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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Thursday, September 13, 2007


Frankel Ordered To Forfeit Two 2008 European Draft Picks


Commissioner of Thoroughbred Racing Kenesaw Mountain Rivera has found trainer Bobby Frankel guilty of illegal spying in last Saturdays Ruffian Stakes and has ruled that Frankel must forfeit two first round European draft picks in 2008.

Following the lead of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Frankel was ordered to reject two expatriates from the Juddmonte European racing operation, horses that usually come to Frankel each fall.

It was unknown at posting time whether the fine would include a Group 1 winner.

Commissioner Rivera ruled that Frankel had an unfair advantage when, after having a groom for trainer Lisa Lewis videotape Jerkens paddock instructions to his jockeys and learning that Jerkens had instructed the jockey aboard uncoupled stablemate Teammate not to go to the lead, his Ginger Punch was allowed to stalk a more comfortable early pace before drawing off to an impressive win.

Unlike New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Frankel did not try to conceal his advantage, telling the racing media in his post-race comments that we knew Teammate was not going to the lead.

Frankel was ordered to send next years incoming Juddmonte horses to the barn of Allen Jerkens, whose Miss Shop was second to Frankels Ginger Punch in the Ruffian.

Frankel has not yet presented his case to the commissioners office. Calls to Frankels Belmont Park barn phone were not returned.


Written by John Pricci

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Street Sense: A Well Oiled Machine


The leading candidate for Horse of the Year, Kentucky Derby and Midsummer Derby winning Street Sense, had his first workout since returning home to Churchill Downs following his victories in Saratogas Jim Dandy and Travers.

He continues to demonstrate that hes an equine machine. Working effortlessly, according to trackside reports, Street Sense worked five-eighths of a mile in 1:02.91 over his favorite surface.

The work might be pedestrian on its face but once again demonstrates how push-button this colt really is. Since hes been a two-year-old, Carl Nafzger has been teaching him how to run, how to distribute his energy efficiently.

Lessons learned.

Beneath Tracey Wilkes, wife of longtime Nafzger assistant, Ian, he finished in a fashion that every trainer covets: strongly and well within himself.

His opening quarter-mile of :27.20 was a laugher, even for a less accomplished thoroughbred. Then, like he does in his races, he picked up the pace on cue. His half-mile was timed in :51.20, as he willingly picked up the tempo from 13-second furlongs to 12-second furlongs.

Racetrackers call that 12-clipping, the measure of a top class racehorse under training conditions.

Then he did what he always seems to do: finish with a flourish; a final furlong in :11.71, getting stronger the farther he went. Given that he wont race again until Septembers final weekend, Street Sense went only as fast as necessary, fast enough to keep his condition and fast enough to remain sharp mentally and physically.

Many havent liked his last two races from a visual frame, not winning as impressively as he had in Kentucky, the thinking being hes just not as effective away from Churchill Downs.

There is evidence to support that notion. But theres reason, too, not to lose heart in his abilities. He needed to race closer to the pace in both recent soft-fraction starts. When the pace is honest to fast, his late run, like most horses, is far more effective.

The workout should bring a smile to lovers of the game and of good horses. Street Sense has only two starts left before he gallops off into retirement. No matter what he does in his prep, the Classic vs. the speedy and surging Any Given Saturday and, of greater significance, the older explosive Lawyer Ron will be exceedingly difficult on Monmouths speed-favoring oval.

But before beginning any meaningful analysis, remember this: Street Sense loves what hes doing, and doing what he does best: Winning.


Written by John Pricci

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007


When Will Loss of America’s Racing Stars Stop?


On the racetrack at the end of this year, racings glamour division, will be all but gone to the breeding shed and not preparing for four-year-old campaigns.

No more Street Sense, no more Hard Spun, no more Any Given Saturday. Thankfully there will be a whole new batch come January 1.

Except, of course, for Sargent Seattle. The impressive Saratoga juvenile debut winner, like the aforementioned three-year-olds, have been purchased by various members of Dubais ruling family.

We dont know where or when Sargent Seattle will show up again. Maybe here or maybe in Dubai to prepare for next years classics.

Because thats worked so well for them in the past, I guess.

No one can blame people for selling. Racing is an expensive hobby. When offered stupid money, you dont blink when a gift horse looks you in the eye.

The three-year-olds were said to be sold for about $100 million for all three. We dont know exactly how much because the Sheikhs dont release the terms, not wanting other potential sellers to know and take advantage of their munificence.

Yeah, right.

Last week, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum did it again. He took a fancy to a sprinter he coveted, the four-year-old Diabolical, one of the divisional leaders if not its top thoroughbred, and purchased him for an undisclosed amount.

But the leading contender for the Breeders Cup Sprint will not be among the horses racing at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27. In fact, hes unlikely to race again this year and is being reserved for the Dubai Racing Festival next March.

Diabolical looks like the early line favorite for the $2 million Golden Shaheen.

Traditionalists have argued with some clarity that a victory in the Breeders Cup shouldnt dominate end-of-year Eclipse Award voting. They say a Breeders Cup shouldnt overshadow the body of work accumulated during the course of an entire season. Theyre right, even if all Grade 1s arent created equal.

Its been said, and written, before. Racing is a game, not a sport. Its a business, not a pastime. Still, whats the point of investing emotion and time when the games practitioners show no respect for the games continuity and what it hopes to again sell to the sporting public?

Coming to grips with this, the sports publicists have turned their attention to the human stars, the jockeys and trainers, especially the riders. But thats been tried before and it wont likely be enough.

I dont know what can be done in light of the well named Diabolical situation and others like it. But when it became known that the nations ports would be secured by a company from Dubai, public outcry killed that deal.

Am I the only one that cares about what these wholesale purchases by foreign interests--any foreign interests--are doing to the game in this country? Over 63,000 people recently attended Sha Tins opening day in Hong Kong. Belmont Park, meanwhile, got less than 5,000.

Racings popularity is solid and gaining throughout the world. But not here. If racings leaders dont care about racings future, how can they expect fans to care about the present?

Isnt there some rule that can be adopted to keep recently purchased horses racing longer, or for American studs to be made to stand in this country? Or complete disclosure of the terms of a sale so that a surtax, a luxury tax, or export tax be imposed? Or something else? Anything else?


Written by John Pricci

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