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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Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Shut It Down Now


SOUTH OZONE PARK, NY, Feb. 5, 2008--Its easy for me to say; my family wouldnt be directly effected. There are still plenty of other tracks to bet on, a few that are a lot more interesting this time of year. And neither do I have to worry about paying my bills for the whole year by virtue of what happens the next two months. But this madness must all end. Shut it down.

If I were NYRA's Charlie Hayward, Id pick up a stick, find a piece of unfrozen earth and draw a line that figuratively says after five years and two mini-extensions of waiting, I can no longer ask my employees and my constituents, the horsemen, to go on indefinitely waiting for some imaginary shoe to drop. So I have to shut it down now.

I dont know for certain what was in the first draft of a bill put forth by the governor last weekend for parties to reach an accord on the New York racing franchise. But if theres no agreement, it wont matter anyway. The status quo holds. So just shut it down.

Theres one elephant left standing in the room and hes going to hang on to the only thing he has left: power. And its too bad, too, because he has been a force for so much good. But the respect and good will he earned is gone. How Sen. Joe Bruno handled his role in this franchise intransigency will be his legacy, the way Iraq and the economy is George Bushs. So it really doesnt matter. Shut it down now.

People working behind the scenes at Aqueduct deserve to know their fate and they need to know it now. So do the horseman. The money New York State advanced the NYRA so that it could finish out 2007 is almost all gone. The doors are going to have to be shut soon anyway so why not put an end to the agony? Shut it down now.

It costs about $40,000 a week to keep one of the downstate tracks open as a training facility. You need to pay for security and maintenance. Theres the matter of timing the workouts and the ambulance drivers that lie in wait hoping never to hear the siren that signals loose horse. When horses are loose, something bad did or is about to happen. But why worry about all this when you dont know if youll need yet another extension. So just shut it down now.

If the NYRA stretched themselves to the max, they could keep one of the tracks open for training for about two weeks, tops. Horsemen need time now to make alternative plans if necessary. Backstretch workers need time to find the unemployment office, possibly another place to live. Winter training powerhouse Gary Contessa is up to 120 horses, but he also has 93 people on his payroll. They need to know what theyre going to be doing, where they might be a month from now. By shutting it down next week, they could make other plans.

Whether their claim is valid or not, its time for NYRA to play the land card. Its time to figuratively ask the state whether it wants to fight it out in bankruptcy court? Whether it really wants to roll the dice. Clearly the governor didnt or there never would have been a Memorandum of Understanding. Sometimes funny things happen when you go in front of a jury, Eliot Spitzer said in the Saratoga press box last summer. He ought to know.

The state never would allow [the tracks to close], said one fan, Jerome G., on the Aqueduct clubhouse apron Saturday. It means too much money. The state cant afford it. Youd think Jerome would know better, as if logic had anything to do with this.

VLTs were approved five years ago. So what? Let them go to Yonkers.

Im not the biggest NYRA fan but its a joke what those Albany politicians have been doing about this whole thing, said Tony S., picking his head up out of the past performances long enough to answer. This used to be a great place he said, his voice trailing off indicating there was nothing left to say. Horseplayers may be crazy but theyre not stupid.

Incredibly, at this late date, reportedly there are only two issues holding this whole thing up--and its not a casino at Belmont Park. Its about the composition of the Board of Directors and the term of a franchise extension. Those are Bruno power issues that have little or nothing to do with preserving New York as the countrys preeminent racing center, as he claims his goal to be.

But Brunos not sweating anything. He told the Schenectady Gazette as much last week. No NYRA? No problem. The state will just come in and run everything, with or without the help of his friends at Capital Play. But thats only if NYRA happily hands over the keys to the kingdom. So lets find out. Lets see who blinks. But to make that happen you first have to shut the whole thing down.


Written by John Pricci

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Monday, February 04, 2008


Notes From a Super Party


GLEN COVE, NY--Feb. 3, 2008

I get as emotional as the next guy at national events; Kentucky Derby, World Series, Super Bowl. A sense of patriotism kind of takes over. But maybe because my government has been playing on my fears for the last eight years, instead of my better nature, Ive become a little cynical. So the over-produced prelude to the game made it seem like Fox was trying too hard.

Giants come out of tunnel dressed in white, old school road whites. Good karma, I thought. But then the pants should be blue, not silver, right? Go Silver? That aint right.

Out come the Patriots. Brady deadly serious. Kick-ass serious. Then he snaps his helmet over his head. Pretty dramatic, pretty cool.

Artists send message as teams take the field. Kanye Nobody Can Do It Better Than Me West under the Giants. Ozzie Osbourne attitude under the Patriots. Pop culture scene set. Good.

Anesthesia on. Microsoft voice commands for Ford vehicles. Pretty clever. Grade: B.

A true patriotic moment. Jordan Sparks, with one of the best versions of our national anthem, nails it. Still shots of servicemen in uniform. Emotional, effective, perspective making.

Plaxico key third down reception. (Wouldnt have another catch until the winning touchdown in the final minute).

Nixon key third down reception. Giants may be outplaying this perfect team.

Audi-Godfather spot. Grade: A.

Giants 3-0. Were not going to beat these guys with field goals.

Nine-minute drive by NY. Parcells is having a pina colada and smiling.

Giants take flag while making bad defensive play, key to 7-3 N.E. lead. Cant make mistakes and beat these guys.

7-3 at half. What did Plaxico know that the rest of the world didnt?

First big key in my mind: Bradshaw stealing the ball back after apparently fumbling it away. Go Mo!

Middle wide open for N.E. start of second half. Probably been open all night. The price you pay for taking Moss away.

Shaq, the jockey, wins photo on Chuck Of Love! Power Ade, take a bow, youre the frontrunner in HRI Ad Derby.

Awfully long time before Belicheat throws red challenge flag. For what, 12th man on the field? Looked half inconclusive to me. Pats keep drive alive on technicality. No justice; no peace.

Belicheat goes for it on 4th and 13?! With this much time remaining? Is he panicking? Does he know the same thing Plaxico knows?

E*Trade kid spit up? Thats it: Grade A. Best of the night.

Welker saved Brady on 2nd & 15 from their own five. Welker having great night.

Coca Cola spot, with Baby Stewie from Family Guy? Excellent visual.

Eli playing the 4th quarter like hes played every fourth quarter for the past month. Good execution. No costly mistakes.

David Tyreeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

E*Trade kid getting creeped out by the clown? Thats it! Retire the trophy. They win easily in what had been to that point uninspiring spots. Advertisers clearly make half-time adjustments work.

Eli having problems throwing the fade virtually all season, lofts beauty to Plaxico.

17-14: Plaxico gets score right. Broadway Burress. What, 23-17? So what? Under is under. And it still took TV an hour to mention it after it was pre-game storyline for almost two weeks. Hello?

Best quote from Foxs McAfee: This is the one Super Bowl loser youll remember. Wish I thought of that.

The Giants must go to coordinator Spagnuolo, convince him that we can build something here, throw money at him, convince him to stay, tell him when Tom retires, the job is his.

Came up with fun headline last week in the event of an unlikely Giants victory: 18--WON.

Heres another: Destiny 17-Dynasty 14.


Written by John Pricci

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Sunday, February 03, 2008


A Not So Super Bet


Its Super Bowl Sunday and, as Andrew Beyer once wrote, we all have a patriotic duty to bet the big game.

I think the Giants can win. But todays rival is not the same-division Cowboys, nor are they a Packers squad that were just as much a surprise to be in the NFC title game as the Giants were back in September.

But footballs take funny bounces.

While in Las Vegas last week, I had a chance to bet the game. Legally. But taking 3.5-to-1 on my money straight-up didnt seem prudent. Even if I set my personal over-under of 2.5--the number I think would attract money on both sides based on how many times I think the Giants can beat the Patriots if they played 10 games.

Of course, no ones beaten those cheaters yet, so I could be wrong about that. Then why not take the 12? Because I really cant read the game.

Even though youve taken the time to visit this web-site, I figure youre probably interested in how Super Bowl XLII might turn out.

[Ed. Note: The good Sisters of St. Joseph drilled those roman numerals into my brain so that I knew that to get to 40, you start with 50 and subtract 10. Dont know why I still know that. Must be an Italian thing].

Unlike thoroughbred racing, everybody who has seen one NFL game is an instant expert. And everyone agrees on what the Giants must do to win: Shrink the game, run the football, harass Brady, and score a lot of points. Youll probably see this again on a graphic around 6:12 this evening.

The one thing I do know is that this will be no 13-10 yawner. But thats all I know. This is a tough read, like I said. Most Super Bowl historical trends favor the Patriots. Most recent betting trends favor the other side.

Normally, recent trends are more dependable. But theres something about this game that heavily favors those teams that have been there. And have won.

No team is hotter than the Giants, given their road playoff run and record 10-game road win streak. As you would expect, they went 9-1 against the spread on the road this year.

Despite remaining perfect, the Pats are a tale of two seasons if efficiency is the measure. They won their first eight games by an average margin of 25.5 points, covering all. Since then theyve been on a 2-8 slide, including the playoffs.

In postseason games, Bill Belicheat is a perfect 12-0 straight up when his team is favored. His 15-3 SU post season mark is an ordinary 9-8-1 ATS.

On the other sideline, Tom Coughlin owns a 6-2 mark ATS as a dog of 11 or more, and a very worthy 9-4-2 ATS against undefeated teams.

Now Im old enough to recall Lombardis Packers, Landrys Cowboys, Nolls Steelers and Walshs Niners. Legitimate dynasties all. But Im not sure any of them were as complete as this current New England group fashioned by this great coach.

And I also remember Starr and Stauback and Bradshaw and Montana, too. Throw in Marino and Im still not sure any could match the skill sets of Tom Brady.

I can see the Giants pulling off a monumental upset; I can see them getting blown out. So Im going to root like hell, enjoy the party, and the new commercial spots. I suggest that you do the same. Go Blue!


Written by John Pricci

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