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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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

And Now, from the World of Sports…

Last week in this space, we reprinted Dr. Steven Roman's long goodbye to Thoroughbred Racing.

It started a dialogue--not always on message but useful for conveying a worthwhile theme--inspired thoughts from the messenger himself.

I've done a little work in front of television cameras in my life so I think I know a little about the medium.

What I think I know from what you're about to read appears not to be something that Dale Hanson, sports reporter for WFAA in Dallas, scripted and read off a teleprompter. He appeared to be speaking extemporaneously.

Considering the dispassionate manner in which he described what it was like to be working last Thursday night in Dallas when all hell broke loose in the most vicious, calculating way, Hanson deserves an Emmy for his instant, no-time-to-mull-it-over commentary.

This is not meant to be a slight on the subject matter; quite the opposite, in fact. It is meant to shine a light on current day life, on what we have come to expect, how we react to tragic news in this country.

There is an underlying message to all of us here. All Americans across this already great country have lost their way, myself among them.

Maybe what's been happening is all the karma being paid for strapping black men and women below decks in cargo holds 300 years ago to do the bidding of people with money looking for the cheapest labor possible.

If you think this is reprint from the news station's website is borne from some notion of "white guilt," that would be the wrong takeaway. If any guilt is involved--and there's plenty of that to go around--it is guilt about the human condition.

Sports are like a candy store on a block full of commercial buildings, a tonic providing entertainment and escape following a hard day's work.

If it's escapism you seek in this space, the next installment will be an all-entrants analysis of Saturday's Late Pick 4 at Belmont Park to be posted Friday.

If, however, it's food for thought that helps in some small way to consider what life in America has become for all of us then, please, read on...

The following is a transcript from Hanson's late sports report in Dallas, Thursday, July 9:

"The Rangers are losing tonight and I'm almost embarrassed to tell you that I know that...

"I'm in my office, watching the game, and then all hell breaks loose in our city. Reporters in our newsroom were scrambling. Producers were yelling. We turned off the lights, just in case... and I kept watching the game.

"It was another shooting in America. It was in our city this time and police officers were being killed, but it was a couple of blocks away and the Rangers were being shut out.This is what I have become.

"This is what too many of us have been for a long time now. We'll fly our flags at half-mast, we'll say all the right things, we'll make promises we won't keep, and then, nothing will change. Our lives will go on, while the lives of so many others won't because we expect it now, and we accept it.

"It wasn't this way when I was a boy, but it is life in America now. Shooting a police officer is not the answer to a problem that too many people deny: Police officers are not like you and me -- they're better.

"They run into the darkened alley where we won't go. They run into the buildings we run from. They look for the person we try to hide from.

"But they're not allowed to make the human mistakes that we all make because they have the power of God strapped to their hip and the authority to use it.

"When we talk about blindly supporting the blue and when we try to show our support for these brave men and women, we fail to realize we can't defend them all and we shouldn't defend them all.

"A white man in America doesn't die for selling cigarettes on a street corner, he gets a ticket. A white man in America doesn't die for driving with a broken tail light, he gets a ticket, too. And the officers who abuse the badge and the power they have should be punished, but too many times they are not.

"But what possible purpose does opening fire on the streets of Dallas do to right the wrongs too many people deal with every day? As one of those on the city streets last night told a reporter, the shooter might have killed the good cops.

"A person of color has always hated to be painted with a broad brush -- to suffer the indignity of the stereotype so many people claim as fact. And then that killer last night did exactly the same thing -- shooting at anyone in blue, because don't we all really know, they're all the same?

"America's problem has come to Dallas now and our lieutenant governor blames the peaceful protestors, because our lieutenant governor is a fool.

"It was not just an attack on the Dallas police, it was an attack on our basic humanity and the common decency we used to cherish in America. But that's all gone now -- we lost that a long time ago.

"The Rangers lost Thursday night, 10 to 1. And I'm almost embarrassed to tell you I know that.

Written by John Pricci

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Stars N’ Stripes: Shippers, New York-Breds, Grassy Euros and Return of a Turf Multi-Millionaire

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., July 10, 2016—It was a fast start to Saturday’s all graded stakes Stars N’ Stripes Pick 6 program but Joe Talamo made it harder than it needed to be for undefeated Coppa to get the proceedings underway.

The normally aggressive SoCal-based rider nearly rated his undefeated 3-year-old into submission, but clearly all’s well that ends, and at the finish it was trainer Phil D’Amato‘s SoCal-based filly holding sway in the Grade 3 Victory Ride.

Making her third lifetime start, all at the hybrid distance of 6-1/2 furlongs, Talamo allowed anyone who wanted the lead bad enough to have it, rating Coppa four across the track throughout, never moving a muscle until headstretch.

When he did, the filly showed her class, going from a pull to a drive to get there, holding off two deep-stretch challengers, one on each side. Talamo needed to resort to a strong left-handed stick to get his job done.

The surmise is that D’Amato learned what he need to know from these tactics—that Coppa can be rated and that the extra half-furlong of Saratoga’s Grade 1 Test will not be the obstacle that soils her perfect record. Better fillies, maybe, but not the added trip.

Even though the “Belmont Balcony” move was in vogue throughout the program, this is not the easiest way to win over Big Sandy—generally you need to save ground at some point. But Coppa was that good, justifying Talamo’s arguable overconfidence.

“I've been working her a lot in the morning and I definitely got to know her, where she'll sit just off horses pretty nice,” explained Talamo. “She showed her class today in running on a new track,” said assistant trainer Chris Davis. It was a lot to ask and she exceeded all the expectations."

The 3-year-old theme continued in the Grade 3 Dwyer next which, considering the $500,000 purse, didn’t draw a proven top-tier sophomore and as it turned out, the promising Economic Model did not live up to his advance notices.

Instead, the Dwyer produced the second top performance of the day by a New York bred in open company—taking some of the sting out of Economic Model’s disappointing effort, a trend that began with Saturday’s lid-lifter.

In the opener, restaurateur/breeder Louis Lazzinnaro’s Bobby On Fleek made a most auspicious debut, handling open special-weight juveniles with total authority. The Frost Giant chestnut stalked comfortably from third, took a clear lead at headstretch and drew off quickly in 1:10.78, a snappy final quarter-mile in 24.37 and the cherry on top.

Bobby On Fleek is named for the late Bobby Frankel, good friend of Lazzinnaro and, of course, winning trainer Chad Brown’s mentor. The victory surprised no one. Opening at 6-5, he remained the favorite throughout the betting and eventually paid $4.40 to win.

The owner, whose Nove restaurant is a popular Saratoga dining spot, will have a little something extra to look forward to when the world’s best sustained race meet opens on July 22.

And so might hard-boot horse trainer Bret Calhoun, who’s Fish Trappe Road made it two straight for the out-of-towners vs. the local talent and was the second Empire-bred winner of the afternoon under thoughtful handling from Luis Saez.

After a second in the Woody Stephens on Belmont Day, Fish Trappe Road got his first graded win, improving his local slate to (3) 2-1-0 and he might now be ready to stretch out further.

“I don't know if we're going to stretch him out in the Jim Dandy,” said Calhoun post-race. “We'll possibly look at the King's Bishop [7-furlong Grade 1, Aug. 27].

Chad Brown, trainer of beaten favorite Economic Model, thought the trip made all the difference. “Irad [Ortiz] said he wasn't comfortable inside, I wish he could have got him out. Saez rode a smart race and stayed in the clear. We were hemmed in the whole way.”

As expected, Aidan O’Brien’s Deauville, first-Lasix, showed his class, on the pace throughout the 10 furlong Belmont Derby and gamely withstanding a furious late run from Highland Sky who made a career best run, nearly getting there.

T.J. Comerford, assistant to trainer Aidan O'Brien, noted “the just worked out a little better for the winner. He finished stronger, had a good setup and was left with plenty of run. The best horse won and he gave a great effort."

Highland Sky has one of these with his name on it down the line. “He likes to come from behind and it's hard on him,” said Barclay Tagg. “You need a lot of luck as you have to get around 13 horses. It's nobody's fault, it's just the way he's made and the way it works."

Saratoga, here we come.

Finally, the locals got one of the graded events, running 1-2 in the Suburban with rebounding Effinex in the final strides over the very game runnerup, Samraat, New York breds completing their own exacta. Mike Smith rode perfectly, never letting the frontrunner steal off, keeping mile pressure on throughout the mile and a quarter.

“Mike never let me go more than one or two lengths in front of him. He sat right there, half a length behind me the whole way. I got beat by a nice horse but I'm glad to see Samraat back in form.”

Winning trainer Jimmy Jerkens was more reflective: "I always loved this race. When I was a little kid my father [late Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens] won this race a bunch of times with Beau Purple. He used to love to run in it any chance he could. He was a New York guy and those New York handicap races always meant a lot to him, and to me too.”

O’Brien, Spencer and first-Lasix Coolmore tried to sweep the million-dollar turf routes, also from wide berth #13, but settled for place after Catch a Glimpse, perfectly rated by Florent Geroux, had enough to get a 10th furlong, taking the Belmont Oaks and improving her turf slate to 8-for-8, ship-ins getting the money once again.

“She was the quickest of the race so it's not like I had an outside post with a horse with no speed,” said Geroux. Speed is always dangerous no matter what the distance.”

“The mile and a quarter was a legitimate concern,” admitted assistant Norm Casse. “But this filly, any time another horse comes to her, she finds another gear, and she rewarded our confidence today.” As to her next start? “It’s always race to race with her.”

Finally--oh the indignities—A.P. Indian, by way of Philadelphia, scooted up the inside beneath Joe Bravo, withstanding the sustained stretch run of Marking who finally ran to his ability but was unable to handle the final winning shipper of the afternoon.

“Horses like this make our job so easy,” said Bravo. “He breaks from the gate with control, relaxes, turns off and breathes underneath me so comfortably that all you have to know is when to pull the trigger.” Trainer Arnaud Delacour may now start looking for bigger game.

“Going forward I'll definitely take a look at the races at Saratoga and we'll keep our options open,” said Arnaud. “Joe did a great job keeping him covered up and he extended away in the stretch.”

It was proven once again that the best horses attract the best handle. Last week’s routine Saturday 10-race program featuring the listed Perfect Sting, the Grade 1 Acorn*, but with smaller fields overall, handled $1.7 million on track, $10.4M off track.

By comparison yesterday’s 11-race program with six graded stakes attracted nearly $2.9M at Belmont Park and just over $20M at simulcast venues.

Whether the track makes money given purse expenditures is not the point when it comes to betting. Overwhelmingly, bigger fields, lured by bigger purses and better horses, results in bigger handle—a lot bigger.

Locally, jockey Tyler Gaffalione continued his hot start to the summer meet, riding five winners on Saturday’s 12-race program. “The trainers all brought their horses over here ready to run today, deferring the credit. “They did a great job preparing them to run, I have to give them all the credit.” Gaffalione has ridden 13 winners on the first seven programs.

Little Mike, after a two year absence, is back in action today. “A lot of people are rooting for him,” said owner/trainer Carlo Vaccarezza. The 9-year-old has bankrolled $3.5 the hard way--a turf winning front-runner.

Said Vaccarezza: “Every time that we put the tack on him, he knows it means business. Just to bring him to the track we’ve had to take him with the pony, just to calm him down. His competitive edge and the fire in his eyes are still there.”

Little Mike is the pole sitter vs. six rivals in today’s seventh race and was made the 6-5 early favorite by Gulfstream linemaker Jay Stone. While the group is softer than he used to, the race is no gimme’.

* correction made 071116 2:49 pm

Written by John Pricci

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Friday, July 08, 2016

All-Entrants Thumbnails of Stars & Stripes Late Pick 4 at Belmont


By John Pricci, exclusively for

Comments from July 2 PICK 4 on GP winners and notable money finishers

RACE 10: 1-Delta Bluesman (5-2) is the latest Navarro miracle. Seeking third straight and will be very tough out if runs back to either of last two; layover figures on the Pricci Energy Rating scale (won, $5.00). 3-Limousine Liberal (2-1), still seeking first graded win, has been highly competitive in graded company. Worthy (5) 2-2-0 slate at the trip but lacks Gulfstream experience; mixed signals (2nd, $10.20 exacta).

RACE 11: 7-Doctor J Dub (15-1) battled on the pace in overnighter won by ‘Successful’ before tiring then given conditioner going longer with blinkers off in last. Back to sensible trip with blinkers back on switching to Gaffalione (won, 58.00). 8-Daring Kathy (7-2) is meeting males for second straight time after finishing second in the Bonita last out. Stakes-toughened 5YO fits the dynamics and is very worthy (6) 3-1-0 on this course. Well spotted, Cornelio sticks, poised for forward move; main danger (2nd, 223.40 exacta).

RACE 12: 7-Spelling Again (3-1) ships south for upper trainer Cox, profitable in graded stakes and with ship-ins, including (3) 1-1-0 slate this meet. Grade 2 winner was good third two back in G2 Ruffian behind freaking Cavorting--repeated in G1 Phipps beneath L Saez, taking a return call here (won, 8.80). 1-Cali Star (9-2), clearly pointed to this, is very well suited to dynamics—one turn mid-distance sprint, comes into this off a series of bullets for Wolfson, 25% effective with his beaten favorites. Cornelio batting 22% since returning to SoFla (2nd, 42.00 exacta).

RACE 13: 2-Sweetontheladies (15-1) is going off mixed signals here with steady workline for 18% debut sire but barn is 1-for-21 with its recent newcomers (won, 20.80). 3-Hidden Journey (4-1) earned competitive first-out PER, continuing gamely for third following wide rally. But pedigree on the light side and barn 0-for-46 thus far in 2016. Tough read for us (2nd, 131.20 exacta).


1-TOUGHEST ‘OMBRE (30-1) could not handle listed stakes runners in last two and not particularly well bred for added distance; will try trip-sitting here.
2-RALIS (20-1) potential sneaky price play following bold too late finish vs. listed SoCal stakes rivals and bred bottom side for the trip; Gutierrez flying in for O’Neill and will need good trip to have any chance with this group.
3-APPLICATOR (50-1) set slow pace to beat weaker on sun-baked GP course last time out; highly unlikely here despite career best Thoro-Graph figure.
4-HIGHLAND SKY (8-1) has never failed to fire in deep stretch and narrowly missed with strong finish in G3 Pennine Ridge prep for this; added distance might not suit as pedigree a little light for the trip.
5-SURGICAL STRIKE (15-1) showed marked improvement adding blinkers to win G3 Arlington Classic last out; very consistent on grass this year, coming from strong turf family, and attracts Leading rider Ortiz. Value on early line or greater.
6-CAMELOT KITTEN (5-1) is 2-for-2 on this course without defeat since Chad added blinkers, and has won three races with Irad in the boot. Has excellent kick and experience in large fields.
7-LONG ISLAND SOUND (7-2) Euros usually have our turf runners over a barrel and this one comes in off third in Ascot Group 3 debut behind recent repeater winner. Aidan O’Brien has success with runners shipping on short rest and adds Lasix, per usual.
8-AIROFORCE (10-1) showed shades of former self with excellent, troubled placing behind undefeated filly stablemate Catch a Glimpse in G3 Penn Mile. Owns highly competitive Pricci Energy Ratings for the group but this is a completely different ballgame.
9-BEACH PATROL (12-1) raced dully in that same race making Eastern debut for D’Amato now makes second start for Chad. Owns top PERs from SA and bred both sides for added ground; improvement expected.
10-HUMPHREY BOGART (10-1) exits a pair of tough Group events over there, regular rider comes with the package and trainer Hernon adding first-Lasix. Distance is not an issue.
11-AQUAPHOBIA (20-1) validated our May 21 Pimlico trip notes “flying finish 4-path fastest of all!” with routine Delaware prep wide-rally score first-time Bravo, re-riding here. Not sure he’s of this class but retains lots of upside potential; excellent value on early line.
12-CALL PROVISION (10-1) tall order even for a Chad turfer. Finished well for third in Pennine Ridge making stakes debut last out but Saturday only third career start.
13-DEAUVILLE (4-1) is best of the Euros on paper given lots of Group 1 and Group 2 experience in which he was highly competitive with some of Europe’s best 3-year-olds. Jamie Spencer comes with the package, mitigating the draw somewhat, and O’Brien adding first-Lasix, of course.


1-NOBLE BIRD (4-1) stopped after sharing torrid G1 Met Mile pace which followed lifetime best winning G3 Pimlico Special under similar dynamic. Casse runners often rebound off bad runs and might shake loose from inside in one-and-a-half turner.
2-MUBTAAHIJ (7-2) was second to California Chrome in Dubai World Cup last out March 26; class dropping with solid, very unusual workline for Kiaran and 4YO gets Lasix first time in career. Barn 23% profitable with 90-days+ layups.
3-SHAMAN GHOST (5-1) was an impressive winner of G2 Brooklyn in second start for Jimmy Jerkens but turnback from 12 furlongs to 10 a tough transition pace-wise. But JJ is profitable 25% in LAY-3 scenarios and Rosario a perfect fit; 4YO still has upside.
4-EAGLE (5-1) has had a very good 2016 (6) 1-4-1 in top company including G1 placing to tough pro Bradestar in G1 Foster last out; Never fails to fire and is bred both side for stretchout from 9F.
5-EFFINEX (5-2) threw in a bad one in wide trip non-effort as the Foster favorite after solid score over Melatonin in Oaklawn ‘Cap prior; reunites with Smith and highly likely to improve on home grounds and at this trip.
6-TURCO BRAVO (20-1) was a willing second to Shaman Ghost in the Brooklyn without threatening for the win after winning prep prior; facing double-tough task on the turnback.
7-SAMRAAT (12-1) has raced competitively in all three starts off a lengthy layup but gave no indication he’s back to top 3YO form; will be a pace factor reuniting with J Ortiz.
8-TAPIN MOJO (50-1) comes from barn that has had super-surpise packages in the past but a two-year layup winning a $12,500 claimer last out. Aren’t there easier spots than this?


1-SECURE ACCESS (30-1) my trip note from Jun 2 Belmont: “outrun vs. fast pace, p 3 wide big move 3/8s, entered stretch 3 path behind horses, finally angled out and finished well 5 too late! Mile in 1:33 4/5 and bred for longer.” Here it is, Ortiz re-rides, but goes from allowances to G1.
2-DECKED OUT (15-1) has been highly competitive in G2s and G3s at SA this season, taking the G3 three back in fast time over yielding ground, her only win since mid-2015; pedigree light for this trip.
3-PRICEDTIPERFECTION (20-1) looked good winning G3 Sweetest Chant at GP going a mile for Chad, closing quickly in deep stretch after altering course several times; up in class and distance with light pedigree on bottom side.
4-TIME AND MOTION (6-1) is undefeated in three starts at 3 on three disparate courses including today’s. Comes up to added distance the right way, has two-sided route pedigree and Johnny, aboard for the three scores, takes the re-ride. Post and style suits dynamics nicely.
5-NOBLE BEAUTY (20-1) finished well too late for Chad when second in G3 Regret at CD, has two-sided distance pedigree now makes third start off the layup switching to Javier.
6-HARMONIZE (10-1) was very precocious at 2 and has run competitively in all starts at 3 but hasn’t shown development to a large extent. May have moved prematurely when second in Wonder Again prep for this; stable rider Alvarado aloft.
7-BALLYDOYLE (3-1) is Group 1 winner and multiply placed at Group level this year, poorest performance coming over soft ground last out. Hails from strong turf family, bred to run all day and night and, again, O’Brien adding first Lasix. Very worthy favorite.
8-AUNTIE JOY (12-1) won the G3 Regret last time out stretching out to 9F for the first time after setting slow pace. Light pedigree bottom wide for added distance and looms underlay on early line.
9-LAST WALTZ (30-1) raced 10th of 10 most of the way in the Wonder Again, finally got outside after entering the straight, passing seven rivals and getting up for third. Has gone well for Franco, owns long pedigree with money prospects at huge price.
10-LAND OVER SEA (20-1) Fair Grounds Oaks winner has been toughened in G1 and G2 company, including tough-trip Kentucky Oaks placing, after breaking maiden on Del Mar turf last July. Eliminated by rough trip in Black-Eyed Susan and spotted interestingly here. Might prove overlay given grass promise at 2 and certainly bred for the trip.
11-MAGNANIME (10-1) was beaten two lengths in Group 1 at Deauville in May, shipping in fresh and getting first-Lasix and white hot Leparoux, Legitimate dark horse might prove main danger to Euro favorite.
12-CATCH A GLIMPSE (2-1), a Horse to Watch since allowance winning turf debut at 2 and is now 7-for-7 on this surface, including defeat of males in G3 Penn Mile. Has more than enough gas to clear from the outside beneath Geroux, the country’s leading or near-leading 2016 stakes rider. Has excellent PERs and bottom-side distance pedigree.
13-COOLMORE (12-1) is a Group 3 winner and toughened in subsequent Group 1s. Form indicates she will appreciate faster U.S. ground and O’Brien, giving first Lasix, reaches out for first-time Jamie Spencer. Distance not an issue.


1-ANCHOR DOWN (3-1) was extremely game second behind the freaking Frosted in Met Mile following comprehensive open-lengths mile score. Likes Belmont (6) 2-2-0 but 1-for-4 at this trip and coming off enervating effort. Looms underlay on early line.
2-PRIVATE ZONE (2-1) finally makes his long awaited return following Brian Lynch fiasco and has been working bullets for months. Very well suited by conditions; (4) 3-0-1 at BEL and (7) 4-2-0 at the trip. Clearly the class but figures to meet strong early pressure.
3-NUBIN RIDGE (30-1) makes significant class rise, is 0-for-4 at trip and 1-for-6 at BEL; loses Franco but picks up Irad. Still…
4-ROXBURY N OVERTON (20-1) is a talented Parx-based sprinter with four exacta finishes including two wins at this specialized sprint distance; this is tougher than he’s accustomed to but worked bullet at home before shipping in and picking up Rosario. Forward TG pattern; money prospects at a price.
5-A.P. INDIAN (10-1) comes off rapidly run score at the distance at Parx, beating ‘Roxbury’ by 3 open lengths handily. Delacoar is 26% effective in LAY-3 situations and is having a career year—profitable at 29%. Gelded 6YO is 2-for-2 at trip and Bravo re-rides.
6-JOKING (10-1) got a good set-up and brilliant handling from Franco to give Baker his first graded victory. Closing style suits race shape and gelded 7YO loves BEL, given (8) 5-3-0 slate. Good position and has upset chance; potential value play.
7-GREEN GROTTO (15-1) won the G3 Fall Highweight last fall, had excellent winter but has been up against it when pitted against graded rivals. Yet another speed type with no proven affinity at the distance or the surface.
8-READY FOR RYE (8-1) is talented and versatile, well drawn, suited by dynamics, has a win and second in four starts at the trip with a preference for BEL with (4) 2-1-1 slate; Javier sticks and has solid upset credentials.
9-MARKING (4-1) turns back to what might be a perfect distance for his style after chasing the strong Met Mile pace, finishing ahead of six rivals in his first start since disappointing in Dubai’s G2 Godolphin Mile; broke maiden here, bullet at Greentree base and Lezcano on a return call; formidable rival if at tops.

See Saturday's Feature Race Analysis for On-the-Record Selections and at

Written by John Pricci

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