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, 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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Thursday, November 15, 2007


Bettor Friendly, Costs Nothing, But Some Tracks Just Don’t, Or Won’t, Get It


Calder, Laurel and Philly Park, to name three tracks, why dont you get with the program?

Do you believe, like the geniuses on the Left Coast, that its always all about handle?

All racetracks believe that handle drives everything from purses to profits. In California, they believe it to such an extent that only the hardest, most chaotic races comprise a Pick Six sequence.

Indeed, huge carryovers have proven to be good for handle and the bottom line. And given that the $2 wager plays into the monetary advantage held by syndicates or deep-pocketed individuals, we have no problem with a $2 Pick Six minimum.

Sure, some monstrous Pick Sixes have been hit on $8 tickets. Good for those winners. But those were truly lottery occurrences for a handful of lucky horseplayers. The reality is that the small tickets feed the big tickets.

So how does busting out the every-day player help the bottom line? It doesnt. Thats the beauty and advantage of fractional wagering. And theres no good reason why it isnt available in every multiple pool in America, Pick Six notwithstanding.

Its no surprise there's one bet that has proven extremely popular with horseplayers: the Dime Superfecta.

For purposes of illustration, a story. I met a friend at the Saratoga Harness simulcast last Saturday. Since my feeble brain can only handle two tracks at one time, I concentrated my play on home-circuit Aqueduct and Churchill Downs. I chose Churchill over Calder because they offered Dime Supers.

Parenthetically, its ironic that South Florida, home of the Early Bird dinner, has a track that doesnt offer 10-cent supers to their older demographic. With $1 trifectas available, why not a dime super? Seems out of touch.

Anyway, I played the wager all day. I bet 13 races, won one. I improved my starting bankroll by over 500 percent.

The point is not how smart I am. The point is that scores for very money are possible. And wouldnt that be good for lagging attendance and flat handle?

The $789 dime super payoff I collected was undeserved relative to true odds. I won by keying three horses in four super positions; first, second, third and fourth. Then I used four second-tier contenders in three in-the-money positions; second, third and fourth.

Was I lucky? Of course. The co-highest price of my three keys won at 6-1. The other two keys were a 5-2 co-favorite and a strong contender that blew out to 7-1 after holding at 3-1 for much of the betting. What probably helped the payoff--aside from a second-tier horse placing at 27-1--was the fact that my favorites had compromising outside posts at 5- furlongs.

In super-exotics, straight-pool underlays often prove exotic overlays, the case here. The superfecta paid a super generous $15,795, $789.75 for a dime. I invested a total of $7.20 in the super, another $12 worth of losing exacta saver tickets, and two $6 win bets (overlays on my personal line), cashing one.

The point is the winning ticket that combined 24 permutations cost $2.40. Ill be concentrating on tracks that offer dime supers. Perhaps, in your own best interests going forward, you might consider doing the same.


Written by John Pricci

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