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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Friday, January 22, 2016


Weekend Stakes Preview


Exclusive to 123GAMING.com, reprinted via special promotional consideration with http://www.123BET.com

HALLANDALE BEACH, January 22, 2016—This Saturday is the day that many major racetracks are paying a reckoning price for creating mega-stakes, handle-attracting programs.

Today at Fair Grounds, for instance, there are no races on the card to which a name—any name—is attached.

Gulfstream Park offers the non-graded H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at two miles on the turf. Given the nature of marathon turf racing, why not just require competing jockeys to have a foot race once around the grass course?

The thing that makes the Jerkens worth winning is the esteem all trainers have for “the Chief,” who passed on March 18 last year. Every horseman would be proud to have that trophy on their mantle.

So said Todd Pletcher when he won the inaugural last year with Unitarian and reaffirmed Wednesday that he’d very much like to repeat this year with Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s marathon specialist, Charming Kitten.

Saturday is Tampa Bay’s day in the sunshine, so to speak. The Oldsmar track is offering three stakes, two for 3-year-old, colts and fillies, at 7 furlongs, the Pasco and Gasparilla, respectively. Some interesting stock in both events and potentially great betting races.

The third stakes is the Wayward Lass for older fillies and mares going two turns. Both 3-year-old sprints are bridges to Tampa Bay Derby Preview card next month. All are listed events.

In Hot Springs, Oaklawn Park hosts the American Beauty for filly and mare sprinters going three-quarters of a mile.

The only graded stakes among the majors on the Saturday docket is Santa Anita’s G2 7-furlong Santa Monica. Let’s take a handicapping look-see at some of the more interesting puzzles:

[Analysis presented as aids in decision making. Per usual, price rules except where dominant figures/angles apply]



GULFSTREAM PARK H ALLEN JERKENS STAKES 2 MILES TURF

Handicapping Storyline: Charming Kitten against the world. Taking projected odds-on is only decision to be made.
Pletcher wants to win this race in honor of the great horseman and owner Ken Ramsey just wants to win, period. Charming Kitten (6-5) is the only runner to win at the distance--the only one who has gone this far. Tactical with Johnny pole sitting, he should handle the impost and recently troubled rival, Roccia d’Oro.

Most Probable Favorite/Winner
: Charming Kitten
Best Value: Roccio d’Oro (4-1)
Exotic Filler/Tote Busters: St. Albans Boy (7-2); Morning Calm (10-1); Xaverian (12-1)


TAMPA BAY DOWNS GASPARILLA STAKES F & M 7 FURLONGS

Storyline: If this race holds together, and if we’re prescient, we can take some money out of this contest.

Of the 10 entrants, we left three contenders open for the win and three others with exotics potential. The top three are R Girls a Charmer (5-2), Cosmic Girl (4-1) and Hidden Treat (5-1).

Most Probable Favorite/Winner: R Girls a Charmer
Potential Value Plays: Cosmic Girl or Hidden Treat
Exotics Filler and Potential Price Shot Winner: Valuable Charmer (9-2); Conflate (15-1)


PASCO STAKES 3YO C & G 7 FURLONGS

Storyline: Which uncoupled Keith Nations do you prefer, early favorite Morning Fire (3-1) or price shot Flashy Kyem (12-1)? Actually, we wish it were that easy.

In this skullbuster, we must consider Epic Journey (4-1) and his excellent Pricci Energy Ratings; fast and T-G forward Formal Summation (5-1); Ian Wilkes boom CD graduate first-time-dirt Hand of Power (7-2) and fast-closing Ness/Gallardo Inaugural third, Jay’s Way (5-1).

Probable Favorite: Morning Fire
Probable Winner: Hand of Power
Best Value: Formal Summation
Exotics Fillers//Tote Buster: Epic Journey; Jay’s Way//Flashy Kyem


WAYWARD LASS F & M 1-1/16 MILES


Storyline: Do you prefer one of Todd’s uncoupled two or Tom Proctor’s split entry? How about the pair from Eoin Harty? Instead, we’ll get right to it:

Savings Account is a deserving favorite based on her solid-finish third behind the great Beholder in the G1 Zenyatta two back. Tiger Moth was visually impressive, earning an excellent Pricci Energy Rating in her 3YO finale going a flat mile at Gulfstream; the further they ran, the stronger she finished.

Street Song was a narrowly beaten second in her Tampa debut after moving a tad prematurely to the lead and her pedigree she wants today’s added trip and more. Innovative Idea goes turf to dirt for Harty, a laudable 18% scenario, has Tampa experience and loves the trip, based on her (5) 2-1-1 slate.

Probable Favorite: Savings Account (3-1)
Probable Winner: Tiger Moth (4-1)
Best Value: Street Song (6-1)
Exotics Tote Buster: Innovative Idea (10-1)


OAKLAWN PARK AMERICAN BEAUTY STAKES F & M 6 FURLONGS


Storyline: Not many will argue that Sarah Sis (9-5) is the best horse as a multiple graded stakes winner dropping into a listed event. But she excels at 7F and farther. How cranked can she be for this, her 4YO debut?

We prefer others: Super Saks (3-1) is very sharp and “the Coach” reaches for long time Oaklawn partner Terry Thompson.

Spring Included gets eight pounds from both favorites, her style and position suits the race shape very nicely, Joe Rocco Jr. is her regular partner and she just loves the Hot Springs ground (3) 2-1-0. Haveyougoneaway is also suited by dynamics, most always fires (19) 6-2-6, with two wins on this ground, at this trip.

Probable Favorites: Sarah Sis/Super Saks
Probable Winner: Spring Included
Best Value: Spring Included
Exotics Filler: Haveyougoneaway (5-1)


SANTA ANITA PARK GRADE 2 SANTA MONICA F & M 7 FURLONGS


Storyline: This event features a West Coast surface lover vs. an East Coast surface lover: Ben’s Duchess (5-2) v Room for Me (3-1)

The ‘Duchess’ has won half her six SA runs and is on the bounce-rebound having taken the G3 LA Woman two back. Improved since John Sadler added blinkers last spring, Talamo rides her like he own her.

Room for Me is also class tested, graded-stakes placed, was beaten less than six lengths after poor start and extremely wide entering the BC F&M Sprint stretch, and showed late interest behind champion La Verdad in the recent Interborough. And this is a Filly-for-Course homecoming as her (4) 3-1-0 SA indicates.

Probable Favorite: Ben Duchess
Probable Winner/Best Value: Room for Me
Exotics Tote Buster: Kiss At Midnight (12-1)

For wagers on today's races, see Saturday's Feature Race Analysis section


Written by John Pricci

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Friday, January 15, 2016


Eclipse Weekend Stakes Preview


123BET.COM WEEKEND PREVIEW

By John Pricci
Exclusive to 123GAMING.com


Reprinted via special promotional consideration with http://www.123BET.com


As the industry and the sport’s fans await Saturday night Eclipse Award ceremonies from Gulfstream Park, wannabe champions will be on display all over the U.S. this weekend.

This being classics prep season, three year-olds will be in action from coast to coast, in NoCal for Golden Gate’s California Derby and in Nola with the LeComte, the Louisiana Derby series lid-lifter.

Down on the Bayou, meanwhile, the always entertaining Silverbulletday may provide Kentucky Oaks fodder on the first Friday in May.

Older fillies and mares go at it in the Grade 2 La Canada from Santa Anita, an all-stakes Pick 3 beginning with the sophomore preps at the Fair Grounds with older would-be handicappers meeting in the Big A’ Jazil Stakes.

But Gulfstream Park is where it’s at as the Hallandale track presents the Sunshine Millions as an opening Eclipse act, six stakes for the classiest Florida-breds in training.

Here’s a handicapping look-in on some of today’s action:


AQUEDUCT JAZIL STAKES 1 MILE-70 YARDS

Race isn’t as cut and dry as it might appear even if betting against Rudy Rodriguez runners has been fraught with danger this meet. ‘Posse’ is coming off an impressive Claiming Crown Jewel score at Gulfstream last out, so an 8-5 early line is deserved.

But his next win on the winter track will be his first in five starts and he’s turning back off five 9-furlong routes to a trip at which he’s a modest 1-for-6 lifetime. Kid Cruz (2-1) is as fast as the favorite on the Thoro-Graph scale but has not put the winning effort together since July, 2014.

Responding to several suggestions, we’re tweaking the BETTABLES format [includes early line odds]:

PROJECTIONS:
POST TIME FAVORITE: Royal Posse
WINNER: Royal Posse
VALUE: Majestic Affair (4-1)
EXOTICA: Day of Fury (8-1)


GOLDEN GATE FIELDS CALIFORNIA DERBY 1-1/16 MILES (AW)


So, can these 3-year-olds be successful on the main track? Some. Handle added distance? Some. Serious divisional contenders? Doubtful.

There are two close favorites on the early line; the Hollendorfer-trained Allaboutaction (5-2) and Doug O’Neill’s Frank Conversation (2-1). So what goes on the way to the graded El Camino Real? See there are a couple of speed types and stretch-outs so pace should be solid, befitting the late-run synthetics dynamic. The race shape suits Mana Strike.

PROJECTED FAVORITE: Frank Conversation
WINNER: Frank Conversation
VALUE: Mana Strike (4-1)
EXOTICA: Canada (6-1)


SANTA ANITA PARK G2 LA CANADA 1-1/16 MILES

A very tricky read. Will the speed of Yahilwa on paper each with a conflicting style: The speed of Taris (2-1) and Yahilwa (5-2) vs the kick of Birdatthewire (3-1).

The trick is knowing which speed filly will be in front; the fresh Yahilwa, drawn inside Taris, rates to get the lead. Further, the latter’s never been this far but is being taught to relax and it’s working; she also has plenty of bottom-side route pedigree.

Birdatthewire was a value play for us in the G1 La Brea and she came with a huge late run, showing an affinity for the surface in her SA debut. But there’s the 3,000 mile ship, the big effort and short rest. Dynamics suit her, so price will indicate her bettability.

PROJECTED FAVORITE: Taris
WINNER: Taris
VALUE: Birdatthewire
EXOTIC TOTE BUSTER: Honey Ride (12-1)


FAIR GROUNDS SILVERBULLETDAY STAKES 1 MILE-70 YARDS

There’s a filly we’re very impressed with, but taking a short price on Stageplay (8-5) from her outside slip is problematical.

After two impressive wins to begin her career, she was an excellent tough trip sloppy-track second to the extremely promising Carina Mia. Curlin filly is a natural two-turn performer given her style and pedigree, Bullet work and Geroux seals the deal.

PROJECTED FAVORITE: Stageplay
WINNER: Stageplay
VALUE: None
EXOTICA: Annabelle (8-1), More Than Most (6-1)

G3 LE COMTE 1 MILE-70 YARDS

Now this is an interesting bunch with several owning classics potential. Early line favorite Mo Tom (7-2) is a good colt. After winning Churchill’s Street Sense in visually impressive style, he came from 12th to finish third in the sloppy G2 Jockey Club Stakes.

Working brilliantly for his second start for Tom Amoss and reuniting with Corey Lanerie, he will be a very tough out in this spot. Fish Trappe Road (6-1) and Uncle Walter (6-1) are worthy rivals each getting six pounds from the logical favorite.

Should Tom’s Ready (5-1) draw in from the also-eligibles, he belongs in exactas given common opponent Mo Tom.

Pinnacle Peak (8-1) won its FG debut for the hot Michael Stidham after getting Geroux last out and Tiznoble’s (10-1) future may be on turf, but talented Joe Sharp trainee won a recent off-turfer here on a sealed, good track.

PROJECTED FAVORITE: Mo Tom
WINNER: Mo Tom
VALUE: Uncle Walter
EXOTICA: Fish Trappe Road


GULFSTREAM PARK SUNSHINE MILLIONS F & M TURF STAKES 1-1/16 MILES


Marty Wolfson-trained turf mare Lori’s Store (2-1) is a six-time winner on grass, three at Gulfstream, and most recently was a good, late-finish third from a wide draw at 7-1/2 furlongs to Tuttipaesi, a good second subsequently in last weekend’s G3 Marshua’s River.

Added ground, a switch to Johnny and a strong work for this—a half-mile breeze around the dogs in 47 3/5 at GP; seventh fastest of 135 members in her peer group this week.

PROJECTED FAVORITE: Lori’s Store
WINNER: Lori’s Store
VALUE: Unbridled Courage (4-1)
EXOTICA: Pink Poppy (6-1)

SUNSHINE MILLIONS CLASSIC 1-1/8 MILES

Extremely competitive, as we left six of the 10 starters open. Five appear obviously pointed to this: Sr Quisqueyano (4-1), third off a layup for Peter Walder (34%); Mr. Jordan (7-2), back in a week following a G3 Hal’s Hope non-effort and Mexicoma (9-2), with ideal spacing and much improved in the Dilger barn.

And there’s Saraguaro (5-1), reserved for this and seeking third straight beneath Eddie Castro and Catholic Cowboy (12-1), the Claiming Crown Jewel winner here last winter. Might as well include Walder’s second entrant, the extremely sharp Runs With Bulls (6-1), as well.

PROJECTED FAVORITE: Mexikoma
WINNER: Mexikoma
VALUE: Saraguaro
EXOTIC TOTE BUSTER: Catholic Cowboy


Written by John Pricci

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Friday, January 08, 2016


Lots to Analyze on Stakes Schedule this Weekend


EXCLUSIVE to 123GAMING.COM reprinted via promotional consideration

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., January 8, 2016—Next weekend, the industry will be handing out racing’s ultimate honor in recognition of recent achievement and historical context.

This weekend, however, tracks will distribute significant pieces of hardware from coast to coast to winners of three graded stakes in South Florida, two in Southern California, notwithstanding several grade-quality fields masquerading as listed stakes.

El Nino may have a significant effect on how things will shake out in the West while in the Southwest the forecast is favorable--a good thing considering two of the three graded offerings at Gulfstream Park are scheduled on turf.

The other matches Mshawish (8-5) vs. Matrooh (9-5), and a likely supporting cast, in the G3 Hal’s Hope; think Donn prep here.

The big story, of course, is the return of 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome (4-5) in the G2 San Pascual sans Dortmund but with Hoppertunity (5-2) in the role of obligatory Bob Baffert trainee.

Three-year-olds out West will start their distance programs with the G3 Sham while five hours north of Hallandale via Alligator Alley, turf sprinters will do their thing in the Turf Dash at Tampa Bay.

New York’s Interborough for older filly and mare sprinters features the season’s debut of 2015 F & M Sprint finalist La Verdad (1/1). Let’s take a deeper look:

AQUEDUCT INTERBOROUGH STAKES 6 FURLONGS


So, what to do with La Verdad? Flat vs. males in the Fall Highweight coming off an enervating BC Sprint placing, is the brief freshening since and class relief enough to get her back in top form? Consider the upcoming Barbara Fritchie is the career-ending target.

I don’t have an answer here and am not that curious given the early line odds. Four of the remaining six fillies have a chance to upset.

BETTABLES:
Won’t know which way to go until opening odds are posted. Room for Me (5-2), the second fastest filly on the Thoro-Graph and Pricci Energy scales, is the logical danger. But two slower price shots intrigue: Willet (12-1), 3-for-4 on the winter track and a remarkable (12) 7-3-2 at the trip; and forward-marching Dancing House (8-1), 3-for-5 including a nose defeat since adding Lasix, is returning for Kiaran McLaughlin, 25% profitable with 90-days+ returnees.


TAMPA BAY DOWNS TURF DASH 5 FURLONGS TURF


Successful runners in these races have one thing in common: They are specialists. Four of the 10 entrants; Power Alert (5-2), filly Richies Sweetheart (5-1), Beantown Saint (6-1) and Successful Native (6-1) are a combined 18-for-30 lifetime. Considering all the trips and traps in large fields, that’s quite an accomplishment.

Having said that, Power Alert (5-2) is a solid favorite--not despite the layoff but because of it. His career best effort on the Thoro-Graph scale came following a 268-day layup.

The gelded 6-year-old is 2-for-2 fresh, a graded winner getting class relief, has versatility and top connections; owner-trainer Brian Lynch and Tampa leading rider, the gifted Antonio Gallardo.

BETTABLES:
We think Power Alert is any price to key this and will include two of the three above, ‘Beantown’ and ‘Successful’, in exactas. We are desperate to get significantly slower Gallery (20-1) into the number. In his lone turf sprint, Saratoga’s Quick Call, he chased an extremely fast pace while racing very wide, was in contention at headstretch and battled gamely until tiring in the final sixteenth. He turns back off a series of routes for Michael Dini, profitable when going route to sprint.


GULFSTREAM PARK G3 MARSHUA’S DANCER 1-1/16 MILES TURF


I’ll see your Pletcher and raise you a Clement, a Mott, Matz and two Browns. In other words, this is a beauty--a stepping stone to bigger and better for sure--but still a graded opportunity for one of the nine entrants, three MTOs notwithstanding.

Todd Pletcher’s Sandiva (9-5) that will take a whole lot of beating. Pole sitting with tactical speed and Javier, newly turned 5-year-old has been working bullets at the deep Palm Beach training center, is graded placed thrice including a win, and returns with excellent spacing to a course over which she’s (3) 2-1-0 lifetime.

BETTABLES: While there are some very capable mares in here, we can’t get past the fave. We’re looking at three exotics players: Partisan Politics (4-1) returning for Chad Brown and profitable with this spacing; Tuttipaesi (6-1), a sharp prep winner stretching to her optimal distance [2-for-2], and price shot A Little Bit Sassy (15-1), who developed late last year and working strongly at Palm Meadows for her return.


G2 FORT LAUDERDALE 1-1/16 MILES TURF


While some undoubtedly are using this race as a first stop to the G1 GP Turf Handicap, it’s an important South Florida fixture and a coveted prize.

Lochte (3-1) is one of those rags-to-riches trainees for Marcus Vitali, who this time named Javier Castellano to ride at time of entry.

The course lover has won six of 11 starts and his recent 3F Palm Meadows blowout was the fastest of the week. He’s pole sitting and is ready to rock but will have to be. This 11-horse scrum is highly competitive. The problem is the alternatives are hard to separate.

BETTABLES: Lochte rates strongly to win this despite the 123-pound assignment. After that, we’re considering possible upsetters War Correspondent (4-1), a course lover training steadily for Christophe Clement at Payson Park since early November and “now horse” Heart to Heart (6-1), a four-time graded winner as a 2015 4YO and breezing well for Brian Lynch at PMM. He’s 3-for-4 beneath Leparoux who re-rides here.


SANTA ANITA PARK G3 SHAM STAKES 3YOs 1 MILE

Three of the eight entrants expected to attract most of the parimutuel support have compelling records; the issue is those triumphs came on turf, not over anticipated-sloppy two-turn dirt. What to do?

Good question: Three of the runners are Doug O’Neill’s, two are Bob Baffert’s, and another comes via Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer. Even without unknown conditions, we’d have left five of the nine open. Consider:

Rare Candy, very well bred for wet, made one start on dirt, beaten 7 lengths by presumptive champion Nyquist. That’s worthy of respect in today’s Grade 3. Dressed in Hermes impressed on Del Mar turf and has enough wet-track pedigree and Mike Smith.

There’s Found Money, 1-for-1 at the trip and 2-for-2 on the strip; I’malreadythere, twice graded placed on dirt, including the G1 Los Alamitos Futurity behind Mor Spirit; and Baffert’s pair of Collected, second to ‘Hermes’ in the grassy G3 DeMille, and Let’s Meet in Rio, who jumped up first time going long and has two-sided wet breeding.

BETTABLES:
A pair of 6-1 shots are interesting as potential win plays; Rare Candy and recent maiden breaker Let’s Meet in Rio, the “other” Baffert. We’re most likely to go there since the Flatter colt jumped up first-time long at Los Al. Probably prudent to complete exacta box with Baffert early favorite Collected (3-1). Price is a big win key here.


Grade 2 SAN PASCUAL STAKES 1-1/16 MILES


Expectations are high that the track will be under water by late afternoon according to Racing Secretary Rick Hammerle Thursday morning.

As the world knows, California Chrome is an extremely popular dual classics Horse of the Year champion making his first start since last year’s Dubai World Cup and who’s never run on a wet track.

But he trained well on it said straight-shooting Art Sherman and we’re taking that to the bank. If you haven’t viewed it yet; find his most recent workout at Santa Anita; six furlongs in 1:10.03 with a strong gallop out.

If this is as advertised, a prep for a return to Dubai, it needs to be a strong effort to go against the world’s best at 10 furlongs off a single race. He’ll probably be 80-90% fit but the plus is handled Meydan dirt very well. He has a strong wet pedigree and may be controlling speed.

BETTABLES
: If he handles the conditions, this one could be over early with the classy returnee setting or stalking the pace and in control. Because of the unknown and the layup, early line 4-5 odds may be available ante post; those are fair odds. Exacta possibilities are obviously Hoppertunity (5-2) and two price shots; strong-working slop winner Point Piper (10-1) and successful wet-tracker Mystery Train (30-1) getting Mike Smith.

Reprinted via special promotional arrangement with 123GAMING.com

Written by John Pricci

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