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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Sunday, December 15, 2013


Between the Fences, 2014 Looks Promising


SOUTH OZONE PARK, NY, December 15, 2013—There’s nothing like an electrifying performance by a 2-year-old to warm the cockles on a snowy, Christmas-is-coming weekend.

But before jumping on any 2014 Kentucky Derby bandwagons, or a 2013 Eclipse Award for juveniles scenario for that matter, a few thoughts. Second things first.

In my view, Shared Belief, as impressive as he was, might be suffering from what likely will prevent Mucho Macho Man from becoming the 2013 Horse of the Year. While the accomplishment is huge, it appears too little too late.

Wise Dan remains the heavy favorite to repeat as best in show by virtue of the fact that Grade 1 scores in the Awesome Again and Breeders’ Cup Classic does not a Horse of the Year championship make.

And you thought the 2013 scenario was vexing?

However, there is a belief shared by virtually everyone who watched the G1 Cash Call Futurity that Jerry Hollendorfer’s colt is—at least, and all other things remaining equal—a serious race horse.

And know that when it comes to Eclipse Award voters, an undefeated 3-for-3 slate is an attractive championship package. What to make of the fact that the victories came on All Weather surfaces will likely be debated sometime in the future.

A mile and a sixteenth in 1:42.16—the final sixteenth in 06:17--is a worthy performance on the clock, and his 5-3/4 length victory margin was inarguably visually impressive.

Sitting off a 131.10-1 leader might be just what the trip doctor’s ordered; the fact that the speedy gelding didn’t NEED the lead is a positive for a horse with potential world class aspirations.

While we’re no fan of All Weather surface racing, Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track was, from Day 1, always the least offensive, acting very much like a dirt surface in almost every way; it doesn’t penalize speed in the manner of Polytrack, and horses actually finish-up, not plod home.

But it isn’t dirt, making it less-than as a Derby barometer. And the Candy Ride-Storm Cat mare, while looking good on paper, doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of mile and a quarter fans.

There were, however, some good colts behind him. Runner-up Candy Boy, who made a wild, mid-race run beneath the extraordinary Gary Stevens, is a promising runner and, unlike the winner, has dirt experience—a good second going long at Santa Anita.

Tamarando and Bond Holder, respectively, third and fourth yesterday, are both Grade 1 winners. And while Tap It Rich and Kobe’s Back are not nearly as accomplished, both are certainly better than they appeared on the day.

Meanwhile, high profile owner Jim Rome has made one hell of a parlay, taking a portion of that $2.7 million he received for the sale of dual Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Mizdirection and buying into the Shared Belief partnership.

We wish the gelding luck if for no other reason than the publicity could garner for the game in the run-up to Derby 140.


Thank You Willis Horton


Yes, and the game thanks you, too, you and the rest of the Horton family that wants to see certain-to-be three year old champion Will Take Charge back for a four year old campaign.

And, while we’re at it, a belated thanks to Dean and Patti Reeves, Kathy Ritvo and Finn Green for managing the career of this baby huey type whose growth spurts finally have caught up to his considerable scope.

The fact that both of these guys like to hear their feet rattle and have something they’d like to prove in the 2014 Classic, is a happy coincidence.

At least one good thing is coming out of Breeders’ Cup’s Santa Anita three-dux.

There is some unfinished business with respect to WTC’s future, a pending syndication deal that likely will have an effect on the colt’s schedule leading up to the Classic.

But we like the idea that Darrell Wayne is talking Donn Handicap for a possible season’s debut as a prelude to the Big ‘Cap.

Willis noted that while $10 million is a strong temptation, horses always don’t come back all that great after running in the Dubai World Cup, a notion worthy of a papal proclamation.

Lukas also mentioned the Whitney at Saratoga and other traditional prestigious fixtures in what clearly appears to be the road taken to a possible 2014 Horse of the Year title.

The gauntlet has been laid down. It will be interesting to see if the MMM camp picks it up or takes a Wise Dan-type path back to the Classic.

Written by John Pricci

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