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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Thursday, November 03, 2011


Trading Places


LOUISVILLE--November 3, 2011--OK, so what’s all this nonsense about first preference and second preference, anyway?

Now in the case of Aruna, I understand. Graham Motion wanted to run her in the Ladies Distaff. He came to Churchill Downs, like he did this spring with Animal Kingdom, to see how the turf specialist handled the dirt.

But, unlike the Kentucky Derby winner who obviously loved it, not this talented filly. Experiment failed, she will race 40 minutes earlier, in the Filly & Mare Turf.

Maybe he didn’t want to run her 11 furlongs, preferring nine instead. Either way, it was back to the drawing board, and familiar footing.

But I’m not so sure what Kiaran McLaughlin and Nick Zito were up to.

Zito indicated that Jackson Bend had second preference in the Sprint. So here he is in the Sprint. Neither race was oversubscribed. In fact, the Sprint and the Dirt Mile only drew fields of nine--way small by Breeders’ Cup standards.

Could it be Zito wanted no part of Trappe Shot?

Now Trappe Shot was an interesting story. Apparently McLaughlin’s intentions were to enter in both but at pre-entry, the name of Trappe Shot was among the missing in the Sprint.

As it turns out, a Daily Racing Form staffer told a nationwide NTRA teleconference audience that he entered Trappe Shot in the Sprint, too, but his name did not appear in the body of the pre-entered horses.

Presumably, there was some clerical error, and it was corrected in time. Technically, there was no first or second preference indicated for Trappe Shot. He was in both races.

And everybody expected him to run in the Sprint, where he might have been the post time favorite. Instead, he will run in the Dirt Mile, where he might be the post time favorite.

Nice problem to have.

But could it be that McLaughlin wanted no part of Jackson Bend? Hey, I wouldn’t blame either of these guys for ducking the other guy’s horse.

Depending on the results, of course, it will be interesting at Eclipse voting time to see which will be Sprint champion.

Either horse surely would have been Sprint champion with a victory in that race on Saturday.

But Trappe Shot might have blown that shot now unless somehow he wins the Dirt Mile by 10 lengths and Jackson Bend gets beat 20 in the Sprint.

I wouldn’t bet on either scenario with your money.

The closest Trappe Shot has come to winning a Grade 1 sprint this year is when he was beaten a nose by longshot Sean Avery in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga--hardly the credentials for a Sprint champion.

And there’s no Eclipse Award for this country’s top miler. I realize there are probably too many Eclipse categories already, but Eclipse Award-winning Miler has a nice right to it.

As Zito might say, “right or wrong?”

I will say this. As a result of this musical races exercise, both have an excellent chance to go off as the favorite in their respective races, and both have an excellent chance to make good on the public’s confidence.

We Ain’t Got a Barrel of Money...

...But we’ll travel along, singin’ a song, side by side.

That’s if I don’t kill you first. Or, what if you were invited to a title fight and a horse race broke out?

Fate’s fickly finger places Javier Castellano and Calvin Borel in adjoining stalls for the Marathon.

Castellano will ride last year’s defending Marathon champion Eldaafer, and Calvin will be aboard A. U. Miner, who many would argue should have been the defending champion save for possibly the roughest trip any horse that competed in any Breeders’ Cup race last year.

Should be a good test for that new fangled communications system put in place this year so that something like Life At Ten wouldn’t happen this year.

Despite Eldaafer’s status, perfect spacing coming into the race, and the presence of Castellano, who’s won about every other Grade 1 contested on the East Coast this year, is rated a 10-1. A. U. Miner, a true long distance runner is the early line favorite at 3-1.

It’s a long race, I realize, but neither are helped by their positions, drawing the extreme outside slips, 11 and 12, respectively.

So, let’s have a good clean race, may the best horse win and, oh yeah, no sucker punching this time.


Written by John Pricci

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