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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 04, 2011


Youth Will Be Served in Ladies Classic


LOUISVILLE, NOVEMBER 4, 2011--The withdrawal of Havre De Grace from the Ladies Classic and entry into the Classic was supposed to open up the Breeders’ Cup Friday finale. But I guess it seldom works that way with fillies.

Anecdotally, it just seems like there are more alpha females than males, with the best ones dominating their peers; the very best ones also having their way with the boys.

That's the case in tomorrow’s renewal in which three three-year-old alpha fillies are poised the dominate older rivals; early favorite Plum Pretty (2-1), second favorite Royal Delta (5-2), plus the somewhat quixotic and evidently well named It’s Tricky (5-1).

Most noteworthy in today’s 28th renewal of this country’s most important race for horses of the female persuasion is that the Bob Baffert-trained Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty did not draw the rail. That alone would make her tough.

Ironically, nine furlongs is one race where an inside slip should really help, especially a filly like the bullet-like Plum Pretty.

I don’t know if it’s payback for some consort he made with el Diablo, and we all know how Bullet Bob detests the inside post, four of his horses drew the rail over the two-day period.

Irish Gypsy, 20-1 to win the Filly & Mare Sprint; Euroears, 4-1 to win the Sprint, and The Factor, 7-2 to take the Dirt Mile, all start out on the fence where, unless the rail is golden, Baffert’s three runners start out at a disadvantage since all these races are at one-turn distances.

Prayer For Relief must have been the icing on the cake for Baffert, nightmarish visions of Lookin At Lucky dancing in his head.

Prayer For Relief drew the rail at a mile and a quarter and missed his plane, the result of spiking a temperature. There was no amplification whether it was the three year old colt or Baffert who got all hot under the collar.

As for Baffert’s Ladies Classic favorite, she’s out there in post 8 which, at Churchill Downs, leaves more than enough ground before reaching the first bend. Besides, she has a ton of speed and is extremely sharp.

Too sharp?

Therein lies the possible problem. Her performance figure in her dominant Cotillion was a significant lifetime best, setting her up for a major regression. However, late developing three year olds have an excellent record in this event.

Plum Pretty is the fastest filly on figures by a significant margin. She cannot be tossed out automatically.

It’s Tricky ran well behind the favorite in that event and this filly has somewhat of a good-race, bad-race history. Not that her last was bad, but there’s certainly room for improvement in the Ladies Classic.

However, it will be Royal Delta that they all will have to beat. She’s back around two turns, her best game. She showed that in the Black-Eyed Susan, her coming out race.

Royal Delta reaffirmed that good form in the storied Alabama, the race Bill Mott was targeting since the spring. Mott’s won a half-dozen Breeders’ Cup events--half of those coming in the race that used to be known as the Distaff.

She has what’s needed to give Mott his fourth score in this race. She has tactical speed when you want to use it, a terrific late finish but she’s push-button, too, getting herself into races quickly.

Jose Lezcano rides her very well, but his form can be spotty at times, too, which adds a little more anxiety to the mix.

Havre De Grace will be looking for bigger game in the Saturday finale. In the interim the Ladies Classic will have to do. And so it, and Bill Mott, shall.

Written by John Pricci

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