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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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Is It Post Time Yet?

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., April 30, 2015—For the most part, the avalanche of information and storylines has abated, but then news never takes a holiday, does it?

Stanford is leaving Dodge and headed to Baltimore for the Preakness; Frammento is leaving the Also-Eligibles and entering the Churchill Downs starting gate.

Goodbye speed, hello closer; goodbye LA, hello Louisville for Mr. Nakatani.

However, we feel we owe the HRI faithful a very quick look at the Derby field after the draw, so, here goes:

1-Ocho Ocho Ocho (50-1): Should be named Seis, Seis, Seis, given a hell of a post draw. Was up against it before. Now? Fuhgedaboudit.

2-Carpe Diem (8-1): Johnny’s going to need all his skills to extricate himself and his colt from this mess; draw forces the issue and does him absolutely no favors.

3-Materiality (12-1): At least he has excellent gate speed when warranted, but still must be hustled out of there from the jump. Apollo with two Ls, right?

4-Tendendur (30-1): Developing rapidly but this looks like too much, too soon. Superfecta filler?

5-Danzig Moon (30-1): On the improve but still has a way to go.

6-Mubtaahij (20-1): Lots of talent; lots of obstacles.

7-El Kabeir (30-1): Just doesn’t get his due; throw out at your peril.

8-Dortmund (3-1): Indeed, he does lack a great turn of foot. But so what?

9-Bolo (30-1): His SA Derby was better than I originally thought but still might be looking over his left shoulder at the Matt Winn turf course.

10-Firing Line (10-1): If I were Gary Stevens, I’d be smiling, too.

11-Stanford (30-1): Cooler heads prevailed; Todd hasn’t won seven Eclipses by making big mistakes.

12-International Star (20-1): You just know Ken Ramsey’s going to get a piece of this, right?

13-Itsaknockout (30-1): Has fallen out of favor; very tall order.

14-Keen Ice (50-1): Romans’ been waiting since January for a mile and a quarter. Superfecta.

15-Frosted (15-1): Has his admirers, me among them.

16-War Story (50-1): Add nose band; subtract blinkers.

17-Mr. Z (50-1): zzzzzzzzzzz

18-American Pharoah (5-2): Let’s see what you really got!

19-Upstart (15-1): Has had outside posts all year, why should Derby be different? Tough draw for very talented stalker type.

20-Far Right (50-1): Going to be far back early anyway. Two 50-1 Derby winners for oney Mike?

21-Fammento (50-1): You got your wish, Nick. Go for it.

22-Tale of Verve (50-1): The last AE standing.

Check Saturday’s Feature Race Analysis for Derby Betting profile

Holy (Sm)Oaks: Compared to the Derby each year, except when the occasional Rachel Alexandra shows up, fillies are the three-year-old division’s red-headed step-daughter.

Friday’s edition has been aptly, correctly described as an open race. But in this case that’s no euphemism for “who cares, it’s a large field and a good betting race.”

But there’s talent in here, too. Condo Commando, Stellar Wind and Birdatthewire might not be American Pharoah, Dortmund and Carpe Diem but they’re damn good fillies.

And Eskenforthemoney and I’m a Chatterbox are good, too, and true stakes class doesn’t with these two, either: Truly looking forward to Friday, 5:49 PM.

The draw doesn’t help Birdatthewire’s chances any, but might bump up the price a bit. There’s plenty of speed to set the table for her late punch and she’s as game a three-year-old filly as we’ve seen in some time.

Today’s her toughest test, but you could say that for any of them.

A betting profile for the Oaks will be up on Feature Race Analysis by 12:01 AM, Friday

Written by John Pricci

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Less Becomes Much More in Rainbow 6

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., April 26, 2015—Good luck is never a bad thing. Gulfstream was fortunate that the rains didn’t come until well after Saturday's program had begun and because of the way the simulcast schedule fell out.

With Keeneland closed and Churchill not set to open the meet until 6 p.m., Aqueduct and Gulfstream had the major-track Saturday landscape virtually to themselves.

Otherwise, the mandatory Rainbow 6 jackpot likely never would have reached a record pool of $7.1 million as bettors put up $5.6 million chasing $1.4 million in “free money.”

The heavy rains that developed after the sequence began kept fields intact, obviously, and the bettors themselves got lucky when nearly universal single Discreet Marq was declared, her role ably filled in by a talented post time favorite, Baffle Me.

It’s rare when a post time favorite has a clear class edge on the group; Discreet Marq still would have had Baffle Me to beat in the overnight Powder Break had they both run.

“I was obviously happy to see Discreet Marq come out,” said winning trainer Mark Hennig. “I don’t think she would have if it didn’t rain.”

The jackpot pool and fresh money resulted in multiple winners of $14,592, a tidy sum considering three very short-priced potential singles paying $4.60 or less, a morning line second choice, and two extreme longshots; one usable, the other impossible.

(For the record, we had five of six, which gets you nothing, eliminated when One Proud Dude took the first leg of the sequence at 27-1).

The previous record occurred in 2011 when $3.5 million was spent chasing an identical $1.4 million jackpot.

BETS ‘N PIECES: There were three added money events offered yesterday, including the G3 Miami Mile won by 21-1 Rerun, shipping down from Ocala for the occasion.

Interestingly, in terms of yesterday Rainbow 6 sequence, the Tarpon Stakes was included due to the presence of 3-10, newly blinkered Mr. Jordan, who bore out badly despite right-handed pressure.

The talented gray finished first by a head but was disqualified for interfering with Royal Squeeze nearing the finish; a correct call by the much maligned Gulfstream stewards…

The longer, uncoupled entry-mate, seemingly on a tear at all venues recently, got the money again yesterday in Aqueduct’s G3 Excelsior, New York-bred Effinex getting the money with heralded stablemate Wicked Strong a dull, one-paced third at 3-5…

Cinco Charlie beneath Ricardo Santana Jr. won the inaugural William Walker Stakes on opening night at Churchill Downs Saturday. It was the sixth stakes win for the Churchill maiden breaker, surviving a three-ply battle then hanging on for the win.

Odds-on favorite Blofeld appeared in need of the effort, while making his return from a lengthy layoff, finished third.

Both Upstart, very difficult to pull up after the drill, and Frosted, both having their final Kentucky Derby timed workouts, went very well according to reports from the Palm Meadows training facility Saturday morning.

Likely Derby favorite American Pharoah zipped around Churchill yesterday in 58.20, like breaking so many sticks.

Social Inclusion, the 2014 Preakness’ third-place finisher, makes his season’s debut for new trainer Chad Brown in today’s third race at Gulfstream Park. He hasn’t started since finishing unplaced in last year’s Haskell.

The long winter of New York racing’s discontent ends today; Belmont Park opens Wednesday for the first of 59 days. The inaugural Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, June 5-6-7, features 17 stakes worth over $10 million.

Written by John Pricci

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Charles Town Classic: Prepping For Dollars

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., April 17, 2016—The best horse in America runs Saturday—in Charles Town, West Virginia.

Oh well, so it wasn’t Hot Springs.

Now we have nothing against the good people of the Mountain State, mind you. God knows they’re a tough lot, know how to cope with hard work and on-the-job adversity.

But the racing in minor league, as glorified bullrings usually are. And the minor leagues have its place, although that position has become increasingly difficult to defend in these trying times.

To make it work, West Virginia racing had to be propped up by casino dole. And with that they put all their Thoroughbred eggs in one Classic basket, throwing dollars at their only national event.

The result has been that the equine equivalent of the 1 percent has swooped in with the “big hoss” and snatched up all those golden eggs without drawing an anxious deep breath. Just ask Mike Smith.

However, not all the members of the group that own Shared Belief are 1 percenters themselves so it makes sense that they take a little financial pressure off the table in the form of an easy payday.

But that’s about as much slack as this racing fan is going to cut the group. There’s only one event that American race fans would like to see now—in advance of the Classic rematch, that is. And that race is just over the horizon after Saturday’s at 6:05 p.m.

The anticipation comes from the fact that the next one will be very competitive but certainly within this brilliant gelding’s wheelhouse. After all, he was very successful turning back to one turn earlier this year and the spacing of seven weeks is ideal.

Of course, it’s the Metropolitan Handicap, better known as the Met Mile, on the Belmont Stakes undercard, offering a purse of $1.5 million, the lion’s share of which must be earned.

It’s not that Shared Belief has anything to prove at this point, but running flat out in a one turn mile in top competition with no breather is available will only add to his legend.

Some of America’s best runners figure to show up for this kind of cash and the race has been, according to reports, the long term goal of 2013 Belmont Stakes-winning Palace Malice.

If there is one knock on these huge festival event programs, watered-down same-meet weekend cards notwithstanding, is that the marquee event will gain all the media attention so that the storyline becomes: “Today’s Belmont Stakes… and in other races…”

An aside: Almost every horseplayer I speak with is lamenting that Memorial Day 2015 won’t be the same without the Met Mile. That’s true, and there’s something else, too:

If there doesn’t happen to be a Triple Crown on the line, the appearance of America’s leading race horse could knock the Belmont Park spring meet’s signature event right off the back page.

But that was a business decision that the NYRA made--and the Charles Town Classic was a business decision that Jerry Hollendorfer and friends made.

This weekend, Shared Belief exits the cozy confines of the Golden State for the three-turn rigors of the Mountain State.

What awaits next is the visit to the Empire State. You hate to get ahead of yourself in the horse racing game. This time it’s justified.

Written by John Pricci

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