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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 05, 2011

For the Love of the Game

LOUISVILLE, November 5, 2011--The 28th renewal of the Breeders’ Cup Classic is the reason humans race horses. In the right circumstances, the storylines just don’t stop.
What a difference a year makes for Mike Smith
Photo by: Linda Pricci
What a difference a year makes for Mike Smith

Mike Smith, in tears at the podium, pounding his fist into the table saying “it’s my fault,” that Zenyatta did not wind up the “perfect” race horse. It was not Smith’s fault, but he out it on himself, not the great mare.

Smith, who with yesterday’s ride, equaled Jerry Bailey as the leading rider in Breeders’ Cup history with 15 victories.

Then there was Chantal Sutherland, she of the soft hands and cool demeanor, bidding to become the first woman to ride a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner.

Had it happened, it would have been at the expense of Smith; friends, but lovers no more.

And trainer Bill Mott, who, with John Shirreffs, became only the second trainer to win the male and female Classic in the same year.

Shirreffs won with Life Is Sweet and Zenyatta two years ago; Mott with Royal Delta on Friday and Drosselmeyer, the 2010 Belmont Stakes winner, today.

As an aside, only four other trainers; Neil Drysdale, Bobby Frankel, David Hofmans and Wayne Lukas have won male and Female Classics.
The young Joseph O'Brien in full stride with St Nicholas Abbey
Photo by: Toni Pricci
The young Joseph O'Brien in full stride with St Nicholas Abbey

In fact, in winning his eighth Breeders’ Cup race, Mott continued his run at winning the biggest ones, having taken two Turfs, four Ladies Classics and now two Classics, the other being the great Cigar, in 1995.

In the final analysis, Drosselmeyer showed up, as did Game On Dude, who settled beautifully on the lead, despite constant hounding from Uncle Mo, who finished 10th, beating only stablemate Stay Thirsty and 24-1 Headache.

To Honor And Serve who, like Uncle Mo, was an early Kentucky Derby favorite but, like Mo, never made it to the dance. After stalking from good, outside position, after steadying from between horses curling into the first turn, tried a 3-path surge on the final turn, challenged for the lead in upper stretch but failed to stay.
O'Brien Barn off to fast start with Wrote
Photo by: Toni Pricci
O'Brien Barn off to fast start with Wrote

Flat Out who, despite training brilliantly at Churchill for two weeks, raced one-paced in a disappointing effort despite losing by a tad over three lengths.

Havre De Grace had a fairly eventful journey and was very game to finish fourth, after encountering trouble twice in the race. She’s just so genuine, even after not having the greatest week here.

This year’s Belmont winner, Ruler On Ice, a fast closing second in To Honor And Serve’s Pennsylvania Derby, finished well after being bumped soundly at the start, was going very well at the finish, third.
Horse for Course, Regally Ready remains unbeaten at Churchill
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Horse for Course, Regally Ready remains unbeaten at Churchill

But it was Drosselmeyer, who originally had been pointed for the Marathon, the purse being only 10% of the size of the Classic’s $5 million, touted his trainer and his owners, Winstar farm, that he would be worth a run in the big one.

They didn’t know if he could win but surmised that he would run well. When horses show up, and some of the others don’t funny things can happen.

Like Mike Smith flying down the center of the track only this time, getting there. “Winning the Classic is always a great kick. Yes, it does take some of the sting out of last year.”
Hansen, the Grey, stays undefeated in the Juvenile
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Hansen, the Grey, stays undefeated in the Juvenile

“We’ve always have been pretty lucky here, happy that we’re the all-time leader in wins and stakes wins but the other guys keep biting at your heels.

“Winning the Classic is just…” his voice trailing off as he broke into the laughter of a man who just won 10% of a $5 million purse.

Game On Dude and Sutherland’s performance aboard him were excellent. The SoCal handicapper speedster might be the most honest member of the group, running his race virtually every time out. Their connections have much to be proud of.
Caleb's Posse, the hottest sophomore in America
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Caleb's Posse, the hottest sophomore in America

Handle figures were incomplete as this is written but the two-day attendance total 105,820, as compared to the 113,353 who attended last year when Zenyatta was bidding for 20 victories without a defeat.

The Classic result throws the 2011 Horse of the Year high in the air. Where it will land at this point is anyone’s guess in the hours following this country’s most important race for older horses.

It would be hard to imagine Smith, Mott and the owners of Winstar Farm fretting over the issue late into Saturday night.

Written by John Pricci

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