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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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Salute to America’s Heroes and the HRI Faithful, Too

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., November 11, 2015—As the nation honors its heroes today, we would like to thank our HRI veterans for their service to the country where appropriate, and for their loyal readership, too.

By no means are we equating the two, just figuring there’s probably some crossover among the readership.

Many loyal readers have asked why we don’t do more handicapping and so, in that spirit, we going to look at a second feature race today from Churchill Downs.

Indeed, we are aware of the unacceptable takeout rates but the takeout rate of 17.5% in the straight pools, while high, is not so egregious compared to the average WPS hold at other venues. Thus we’ll try to concentrate on the winner.

Parenthetically, f you’re willing to go against 22% in the multiple pools, have at it. We only get exotic there but four days a year.

Today’s featured 9th race in Louisville, an NX3 other than maiden, claiming, restricted or 4 lifetime optional claimer, is for turf males three-year-olds and up going a mile and a sixteenth on grass.

Note that if the race is switched to the main track, Eagle (9-5) rates a significant edge. Otherwise, this group is highly competitive.

Coming out of a restricted stakes, Flashlight (3-1), a willing second in a restricted stakes and now making his second start for Michael Maker is a logical enough early line choice. But from his outside slip, he’s worth trying to beat.

Of the three with the best chance to do so; Knights Nation, (4-1), One Touch (8-1) and Pumpkin Rumble, the most logical to do so is Knights Nation, a Dallas Stewart trainee who would have been our morning line choice.

Nicely drawn with a switch to Robby Albarado, he drops from a NW4 O/T to his winning level and returns to his favored ground where he’s compiled an (8) 2-2-1 lifetime slate. The field has him to beat.

However, it’s worth trying to beat him with One Touch. As a 4YO gelding, he has physical upside and he’s on a healthy TG line and any improvement from his last wins this. Fair odds would be 6-1.

If you can’t resist, Pumpkin Rumble comes from a barn having a career year and all their horses are running well at the moment and is value on the early line.

Check today’s FRA for an analysis of the G2 Discovery Stakes from the Big A.

Written by John Pricci

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Saturday, November 07, 2015

The Cure for Post Traumatic Cup Disorder

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., November 6, 2007--On Thursday, a comment from someone calling himself Top Turf Teddy was submitted, a poignant message I thought I’d share with all the HRI faithful, especially since some of you may be suffering from the same affliction. After all, our aim is to help:

“My psychiatrist assures me that my recent depression is attributable to PTCD (Post Traumatic Cup Disorder) which is fairly common among railbirds irrespective of their socioeconomic status.

“Symptoms vary; along with the depression. Most suffer from an uncontrollable urge to wager… blurred vision, frequent checking of internet wagering balances, usually followed by hysterical crying jags.

“In rare cases, similar to Tourette’s Syndrome, they may find themselves screaming out the names of race horses, trainers along with expletives…etc., etc.”

Teddy will be fine, we are sure, but the point he makes is, well, not all that crazy. The Breeders’ Cup is over and at this posting the Kentucky Derby is more than six months away. What’s a horseplayer to do?


This afternoon at Gulfstream Park West--a.k.a. Calder Race Course in an earlier incarnation--is hosting Sunshine Millions Preview Day, just one of several interesting Saturday features offered around the USA, USA.

There are no fewer than eight, low-six-figures prep events in advance of the actual Sunshine Millions program at Gulfstream’s Championship Meet, which opens with the Claiming Crown series on December 6.

So there’s that, the Grade 2 Long Island Handicap for fillies and mares going 12 furlongs on the Aqueduct turf course in Queens, and the always entertaining Chilluki Stakes at Churchill Downs, to name just a few.

Here’s a handicapping look-in to see what might be available for handicappers who may be looking for relief from their bout with PTCD.

In South Florida, the final five races on the card are in their way as tough to decipher as last week’s Breeders’ Cup. Difficult? Yes. Score producing? You betcha’.


Saturday’s 9th event in Miami Gardens has attracted 10 2-year-old fillies going one mile on the grass. (The rail was set at 0 feet Thursday). We’ve cut the number of live possibilities virtually in half, and even that was a struggle.

Seeking the Storm (12-1) is slower on both the Pricci Energy and Thoro-Graph scales than most of her state-bred rivals but owns a solid late kick, there’s sufficient speed signed on and her final figures are forward looking. Her last-out maiden breaker came over the course at this trip.

Linemaker Jay Stone has it right, making Lovely Credit (3-1) and Pancake (4-1) the early favorites. The former has earned the fastest ratings consistently, hails from top connections and gets a switch to Paco Lopez.

The latter goes first-time for trainer Ronny Werner who wasted little time dispensing Vitamin L to the filly. If you prefer either of these, try getting close to early line odds in this wide open scramble.

Pancake comes off a solid maiden breaker crosstown and hails from a very good turf family. Others we left open are Beautiful Sin (8-1), a maiden breaker two-back with first-Lasix, and Wishihada (10-1).

The latter Michael Yates trainee had a wide-trip turf debut sprinting, the race looking very much like a prep for this prep, and she gets the services of Juan Leyva [check out the video, Oct. 21].

FLORIDA JUVENILE SPRINT: Completing a vexing late double is the FJS at 6-1/2 furlongs and if it’s a race for Florida-breds all will have Stanley Gold--the all-time leading trainer of Florida-bred stakes winners—to beat. Gold saddles early line favorite Fellowship (7-2).

If you saw Fellowship’s victory in the In Reality Stakes going two turns at Gulfstream, you understand why he’s the early choice.

Fellowship dawdled in 14th of 14 for half the race before launching a Belmont Balcony move, circling and inhaling 13 rivals, drawing off by 4-1/2 lengths in the process. It was his second start with blinkers and Lasix. Obviously, conditioning will not be an issue here.

His major rivals are Kokomo Wildcat (9-2) and Galleon Mast (10-1).

Of the major contenders, ‘Kokomo’ is the lone entrant with experience over the quirky main track. He broke maiden in fast time, finishing strongly late off very solid fractions while drawing away to win by 7. He comes in off a brisk five-eighths drill and Eddie Castro takes a return call from Larry Pilotti, a profitable 31% on the year and celebrated for his work with juveniles.

Galleon Mast has the right finishing style, gets Edgard Zayas on a return call, and broke maiden at today’s hybrid trip. While that score came at Gulfstream Park, the GPW backstretch is home base. He has good spacing and has worked thrice for this tough test.

Returnee Big Boy Bruno (10-1), a June maiden-breaker, is worth a look. He enters with a long string of bullet and near-bullet works and is an uncoupled Pilotti charge picking up Paco. Hmm! Turnback Danbury (20-1), used hard early last time, could blow up the verticals at a huge number.


Same story; different scenario. If it’s a turf marathon, then all have Chad Brown to beat. And who does Brown have to beat? None other than himself, and a few others.

Eleven fillies and mares were entered overnight, three by Brown. Not to be outdone, Christophe Clement, also owning turf cred, also entered three. Add two Pletcher’s (one MTO), one Motion, and serve:

Shaken, not stirred.

What one likes about Brown’s Goldy Espony (5-1) is the real possibility of value and the spacing. Not having run since Sept. 5, Brown is 30% effective and profitable coming back in this time frame. Further, she’s undefeated in two starts at the marathon trip. The problem is that she appears too slow.

But not Danza Cavallo (3-1), fast by virtually any measure, and she’s been tested at the G1 level. Both she and Euro-shipper once removed Mutatis Mutandis (4-1) are exiting the Flower Bowl, a key race producing three next out winners including Filly & Mare Turf heroine Stephanie’s Kitten.

‘Danza’ would prefer some cut in the ground, unlikely at this writing, but she certainly owns enough pedigree to handle the extra quarter-mile. She was beaten a neck in this race last year.

We would regard several other fillies as solid: Clement’s Crisolles (5-1) is a rapidly developing 4-year-old and Graham Motion’s Interrupted (12-1) is 2-for-2 in blinkers and is an intriguing price shot with pedigree and a solid last-out TG figure.

If I were making an economy play in the guaranteed Late Pick 4, I’d probably lean on Danza Cavallo and include straight-forward longshot Interrupted.


It’s difficult to argue with the status of the top early line choices: Gold Medal Dancer (2-1) is already a Grade 2 winner and twice G1-placed; Birdatthewire (5-2) won two G2s at GP last winter.

However, it’s a pair of 8-1 shots, Brad Cox’s Spelling Again and Jimmy Corrigan’s Shannon Nicole, that are most interesting.

Virtually eliminated by a poor start in the G2 TCA Stakes at Keeneland most recently, Spelling Again won both priors, including a restricted stakes two back in her CD debut. And know that Cox is an otherworldly 41% profitable stretching to a route off two sprints.

As for ‘Shannon’, she returns off a lengthy break for a barn that not only excels in that role but also profitable with new acquisitions. Corrigan has had 287 days to get her ready, the filly not having run since hitting the rail in her 4-year-old debut back in January.

We would probably lean to the filly with the recency, and add talented 3-year-old Birdatthewire to the exacta mix. Box up the Chilukki before calling it a day and if symptoms persist, call me in the morning.

[See today's Feature Race Analysis for more].

Today's Pricci Morning Line blog was underwritten via special promotional arrangement with

Written by John Pricci

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Sunday, November 01, 2015

NYRA’s Kay and Panza: Two More Years

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., November 1, 2015--Racing executive Bill Nader is not coming back to America after all, at least not as the All-Everything of the New York Racing Association.

HRI learned exclusively on Breeders' Cup Friday that the contracts of President/CEO Christopher Kay and Vice-President of Racing Martin Panza have been renewed for the next two years.

Apparently, the state-run NYRA was sufficiently impressed with the current management team's efforts to reverse the fortunes of New York racing.

Either that or they have no intention of ever loosening the reins, for the two years at minimum.

Along with the news from a highly placed source not wishing to speak for the record, winter racing will be conducted on a four-day-a-week bases, with several possible exceptions owing to racing and holiday considerations.

This will allow the NYRA to squirrel away purse money for the prestigious Belmont and Saratoga race meets, especially Saratoga whose fortunes have been instrumental in keeping top level management in place.

Nader was expected to come on board in February, 2016, which apparently is no longer the case. But stay tuned. Things have a curious way of changing abruptly whenever Albany is involved in the process.

Written by John Pricci

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