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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, November 19, 2007


New York Horseplayers Give Thanks--on Saturday!


Once the Breeders Cup is over, so is the high profile part of the racing year--openings of the Fair Grounds on Thanksgiving Day and the prestigious Santa Anita winter meet the day after Christmas notwithstanding.

The prime time schedule in New York, meanwhile, is regarded to end with the conclusion of the Belmont Fall meet. But thats not entirely true.

Until racing on the winterized inner track begins early next month, the traditional powerhouse New York outfits are still in town and, as we saw this past Saturday, debuting juveniles worthy of next years classics can still surface on Aqueducts main track. Resultantly, fans are still in danger of seeing a good horse.

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Ill head down the Thruway for one final day of live sport until my annual sojourn to South Florida.

The Cigar Mile day program that includes the 9-furlong Remsen and Demoiselle for juvenile colts and fillies, respectively, is one of my favorite days on the New York racing calendar. If you love the game, its probably yours, too.

In recent years, Bluegrass Cat and Nobiz Like Shobiz confirmed in the Remsen they would be major classics players. While the Demoiselle hasnt exactly been a harbinger of Oaks fillies, it nonetheless has been useful in the development of juvenile fillies having their own three-year-old aspirations.

This year, the Discovery Handicap for older horses will comprise an all stakes Pick Four.

The centerpiece will be, of course, the Hill n Dale Cigar Mile featuring inevitable Eclipse sprint champion Midnight Lute.

The Cigar is no afterthought for trainer Bob Baffert, whos won the race three times since 2000 including back-to-back victories by Congaree. It is hoped that Kairan McLaughlins late developing four-year-old, Daaher, will challenge the Baffert runner. It will be, I promise you, a horse race.

The Cigar Mile alone would be worth the price of admission. For one more day at least, until the 2008 Wood Memorial, Aqueduct will command center stage on the national schedule.


Written by John Pricci

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Saturday, November 17, 2007


Impressive Saturday for Two Horsemen and Two Babies


Last week, Barclay Tagg. This week, Shug McGaughey.

Last week, a Red Smith upset with Dave. This week, a Stuyvesant upset with Hunting. Thats how a Hall of Famer keeps up with a future Hall of Famer on their home grounds in New York.

But just like Tagg shipped into Churchill to complete a stakes double with favorite Bit of Whimsy, so did McGaughey ship back home to Louisville to win the Cardinal with favorite Criminologist.

* * *

Looks like the good Edgar Prado is back. It was unusual that he returned to resume riding at Aqueduct. We thought more of an extended break following his most recent mishap we'd see him return in Florida. But he probably wanted to get the rust out, get his timing back.

All of it was on display in yesterdays Aqueduct finale. Saving ground, riding aggressively yet saving horse, he finished strongly to complete the daily double while being challenged by a rival in the stretch throughout. It was vintage Prado. The message was clear: Edgars back.

* * *

This late in the fall at Aqueduct, its not often that debuting two-year-olds surface that show some extraordinary talent. In yesterdays fourth race, Saratoga Russell, not expected to be fast away from the gate, left the barrier like a shot. He set strong fractions, opened the lead out after straightening away into the stretch, and appeared home free.

Enter National Pride on the scene. He made a big stretch burst, settled suddenly, then went into overdrive, blowing by the leader inside the sixteenth pole, lunging out of his skin in the shadow of the wire to win going away in 1:09 4/5. His stride appeared a hundred feet long.

If you get a chance to see a replay, do so. His action at the finish was nothing less than remarkable. Cant wait to see it again myself.


Written by John Pricci

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Will Saratoga’s Oklahoma Track Ever Be the Same?


I was driving down East Avenue about 9:45 Friday morning and a gray horse in full stride was approaching the quarter pole at the Oklahoma Training Track.

That late in the day, it could have been the final work horse of the morning. This late in the season, it could have been the final workout at the facility on Union Avenue directly across from Americas most storied racetrack.

Yesterday was the final day of training in Saratoga until next spring. Probably, maybe, could be.

I know, racing has always survived. But I confess to feeling a wave of nostalgia sweep over me. This year has been a little different. A clock has been ticking.

Senator Joseph Bruno was on a local network Thursday night telling a reporter that his committee has been having good talks with the Executives people regarding the extension of the franchise, any franchise, to conduct major league racing in New York in 2008 and beyond.

Bruno said a deal might even get done around Thanksgiving and that his people are ready at a moments notice to ship back to Albany and seal the deal. He said that the House of Representatives was ready to do the same. But its going to take compromise.

Which means that some of the Senates ill advised plan could be adopted. Or not. But it certainly appears that if the NYRA is invited back to conduct racing, it wont be for 30 years as was proposed earlier by Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Indeed, 30 years now appears to be off the table.

And New York City has gotten into the act, too. Its Mayor, Mike Bloomberg, has threatened to shutter OTB by the end of June. Cant say you can blame him. NYC-OTB made $125 million last year on handle of $1 billion but realized a net loss of $9 million because it had to pay the state $134 million.

Bloomberg says he wont prop up a sagging thoroughbred industry with NYC dollars. What dollars is he referring to? The rights fees that every existing simulcast outfit pays in signal rights?

Please.

NYC-OTB and the other regions are living with a bad deal made with the state. For the right to simulcast thoroughbred racing on an unlimited basis, it agreed to pay the cost of maintaining the State Racing and Wagering Board.

Outrageous that the state would essentially blackmail counties and municipalities to pay for the operation of a regulatory state agency. Only in New York.

No wonder I felt a longing for a simpler time when, if things weren't all they could be, events weren't as non-sensical as they are now.


Written by John Pricci

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