens allowed the Macho Man to sneak away in mid-stretch, the daylight opened between himself as his charging rivals just enough margin to insure a victory. In the end, the largest horse in the field defeated a horse of equally large proportion two years his junior.

Will Take Charge can now be considered the budding handicap star of 2014, coming thisclose to adding a Classic trophy to a collection that includes a Travers and Pennsylvania Derby bauble; Will Take Charge, trained by an ageless legend of 78 years who did the near impossible--again.

Perhaps the best line ever spoken about the runner-up's trainer came when NBC Sports Network reported that a rival trainer said of the Hall of Famer: "If you're looking to kill Wayne Lukas, you had better use all six bullets."

The Macho team did everything right. After some niggling issues followed his Gulfstream Park debacle, he was placed in the equine protection program located in Fair Hill, Maryland and rather than chance the wet tracks of New York, which the huge colt clearly cannot handle, they decided to ship to SoCal, where it never rains, as the song says.

After deciding to prep him in the Grade 1 Awesome Again, as he continued to chase the illusive Grade 1, they made the wisest decision when they put the reins in the hands of Gary Stevens. Two mounts; two Grade 1 victories, and a 10-gallon hat to be thrown into the Horse of the Year ring, a consideration for another day.

If the victory by Mucho Macho Man turns out not to be enough for a Horse of the Year title, his five-year-old resume certainly has earned him older male Eclipse title. The runner-up's narrow defeat probably will be good enough to earn Will Take Charge an Eclipse in the year-long topsy-turvy world that is this year's three-year-old campaign.

And, so, it was a job well done by all who labored in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains, but turned into a story better suited crosstown, an L.A. neighborhood that elevates fanciful dreams but after this fall horse racing will live no more.

7:47 For those of little faith, not to worry. Wise Dan, despite a bobbling break, a bit of a wide run chasing a world record pace, the 2012 Horse of the Year threw his four hooves into the ring for a consecutive Best In Show title. Until the results of the Classic are made official, it's his title to lose.

Brillliantly ridden by Jose Lezcano, replacing the injured Velazquez, was thrown heavily when his mount Secret Compass fractured her ankle in the Juvenile Fillies, Wise Dan repeated last year's victory, running the fastest Mile renewal ever, this event one of the original seven carded at Hollywood Park in November of 1984.

At this moment, it's 38 minutes to post time for the Classic, in which Game On Dude opened the 2-1 favorite with Mucho Macho Man a close second choice at 3-1.

* * *

7:06 Godspeed to Johnny Velazquez, who suffered internal injuries in a spill. He is currently in the operating room having his spleen removed.

Bob Baffert, who broke his Breeders' Cup maiden in the Sprint two decades ago, won his second race within an hour when Secret Circle came roaring off a red hot pace to capture the Sprint and withheld the flying finish of improbable longshot Laugh Track--that's if any runner can be considered a Breeders' Cup improbable beneath Mike Smith, a yard away from working on his next 20 Breeders' Cup mounts.

When the Brits created their Champions Day program to be contested in October, it was feared that it could have a negative effect on the Breeders' Cup. Well, Europeans finished 1-2 in the Turf, a classy 3-year-old, Magician, pulling some magic out of his hooves to defeat highly regarded The Fugue in the very last stride.

That would give foreign interests their sixth victory in the two-day event--and they might not be done yet.

6:56 Seems that the speed-biased racetrack is forcing riders to react to the prevailing conditions, sometimes overreact and moving a bit too soon. There probably was very little Gary Stevens and Joel Rosario could do, especially from the outside posts with the short run to the first bend for the Juvenile.

But the track carried Strong Mandate, used hard on a fast pace throughout, and he earned a good chuck of the purse. And it appeared that Havana was home free, Stevens moving to the lead at what looked like the opportune moment. But the track didn't carry him all the way, the ground saving New Year's Day surging late for the win. Perhaps Havana has distance limitations after all--but more evidence is required.

5:12 Well, Mizdirection, with Mike Smith getting his 3rd win in BC 30 and 20th in history, made it 7-for-7 on grass and 6-for-6 on this course. And trainer Mike Puype, having the mare sitting on ready off a six month layup. Amazing.

Another feel good story, a filly beating colts--the first ever to repeat in this race--and interesting, too, that the two feel-good story fillies are shipping to a horses of racing age sale on Sunday. And with Reneesgotzip dead-heating for place with Tightend Touchdown, it's fillies going 1-2 against the boys. Greatest show on turf, indeed.

4:53 At the moment Mizdirection is the 2-1 favorite in the Turf Sprint. Considering no horse has repeated in this event, she's an obvious underlay. Unbridled's Note is bet smartly at 5-1; Chips All In is very fair at 7-1 and Capo Bastone, no turf experience, never mind on the downhill course, is 8-1, which I would categorize as interesting.

Even if the Pletcher sprinter takes to the grass, he will need the pace to melt down completely for him to run them all down. Very interesting contest indeed.

4:37 p.m.. If Groupie Doll's gutsy repeat in the F & M Sprint is not the feel-good story of the day then I'm not sure what could challenge the notion.

Of course, a case can be made that Dance Card might have been the best horse, given the speed nature of the surface. Joel Rosario had no choice but to go wide at head-stretch, so he is not to blame.

Now turf racing is a European specialty, as everyone knows, but as many turf races as are run in this country, you'd think the home team would be a little more formidable. Circumstances took Dank out of her game and she still won. Through the stretch, it looked as if Romantica would be very hard pressed to hold the place late. She was, and she did, Euros going 1-2.

The fillies have put on quite a show in the first three events of the day, now we'll see if the boys can match the distaff fireworks.

3:34 p.m. Awful news regarding Secret Compass who was euthanized after suffering a condylar ankle fracture and Johnny Velazquez, seem clutching his left arm after landing heavily, was taken to the hospital. In the upcoming F & M Turf, Javier Castellano replaces Velazquez aboard Alterite.

3:20 p.m. Tough decision but SA stewards absolutely made the correct call--killing my Pick 4 play, incidentally--when they disqualified She's A Tiger from first and placed her second in the Juvenile Fillies.

Clearly, 'Tiger' drifted out several paths, making enough contact only jumps before the finish to make a difference in what turned out to be a nose photograph. Further proof it was correct came later when Ria Antonia galloped out ahead of the filly that finished in front of her.

I don't know enough to say for sure, but I'm aware that the California stewards take a lot of heat. However, they got this one right.

* * *


For those who purchased my "Breeders' Cup SCOREcard" there is an egregious omission in the Classic.

As indicated in today's Feature Race Analysis on HRI, FORT LARNED was meant to be an inclusion on the top of your betting mix.

Mea culpa, but stuff happens. As all know, this is a monumental event to cover and this one fell into the cracks.

I could have saved some embarrassment and not mentioned this and rooted against; sorry but I don't roll that way.

Please inform any of your friends and colleagues that might have purchased the product.

It might not matter but I've learned when handicapping or betting, it's the mistakes of omission that are really costly.

Juvenile Fillies post time in 9 minutes. Win or lose, Scandalous Act is too big a price at the moment

Written by John Pricci

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