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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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Monday, December 17, 2012


Sleep in Heavenly Peace


SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, December 16, 2012—Let me start by apologizing for getting off topic again. Suffice it to say that people process events differently; I am not immune to this.

As I was leaving my simulcast location yesterday, a fan stopped me to say, to the effect, everybody feels terrible about what happened in Newtown, Connecticut but “we look to racing and your site for information and entertaining commentary, and …”

OK, stop right there. I’m fully aware of what my role is. I have no special knowledge, no special insight as to the meaning of life. As to advice for the 26 family members affected by Friday’s events, I can offer prayers and good thoughts, nothing more.

Sports, and especially horse racing in my view, is exactly like Forrest’s box of chocolates. Only it’s the whole candy story, a candy store of diversion, something all of us are very good at finding.

That ties in nicely with our collectively short attention span as a nation. And, of course, we couldn’t do this without the electronic media that brings us the news or marketers trumpeting the next big need.

Having recently arrived home, I needed to go shopping Sunday morning. There was about an inch of what Saratogians call “nuisance snow” on the ground. Parking spots were in short supply at the supermarket.

I got to the market about 10 AM and realized that upstaters are just like downstaters: If there’s snow on the ground, no matter how little, there’s a need to go out and buy enough food to last a week.

Like many people, I imagine, I avoided television coverage Saturday night, watching two movies back to back. Saratoga, for those who’ve never visited, is a friendly place but not Sunday morning. No “good mornings;” no nod of the head from passers-by.

Getting a warm hello upon reaching the checkout counter, I said to the clerk, “good morning, what’s going on?” I asked. “Everybody seems to have a sour look on their faces this morning.”

Without looking up from the bar code scanner, she said: “just happy to be alive, I guess.” Her response was stunning. It made me wonder: Can I be any more self-absorbed?

While I was watching the wonderful Paul Giamatti doing his usual good turn in a piece I didn’t know--but now highly recommend called “Barney’s Vision”--“Saturday Night Live” eschewed its usual comedic opening in favor of a children’s choir singing “Silent Night.”

I’m sure it was just as gut-wrenching to see on Sunday afternoon as it was late on Saturday night; angelic voices rising under a picture montage of children whose lives had been snuffed out alongside six educators by a deeply deranged young man who had access to guns inside his home.

Upon packing way the groceries, I sat down with the Sunday New York Post where the headline read “Trained To Kill,” a reference to how the disturbed killer who had gone to a practice firing range with his mother.

Without getting into lifestyle issues, or drawing lines in the sand between urban and rural dwellers, there’s just something wrong about that picture.

You need to be old enough to apply for a driver’s license. But you can purchase a weapon without any background check at a gun show? There’s something very wrong with that; how does that make any sense?

Second amendment and privacy issues should not trump common sense. The framers gave us the right to bear arms because America was founded to escape foreign oppression and religious persecution. They could not have envisioned this kind of excess.

Americans enjoy more freedom than anyone, we are truly blessed. But with freedom comes great responsibility to see that those rights are not abused by the few to the detriment of the many.

Before handicapping the late Pick 5 with a sizable carryover at Gulfstream Park, I thought about issues like gun control, mental health, and rights guaranteed by the Constitution. We need to let our tears dry before having a national conversation about all this.

I twice voted for President Obama and have no regrets, but in 2008 he campaigned for reinstituting the ban on assault weapons. It’s time to use the pulpit, Mr. President, to expose the National Rifle Association for the paper tiger that it is and damn the politics:

Remember that Ed Rendell (D), former Governor of Pennsylvania, was elected three times--by double-digit margins--in a state that has the second largest number of registered NRA members in America. The country is waiting, Mr. President.

In two weeks it will be 2013, making it 14 years since Columbine. Between that school massacre and last Friday’s, have come Virginia Tech and Ft. Hood, Tuscon and Aurora, Oak Creek and Portland.

In case you’re unaware, three more people were shot dead today. We’ll never put an end to all this, of course. But we need stop some of the madness.

May all the babies, and those who tried to protect them, sleep in heavenly peace.

Written by John Pricci

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