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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Tuesday, November 08, 2016


Tote Busters: Playing the Red Board


LAS VEGAS, November 8, 2016—I usually start with bad news first but not this time; there really wasn’t any. I won the Beholder photo, the Queen’s Trust photo, Arrogate got up—of all things—so what’s to complain about?

Any bad fortune I experienced at Breeders’ Cup 33 had to do with wagering decisions—and that’s always on the horseplayer, if he’s being honest with himself. But you don’t have to take my word for things…

Following are a few testimonials we received via personal email, or at HRI, or on social media. Names have been truncated to shield the identity of the parties wishing to protect their privacy:

“John, thank you for your work and time on Breeders Cup races. I found your analysis interesting and informative and conclude that the price was of good value. Your web page was easy to navigate with good appearance and once payment made, the product was delivered. Now, do I want more? Sure… Should you ever put together a one day seminar on how to construct wagering tickets, sign me up…” Jim G: Mon, Nov 7, 2016 11:30 am

“Hi John, The information is very helpful in gaining some history and most recent information available. I think you have a grand slam. I' m pleased…Thanks for your extra effort. It's exciting…!” Frank C. Albany, 12203 Fri, Nov 4, 2016 7:13 am

“John, A wonderful well thought out report. Certainly fair value to me and I am a small [cq] (bet $400.00 total) this BC. I feel even $50.00 would be fair, again even for a small guy like me.” Lee @yahoo Nov 3, 2016 6:00 pm

And finally ‘Mc Duffy,’ who wrote an unsolicited [his word] play-by-betting-play personal account of his Breeders’ Cup Saturday. His comments were written in HRI’s comments section below Sunday’s On-The-Line column.

Here were Tote Busters© comments as they appeared for each Breeders’ Cup winner with a brief explanation of how Star Ratings break down: 4-Stars being “A+” prime contenders; 3-Stars, also “A” contenders; 2-Stars are “B” money-contenders; 1-Star “C”, exotics only, and 0-Stars, no-hopers. For more detail, see Tote Busters© Legend at http://www.JohnPricci.com.

FRIDAY


Juvenile Turf: “13--OSCAR PERFORMANCE ***4-1: [PER: 84 on 8/20] [TGT: 5.25 on 10/1] Exciting U.S. grass prospect extremely impressive winning both starts, a rapidly run 10-length maiden breaker on firm Spa turf before showing class and versatility taking G3 Pilgrim on yielding Belmont ground. Brian Lynch profitable in graded stakes and is 21% efficient with repeaters. Excellent blowout, will love firm footing, but must break sharply from #13.”
$2 Win: $15.20
$2 Exacta: 138.80 (runnerup was also 3-star rated; no 4-star horses in Juv Turf)

Dirt Mile: 8-TAMARKUZ ***8-1: [PER: 102 on 8/27] [TGT: minus 1.5 on 10/8] Has won half of his eight starts at the trip and was a fast-closing second behind divisional leader A. P. Indian in Spa’s highly rated G1 Forego when fresh. Followed that with a game placing chasing Anchor Down’s relaxed pace in G2 Kelso Mile. Kiaran McLaughlin profitable 27% with LAY-3 runners. Only lacking in surface experience.
Win: $25.80
Exacta: 100.40 (runner-up 3-star rated [two *** listed] (4-Star: Dortmund – ran out)

Juvenile Fillies Turf: “3-NEW MONEY HONEY ***10-1:
[PER: 81 on 10/1] [TGT: 6.5 on 10/1] Validated placing to La Coronel on debut returning with powerful, late run score in G3 Miss Grillo, breaking maiden in that event. PER jumped up big-time with one under her girth. She’s been two turns twice for Chad Brown and, given her pedigree, is sure to continue development; good value on early line with Castellano.”
Win: $15.80 (there were five 3-star contenders listed) [No ****]

Distaff: “8-BEHOLDER ****5-2: [PER: 95.5 on 10/1] [TGT: minus 3.25 on 8/22/15] It may appear defending older mare champion has lost a step, beaten thrice in succession, but owns PERs and recent TGT that belie this assumption. Gary Stevens has said his mare’s best go is with a target, and that’s the scenario he’s likely will get: The challenge is its highly probable he’ll be stalking Songbird, who gets three pounds her elders. Now if another rival were to keep Songbird honest, could be looking at a perfect stalking trip here.”
Win: $8.60
Exacta: $25.20 (Songbird only other ****)

SATURDAY


Turf: “12-HIGHLAND REEL ****3-1: [PER: NA] [TGT: 0.75 on 10/2] Highly strung, multiple Group 1 owner of five exacta finishes including two victories, he has improved every year for Aidan O’Brien and the Coolmore crowd and is peaking at 4. Arc winners have not fared well in this event but runners-up have; he was a laudable third despite washing out very badly pre-race. Pointed here because of promise of firm ground.”
Win: $9.60
Exacta: $28.80 (Flintshire only other ****)

F & M Sprint: 12-FINEST CITY ***12-1: [PER: 98 on 4/23] [TGT: 2.5 on 4/23] Not quite as fast as top contenders here but has license to improve in this spot. New trainer with two starts at the meet is 1-for-1 going turf to dirt, the tack taken here, and is laudably versatile just missing with front-running try in G2 Santa Monica and G2 Great Lady M with last run rally from sixth of seven. Outside draw and first-time Mike Smith augur well for potential price shot performer.”
Win: $19.40
Exacta: $216.40 (Wavell Avenue **) [By the Moon & Carina Mia were **** -- both ran out]

Mile: “5-TOURIST 15-1**** [PER: 94 on 8/20] [TGT: minus 0.75 on 6/4] Chased Midnight Storm home when a game second in the Shoemaker Mile here this summer and was forced to chase throughout the slow-paced Shadwell Mile from a wide post and after encountering trouble on first turn. He reached even terms in there approaching midstretch but tired from his early exertions late. Generally has been at his best with this type of spacing and Mott trainee owns worthy (10) 4-1-3 slate at a mile. Expecting better trip.”
Win: $26.80 [Limato **** -- ran out]
Exacta: $105.20 (Tepin ***)

Classic: “10-ARROGATE ****5-2: [PER: 126 on 8/27] [TGT: minus 4.75] After cakewalking through a couple of Horse-to-Watch laughers at Santa Anita and Del Mar, Baffert sophomore shipped to Saratoga and crushed the Travers by 13 lengths in 1:59 1/5, the fastest 10 furlongs in Spa history. Impossible to think he won’t regress yet he continues to train extremely impressively for the biggest test of his young life. A large, well balanced colt with a stride to match, he figures to be tracked intently by either California Chrome, Malatonin, or both. They may win that battle but lose the war. Trainer attempts unprecedented third straight Classic victory, this one a home game. Fascinating puzzle.”
Win: $5.40
Exacta: $10.00 (California Chrome only other ****)

Qualify the results as you wish. We were very pleased as it was a successful day personally as well. [TJ will vouch, if necessary].

While there were no negative responses or suggestions—except for we want more races—the reception we received was underwhelming, understandable since HRI notwithstanding, there were a grand total of three days social media promotion.

I learned two things from this first commercial venture; the price was too low and the workload too high.

We will not raise the takeout—except for future special events such as Breeders’ Cup; Oaks-Derby weekend, etc.—but we are considering the idea of monthly or meet-long subscriptions, especially for meets such as Keeneland and Saratoga.

Does that notion have any appeal? Feedback would be very helpful.

What we are working on between now and December 3, the start of Gulfstream’s championship meet, is a template where I can plug in personal, exclusive data so that all pertinent information is readily available in a simple format—stars rule!.

Aside from providing value-added information for personal handicapping while saving the player time and effort, Tote Busters© will serve as a stand-alone product, no handicapping necessary.

Of course, my compensation has to be somewhat commensurate with the workload or we’ll save ourselves a lot of time and a lot more effort.

There’s other excellent data out there, of course, but most of it much more expensive and none with our name on it. My compensation has to be commensurate with the workload or we’ll just cut the whole thing loose.

We have a four-decade track-record as a public handicapper, and more recently verifiable success with profitable daily Feature Race Analysis at HRI since 2007.

So, there it is: We research; you decide.

Written by John Pricci

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Friday, November 04, 2016


Big 3 + Big 3 = 33


LAS VEGAS, November 4, 2016--Well, if my handicapping analysis of the lynchpin races that close "Filly Friday" and "Championship Saturday" that wrap a bow on Breeders' Cup 33 is correct, then the math is, too.

If it's any other than the three horses named below that will emerge winners of the Distaff and Classic, then I have no idea who it could be.

Here are those horses that were very favorably mentioned in our new Tote Busters product that launched yesterday. We're proud of the package, 20 pages of horse profiles plus the workouts we had a chance to review on replay:

DISTAFF

1-SONGBIRD ****6-5: [Top Pricci Energy Rating: 96 on 7/24] [Thoro-Graph Top: minus 2.25 on 9/24] Toughest test of her life but for a brief instant in G1 Coaching Club Oaks--never has been seriously challenged. Daughter of Medaglia d’Oro from brilliant race mare Ivanavinalot, she’s 11-for-11 from sprints to 10-furlongs. Five-for-five at her home base, she’s training extremely well, is controlling speed and three-year-olds historically have done very well in this event.

5-STELLAR WIND ***5-2: [PER 94 on 10/1] [TGT: minus 4 on 10/1] Difficult to be underrated when you’re an Eclipse champion but that was the case until she beat Beholder for a second time in the G1 Zenyatta, a carbon copy of her gallant G1 Clement Hirsch. The 2015 G1 Santa Anita Oaks winner improved her home track record to 4-for-5 in the Zenyatta. Unlucky to lose the 2015 Distaff after troubled break and a wide run behind perfect-tripping Stopchargingmaria. She comes in fresh and in absolute top form.
8-BEHOLDER ****5-2: [PER: 95.5 on 10/1] [TGT: minus 3.25 on 8/22/15] It may appear defending older mare champion has lost a step, beaten thrice in succession, but owns PERs and recent TGT that belie this assumption. Gary Stevens has said his mare’s best go is with a target, and that’s the scenario he’s likely will get: The challenge is its highly probable he’ll be stalking Songbird, who gets three pounds her elders. Now if another rival were to keep Songbird honest, could be looking at a perfect stalking trip here.

Personally seeing this as a mini-spread in P4 among the Big Three and many will single Songbird, believing she’s the best horse, which she very well may be. Today’s race will prove that one way or another. If you’re a believer and you’re willing to take a leap of faith at short odds, she’s your single. In straight pools I will seek value elsewhere and use Songbird defensively in exotics. This is one race one need not bet to enjoy.

CLASSIC

2-FROSTED ***5-1: [PER: 102 on 6/11] [TGT: minus-8.5 on 6/11] Stratosphere Thoro-Graph was the largest ever given in TG history according to founder Jerry Brown. Uber talented Tapit grey dominated the Met Mile by 14 lengths and to crush G1 Whitney foes after given suitable recovery time following the Met. Was victimized by overconfident handling in very-wide G1 Woodward rally. Freshened again for this, the speedy pace scenario will suit his style ideally. The question is his ability to handle a very deep and talented group. Looms potential value.

4-CALIFORNIA CHROME ****1-1: [PER: 99 on 7/23] [TGT: minus-4.5 on 8/20] While not competitive on the PER scale, Thoro-Graph tops virtually identical to his major three-year-old rival who gets four pounds on scale. It’s been a genuine treat watching this champion at 5, never looking better in his life. Victor Espinoza rides him with tremendous confidence; Art Sherman has managed racing’s richest horse brilliantly. Monster chestnut is 5-for-8 at Santa Anita and 5-for-7 at 10 furlongs. Can’t wait for 5:35 PDT on Saturday.

10-ARROGATE ****5-2: [PER: 126 on 8/27] [TGT: minus 4.75] After cakewalking through a couple of Horse-to-Watch laughers at Santa Anita and Del Mar, Baffert sophomore shipped to Saratoga and crushed the Travers by 13 lengths in 1:59 1/5, the fastest 10 furlongs in Spa history. Impossible to think he won’t regress yet he continues to train extremely impressively for the biggest test of his young life. A large, well balanced colt with a stride to match, he figures to be tracked intently by either California Chrome, Malatonin, or both. They may win that battle but lose the war. Trainer attempts unprecedented third straight Classic victory and this one is a home game. Fascinating puzzle.

Given all the scenarios in play, this appears on paper to be the best ‘match race’ in Breeders’ Cup Classic history. Not one horse in here can afford to make a single mistake and expect victory. Unbelievable finale to the 2016 championship series. Enjoy…

TOTE BUSTERS© WORKOUT JOURNAL

As with a majority of horses, we’re unfamiliar with their personalities or a.m. work habits. Obviously, there can be better workouts that come before or after the day noted, which signals the intent of what appears below. Below are horses whose works we’ve seen on video or highly touted by HRInsiders at the scene.

10/29

SONGBIRD: As easily as horses can work 1:01 3/5, looking very much more than a morning gallop than an actual timed workout. Appears to be doing extremely well.

MASOCHISTIC: Perfect blowout for the Sprint, 5 furlongs in a minute with lots of energy remaining in the tank, a very happy horse.

HOPPERPUNITY: A much improved work from the previous move, going 5 furlongs in 59 4/5 with noticeably better energy.

If interested in the rest of the Late Pick for both days, find out more at http://www.JohnPricci.com

Written by John Pricci

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Sunday, October 30, 2016


From Deep Inside a Breeders’ Cup Bunker


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., October 30, 2016--Within the next 48 hours, final entries will be taken and post positions drawn for Breeders' Cup 33 on the West Coast.

While the entire world awaits its fate on the second Tuesday of next month, November's first weekend will provide a delirious diversion for horseplayers, especially those on site or 270 miles to the North and East in Las Vegas.

Mr Jicha and I already voted early in South Florida, our families dutifully canceling out the other's opinion.

But as Churchill--the man, not the talented 2016 European juvenile--reminds us; democracy isn't perfect, it's the best alternative out there, even if one candidate is blowing it all to hell. Alas, I digress.

This year, as I have always done for this event, I will go in prepared so, in the event of suffering losses, I will have no one to blame but myself. However, I expect to win, and I expect to win or lose big. The two days of Breeders' Cup is a gambling orgy for players, value virtually assured in every race, in every pool.

As promised a fortnight ago, we've created a product, Tote Busters©, as an extension of our complete thought process leading to these extremely bettable events. A sample appears below. It is only the first installment, however.

A handicapping star-ratings system will follow on the evening's preceding the next day's races with further assessments informed by post positions, race dynamics, possible biases in evidence, probable odds, etc., etc. [For an example of this, see Pricci Morning Line archives for Oct. 13, 2016].

We're still efforting the best way to disseminate this product which sells for $15 daily, or $25 for both days, including a free report Pick 5 for the Claiming Crown program which kicks off Gulfstream's championship season on Dec. 3.

Readers who have already contacted me will get the basic report for all eight Late Pick 4 races emailed on Monday.

For further information, I can be reached at

FRIDAY JUVENILE TURF RACE PROFILE: Rally Types

BIG SCORE [Pricci Energy Rating: 84 on 10/10] [Thoro-Graph Top: 5 on 10/10] Never has taken a backward step on the Pricci Energy Rating scale with best effort in the Zuma Beach at today’s distance, his SA course debut. Showed more versatility tracking a faster pace from closer range and still kicked clear, beating 11 rivals with authority from post 11. Major player had eye-pleasing dirt breeze on 10/27.
BOWIES HERO [PER: 80] [TGT: 10.25 on 10/10] After taking Del Mar Juvenile Turf over 12 rivals from post 11, he suffered through wide trip as Zuma Beach favorite while racing a bit dully. First foal from mare already has a stakes winner at today’s distance. Goes for D’Amato, 21% career profitable on grass from large sample. Eligible for rebound.
CHANNEL MAKER [PER: 87 on 09/18] [TGT: 9 on 9/18] Unlucky, troubled at gate when third to Good Samaritan in WO’s G2 Summer Stakes finishing gamely in his two-turn debut. Stakes-winning mare has dropped three winners from as many foals, this one taking WO restricted stakes two back. Trainer Danny Vella is profitable in all relevant categories. Price shot with exotics potential?
FAVORABLE OUTCOME [PER: 75] [TGT: 5.75] Fast enough based on high figures in sprint-winning debut and was game third in G1 Champagne despite troubled start. Of dam’s three winners, only one has won on grass and, despite the fact colt hails from turf maven Chad Brown’s shed, this is a very aggressive spot for first grass win.
GOOD SAMARITAN: [PER: 86 on 9/18] [TGT: 6.75 on 9/18] Two-for-two lifetime, both on turf and at today’s trip or longer. Ground loss and tough trips have not deterred thus far, has great spacing into this, and Mott in his corner. Trained very well on Saratoga’s Oklahoma course since winning G2 Summer Stakes and has the right style. Major player.
INTELLIGENCE CROSS: [PER: NA] [TGT: 9.5 on 6/16] Extremely well bred, O’Brien’s War Front colt from mare that has thrown five turf winners from 10 starters, including two stakes. Group 3 winner in Ireland and twice G2 placed, has the required pedigree for today’s added trip and comes into this as if pointed. A tricky read through macro prism.
KEEP QUIET: [PER: 73 on 8/6] [TGT: 9.5 on 8/31] Casse runner has five starts including G2 With Anticipation placing and courageous G3 Bourbon win at Keeneland, both on firm ground. Tactical speed could play major role in speedy lineup but must be careful not to be caught between rocks and hard places. Of foal’s nine winners, eight won on turf including two stakes. May fall between parimutuel cracks.
LANCASTER BOMBER: [PER: NA] [TGT: 7.75 on 9/24] O’Brien runner well tested in Group company and only recent disappointments came on yielding ground. Second to highly regarded Churchill thrice, including G1 Dubai Dewhurst at Newmarket last out. Career schedule well suited to today’s run. Three of dam’s four winners came on turf, three in stakes. Euro with tactical speed from these connections looms large.
MADE YOU LOOK: [PER: 71 on 8/31] [TER: 10.5 on 8/31] Showed improvement for Pletcher as distances increased, winning two of three career starts including G2 With Anticipation last out. Sold for nearly three times the sire’s average offspring and demonstrated better energy distribution at Saratoga, albeit with perfect trip.
OSCAR PERFORMANCE: [PER: 84 on 8/20] [TGT: 5.25 on 10/1] Exciting U.S. grass prospect extremely impressive winning both recent starts; a rapidly run10-length maiden breaker on firm Saratoga turf before showing class and versatility taking G3 Pilgrim on yielding Belmont grass. Brian Lynch profitable in graded stakes and 21% efficient with repeaters. Figures to love firm footing.
PLEASELETMEWIN: [PER: NA] [TGT: 8.25 on 10/22] After two failed attempts in Group company, dropped in grade and circuit and broke through at Newberry, beating 12 rivals on soft turf while turning back in distance. Short turnaround nothing unusual by European standards but hasn’t demonstrated he can be a prime time player.
RODAINI: [PER: NA] [TGT: 9.25 on 9/19] Won four straight over modest British rivals then caught wet ground he couldn’t handle at Newmarket Oct. 8, beaten off in Group 3 stakes debut. Of dam’s five winners, three have won on turf with one stakes winner. Others not selected by BC committee appear more worthy.
TICONDEROGA: [PER: 73 on 9/10] [TGT: 10.25 on 9/10] Expensive Chad Brown Tapit youngster showed marked improvement adding blinkers with comprehensive maiden breaker in one-turn Belmont mile, before finishing second with too-late rally after poor start in G3 Bourbon. Doubtlessly talented but appears in need of a bit more experience.
WELLABLED: [PER: 85 on 9/10] [TGT: 6 on 9/10] Second in lone turf start sprinting before showing affinity for synthetics, winning G3 Arlington-Washington Futurity and a Presque Isle listed stakes. Larry Rivelli effective with shippers and a 33% winner with first-time routers. Could give Oscar Performance fits in early stages. Tricky macro read.

NOTE: Comments restricted to horses whose pre-entry was accepted and has race as their first preference. Second-preference horses or those drawing in from AEs will be covered in updated final versions of Late Pick 4s on Thursday and Friday evenings prior to each race day.



Written by John Pricci

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