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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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Monday, December 24, 2007


HRI’s New Addition….


Horse Race Insider is proud to welcome Bill Christine to its staff of contributing writers. Christine is HRIs West Coast correspondent covering major California racing issues and events.

Based in Southern California, Bill covered his first Kentucky Derby nearly four decades ago and brings a wealth of experience to his new position, having spent 24 years at the Los Angeles Times.

A dual Eclipse Award winner, Christine has won seven writing awards for his coverage of Triple Crown events and was part of the team coverage that earned the LA Times a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Northridge earthquake of 1994.

HRI, and now you, are lucky to have him aboard. Get off on the good foot, Bill. Welcome aboard.


Written by John Pricci

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Saturday, December 22, 2007


A Call for Cash and Validation Today at Hollywood Park


Theres an important race for juveniles this afternoon that might not effect the two-year-old championship but certainly could go a long way next year. In fact, all the way to Louisville and beyond.

First things first, however, such as under no circumstances accept a short price. First, theres the fact of how two-year-olds grow in leaps and bounds, as do their form cycles, from now through June of their three-year-old season.

Secondly, the race has drawn a field of 14 many of which have run their best races at other tracks, over different surfaces. And lets not forget that short run into the first turn. Post positions, the break, and the trips will matter.

As you might expect, Todd Pletcher will saddle three runners in the Grade 1 Cash Call Futurity, a.k.a. todays ninth race at Hollywood Park. But dont expect any of them to be favored. And you might find it just as difficult to project a good trip for any of them: all are drawn in outside slips.

So, who might follow in the hoof prints of A.P. Indy, winner of the 1991 renewal--when it was known as the Hollywood Futurity--and 92 Belmont Stakes? Or Snow Chief, the winner in 85 and in Baltimore the following year. Or Ferdinand, third to Snow Chief, but who got his revenge in the next years Kentucky Derby.

Lets take a look at major contenders, of which there are many, from the inside positions, out.

Cal Cup Juvenile winner Sierra Sunset (20-1) has plenty of experience and hes put it to good use recently. After winning the Bay Meadows Futurity sprinting, he shipped south and was an extremely game winner of the Cal Cup, showing speed while pressured throughout, staying very well to win his first start rounding two turns. Hes worked very well since and draws the pole. A winner at todays 8.5 furlongs, a sharp break will have him in the hunt throughout.

Massive Drama (3-1) breaks right next door and is undefeated in two starts for Bob Baffert. Coming up to this nicely off graduating distances, hes working rapidly for Bullet Bob and showed determination to win the 7-furlong G3 Hollywood Preview while under constant pressure. He figures to be tested early once again, and sons of Kafwain dont give us confidence in their ability to route. They all go this far but generally are hard pressed to do so.

Indian Sun (15-1) leaves from post 5 and probably will qualify as a price shot, never having run on anything but turf. This is Cushion Track, of course, and there is empirical evidence suggesting a favorable relationship between the two surfaces. This colt showed a little class finishing second in the G3 Generous. Trainer Dan Hendricks is profitable with his graded stakes starters.

Colonel John (5-2) has done nothing wrong in his three-race career. His development has been letter perfect, hes also 1-for-1 at todays distance, having won the ungraded Real Quiet at todays distance, and his recent 5-furlong work in :59, termed breezing, was 10th fastest of 130 juveniles to work that week at Hollypark. He distributed his energy professionally in his debut, showed improved speed second out, then showed good distance style coming from well back to win his two-turn debut. The knocks are that several here have been faster to date and the anticipated short price.

Shore Do (12-1) is not nearly as accomplished as his main rivals and is demonstrably slower but makes his first start for Bobby Frankel, as good as it gets when pointing to a race and profitable when removing blinkers, the case here. Two starts back he was third in Dixie Chatters G1 Norfolk before becoming unglued in the sloppy-track key race Juvenile at Monmouth Park. Expect improvement here.

Monba (7-2) leaves from post 10 for Pletcher and is undefeated in two starts, showing professionalism to win his debut before showing improved early speed to win at a flat mile at Churchill Downs which augurs well for, you know, next year. Pletcher is profitable going long to longer, but this guy spots the group more development from a wide post. Garrett Gomez can compensate for that but not for the short morning line odds.

Old Man Buck (20-1) has a terrible post but the early line odds compensate. His form is a lot better than that. He was third in the G1 Breeders Futurity on Polytrack after winning the grassy Cradle Stakes at River Downs, then caught the Monmouth slop before winning the ungraded Grand Canyon after returning to grass. He handled the artificial surface well when asked to do so in a bulky, talented field and attracts Pat Valenzuela for the first time here.

What more could a player ask than for a gate-load of promising talent yielding a great betting race?

Looking back, a win here, like Real Quiets in 97, could portend well for the 2008 Derby and Preakness, or Point Givens in 2000, who should have won it all at 3. But a money finish, like Thunder Gulchs third in 94, or Giacomos placing in this race a decade later, still might have their connections coming up roses when it counts most.


Written by John Pricci

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Thursday, December 20, 2007


Same Old, Good Old


Jay DiLorenzo, president of the Preservation League of New York State, announced yesterday that the Saratoga Race Course was added to the 2008 list of Seven to Save Endangered Properties.

Seems like a quaint notion but this development actually could have some impact on current franchise negotiations between the New York Racing Association and the states lawmakers.

Before making his announcement, DiLorenzo spoke of the luxury suites that recently were built at the new and improved Churchill Downs, and how the suites obscured the views of the famed, trademark twin spires.

The first time I saw it, I gasped, DiLorenzo told the Albany Times Union. That cannot happen here.

The first time I saw the twin spires was 24 years ago, Sunnys Halos year. There were terrorists in 1983, too, and they took the lives of some of our best Marines in Beirut.

And the people back in the day still cared about the space program, and a filly with the appropriate name Sally Ride became our first female astronaut.

I was at Newsday then, their handicapper and handicapping columnist. I didnt yet have an opportunity to cover the big events. But Steven Jerkens, Allen Jr. and Jimmys brother, and the Chiefs son, had Pax In Bello in the Kentucky Derby, Jeffrey Fell in the boot.

Sunnys Halo, bidding to become historys second winner of the Arkansas Derby to repeat two weeks later in Louisville, was the tepid favorite. Actually picked him to win, too, ($7.00 wasnt much value). But Stevens colt had a punchers chance despite his long odds.

My friend Jack Shelley and I de-planed in Louisville to root for Stevens horse. Two days later, early morning on the first Saturday in May, our rental car passed the building line on South 4th Street and as it reached the corner of Central Ave., I looked right, and there they were, reaching high into the Louisville sky.

I felt my stomach jump, my eyes well up and--not trying to be melodramatic here--I felt something like what my grandparents must have when first they layed eyes on the Statue of Liberty. Of course its not the same thing! All Im saying is that it might be close. Loves funny that way.

The Downs are the twin spires. But Saratoga has spires, too, and DiLorenzo expressed the fears every Saratoga fan has no matter where he was born, reared, or presently lives.

Saratoga is Nirvana for horseplayers, now and then. Saratoga is where a Revolutionary battle was fought, where racing has been conducted for the past 144 years. It needs to be protected and preserved.

It is hoped that some of this history will be on the minds of lawmakers before they figure out just how to slice this New York racing pie and who gets the biggest piece. Thats the reality now.

In 1983, Pax In Bello beat more than half the field, finishing seventh. It was a very good effort and the connections where proud of their horse. And there really is nothing to compare with that first Derby experience.

Coincidentally, or not, I havent been back to Churchill since the recent reconstruction. Maybe Im just afraid to go back.

For now, old memories will have to enough. But thats because Im spoiled, living in the Union Avenue Historic District. And not long ago, the Saratoga City Council had the good sense to officially preserve the race course under that same umbrella.


Written by John Pricci

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