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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Saturday, June 06, 2009


Migliore: Looks Like Inside-Speed All Day


ELMONT, NY, June 6, 2009

11:35: Dixieland Star broke quickly from the gate, established his inside position in fast fractions, drifted a bit into the lane, allowing Inger Management to slip through on the fence to take the lead with a half mile in :45.36, then went unchallenged to the wire in 1:10.08.

No question the track has moisture in it but it played fast, and appeared to favor speed. Of course, these were the two favorites in inverted order, so the result was formful in any event. But so far, on this Belmont Stakes day when temperatures are expected to climb into the 70s later this afternoon, so good.

Second event, second speed horse who, after clearing, stayed on the fence and stopped the timer in 1:20-and-change for seven-eighths of a mile. Favorite Speight of Hand did not break with the field but, after recovering, had no real pop, anyway.

The race was interesting in that a horse finally came off the pace--sort of--but the track is inside favoring because the second horse, made a bold mid-race move on the fence, was passed at the quarter-pole, yet no one could make up any ground. Then, we heard it from the rider’s mouth.

“My horse was a little rank so I had to let him go,” said Richard Migliore from inside the paddock on this beautiful afternoon. “It looks like it’s going to be speed from the inside all day. Even if it does dry out more later on, it’s still pretty wet underneath.”

Having ridden about 4,500 winners, the guy probably knows what he’s talking about.


1:27 PM: So, while Calvin might have been idle in the saddle this week, seeing the sights, appearing on Leno-man--yes, he got a little confused, but this must all still be a whirlwind--trainer Chip Woolley has been making hay after training hours.

Woolley’s having the time of his life even though he heard all the bad stories about big, bad New York City. “There’s nothing like the Derby,” he was told, “and the people in Baltimore know how to treat you right. But when you get here, they could care less. It’s a whole different thing.”

Apparently, D. Wayne Lukas has been telling this same cautionary tale to every Belmont Stakes rookie that comes down Hempstead Turnpike. But there was Woolley, at the Belmont press party, dancing on the crutches and putting his cowboy hat atop every pretty female face in the crowd.

“I was told New York was nothing but tall buildings and the people are cold. But it’s a lot more than that, and the people I’ve met have been very nice,” Woolley said.

“Tell you one thing. No one’s broken into my truck since I’m here.”

And that’s exactly what happened a few days after the Derby in Louisville. The only thing of real value stolen was his GPS system and, believe it or not, Mine That Bird’s foal papers. That, of course, is a great souvenir.

But unless the thieves were intending to show up at some racetrack and enter the Derby winner in some claiming race like a common ringer, just to make sure that could cash a bet, the papers wouldn‘t have much value. Unless they could trick some unsuspecting fool on E Bay.


Written by John Pricci

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Fast, Soft, and an Idle Borel


ELMONT, NY, June 6, 2009

10:10 AM: After 36 hours of dank, cold, soaking rain, this morning dawned brightly with a gentle breeze that should help the drying process along. When the first set of changes came up, the main track was listed as good, the turf course soft.

It was good that the house left the fourth and fifth races on the turf and rescheduling the last two races to the main track late Friday afternoon. Just as well. Two turf sprints was no way to end the day with so many tourists on hand. You know, degree of difficulty and all that.

There was no training on the main track this morning to facilitate the maintenance and the main track harrowed up nicely for the 11:35 AM opener. This big track takes heap big amounts of water to keep it from being too lose and we wouldn’t be surprised if the water truck makes an appearance later in the day.

Certainly, you would expect, for the 6:27 PM champion’s test. But we shall see. Sometimes there’s home cookin’ in racing, too. Sometimes, the mysterious powers-that-be try to help, however they can, to make sure the “right people” win.

Speaking of paranoia, I think it was a bad job by Calvin Borel’s agent not to get him a few rides prior to Belmont 141. We’re talking an athletic event here. Calvin’s been in this zone since the Kentucky Derby but he won’t have an opportunity to stretch his legs, test his reflexes or the surface until post time.

He’ll be in the Belmont Park jocks’ room virtually all day, sitting and waiting, then sitting and waiting some more, contemplating his fate in Triple Crown history. Idle minds.


Written by John Pricci

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Mine That Bird To Pass Champion’s Test


ELMONT, NY, June 5, 2009--There’s no question that the strength of Belmont 141 is drawn toward the outside in today’s 10-horse lineup. And who’s left to analyze after yesterday? Only the two favorites, and three other entrants saddled by two men that have won six Belmonts between them.

Here, then, the final installment of the 2009 Belmont Stakes analysis, including an exotics betting strategy for optimizing projected results. Listed in post position order, with early line odds:

6-CHARITABLE MAN (3-1): In the mold of other fresh Belmont winners, a la Costal, A.P. Indy and the like, late bloomers awaiting the Triple Crown circus to roll under the big top. I have seen Coastal, and I have seen A.P. Indy, and this colt resembles neither. Everyone knows what his virtues are: 2-for-2 at Belmont, freshness, and a running style that will place him on or near the lead ostensibly free of pressure. The problem with that scenario is everyone knows it. Invariably, someone always seems to come along and pressure the pace. It could be one of Nick Zito’s two runners. It could be the position conscious Johnny Velazquez. Dunkirk may come from off the pace but also has a high cruising speed that puts him right there, especially at a marathon distance. If Mine That Bird, who’s coming off paired career tops, runs anything close to that form, this colt would need to improve many, many lengths to fit in the same photo finish. That much of a leap, at what I expect to be closer to 5-2 post-time odds, I find impossible to make.

7-MINE THAT BIRD (2-1): Had a chat Thursday with HRI handicapper-in-residence, Cary Fotias, and when the subject of this gelding’s Derby and Preakness figures came up, Fotias said: “I make him 50-50 to either bounce or pair up again.” Like most handicappers, we don’t always agree. But I see this one the same way. This is, after all, a new horse. No more high altitude racing, no more pace pressing style, and the mystical Calvin Borel sent signals through the reins that made this gelding much better than even those closest to him would admit were surprising. Borel rides him with as much confidence as he rides the filly. The gelding is retaining his energy and he’s getting over the racetrack. Of course, the pace scenario is against him, as is the distance profile. But could this guy be analogous to Zenyatta? And, no, we’re not comparing the two. But she comes to get you whether you’re three-quarters in nine or in thirteen. Could Mine That Bird do the same vs. this group of three-year-olds? Who’s to say that he can’t? Fastest on performance figures and tested successfully at the highest levels. What’s not to like?

8-FLYING PRIVATE (12-1): HRI’s Preakness wise guy horse delivered with a strong-finish fourth behind Rachel Alexandra and the Derby winner despite meeting trouble at two distinct intervals--especially at a critical juncture approaching headstretch. He signaled his talent with good figure efforts in Kentucky and Arkansas, before his wide, non-effort in Louisville. But he was ready to rebound and he did, raising his figure to a new level, and now takes his stout pedigree a mile and a half. Had a strong and useful work at his Churchill base before shipping in and attracts that circuit’s leading rider and burgeoning star, Julien Leparoux, in the midst of breaking through with a second consecutive career year. We expect him to repeat his last effort and be a money player once again.

9-MINER’S ESCAPE (15-): Since adding blinkers, he’s won two of three and has done it with style. And after winning the Federico Tesio, Nick Zito put him on the fence with some strong morning drills, building the stamina after the blinkers did its job by putting in some speed. The Mineshaft colt, from a Broad Brush mare, boasts stamina in the pedigree and reunites with a talented young rider, Jose Lezcano, aboard for the victory two starts back. Figure-wise, however, he needs to step up in a big way. His tactical speed could make things very interesting if the connections decide to roll that way.

10-BRAVE VICTORY (15-1): He, too, is too slow, but is a bit interesting. If trainer Zito was interested in having a strong Florida campaign with this guy, then the profile is disappointing. However, if he was building up to something, consider his last two races. He raced wide and too close to the pace in a G2 on Polytrack, very anti-profile, then came from far behind when third to Charitable Man in the Peter Pan despite the jockey’s loss of his whip. He’s had two sharp works since the recent G2, and Rajiv Maragh, another talented young rider, is taking the re-ride. Zito’s been spooky in this race, but that good karma needs to be firing on all cylinders here.

SELECTIONS: 1. Mine That Bird 2. Summer Bird 3. Flying Private 4. Chocolate Candy

EXOTICS TIERS:

TOP: 7-Mine That Bird

SECOND TIER: 4-Summer Bird, 8-Flying Private

THIRD TIER: 1-Chocolate Candy, 6-Charitable Man, 2-Dunkirk

BETTING STRATEGY:

Exacta Key Box: 7 with 4.8

Trifecta Key: 7 with 1.2.4.6.8

Trifecta Part Wheel: 1.2.4.6.8, with 7, with 1.2.4.6.8

Superfecta Key: 7 with 1.2.4.6.8

Straight Bets:

Most Probable Winner: Mine That Bird, at 8-5 or greater.

Value Play: Summer Bird and Flying Private at 10-1 or greater.



Written by John Pricci

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