John Pricci 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, 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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Friday, April 22, 2016

Saturday’s Keeneland Late Pick 4 Horse Profiles

Exclusively for

As the 2016 Keeneland spring meet comes to a close, we’re going out with a detailed look AT the late Pick 4, a sequence that includes the Grade 2 Elkhorn for older males going 1-1/2 miles on the turf.

The following is handicapping thumbnail sketch of every runner entered in today’s sequence, listed in post-position order with early line odds:

RACE 7: ALLOWANCES Non-Winners of $7,500 twice 4 & Up 5-1/2 Furlongs TURF

Dingdingdingding (10-1) Recent turf debut was even effort in moderate time following trouble on turn. Of dam’s three winners to race, none have won on grass; 58 1/5 at TP, fastest of 21 peers that week, is rolling!

Shadow Rock (3-1)
Strong contender despite class rise. Six time winner at the trip—his only lifetime victories, lifetime best Pricci Energy Rating came on this course. Improved last out after trouble in GP finale and Dickey is (5) 2-2-0 here through Wednesday.

Sylvan Park (15-1)
Lifetime wins were on turf but at 5 furlongs, not 5-1/2 and front wraps back on for latest run. Trainer profitable with turf runners; drops out of Grade 2.

Protection (10-1)
Excellent connections but is 1-for-18 lifetime on grass, meets tougher, and Energy Ratings lower than major rivals.

Whiskey Bravo (5-1)
Gelded 6YO has won half of 14 lifetime turf starts at this trip! Ships in seeking fourth straight with excellent Energy Ratings and is first time off Cox claim; 27% efficiency and profitable. “Single” potential.

Ray's Warrior (3-1)
Late developing 4YO has won two of last three on OP dirt, earning excellent rating last out. Barn recently 1-for-14 with turf debut types and mare’s four winners yet to win on turf.

Cat's In The Mood (12-1)
One-for-one on turf but win came at 5 furlongs on minor circuit. Earned highly competitive rating at 6F on Turfway Synth last out and barn profitable with both turf and allowance types. Interesting.

Heywood's (50-1)
Winless on turf in 7 starts and slow, dam’s had no turf winners thus far, and barn currently 0-for-15 at meet.

Tacoma Park (30-1) Figure jumped up to finish third behind ‘Cat’s Mood’ in Turfway finale but lacks both turf experience and pedigree.

Platinum Prince (8-1) both lifetime wins this surface and distance and goes first time off Tomlinson claim, profitable coming back with this type of freshening.

Moon River (20-1) Lone lifetime win came in state-bred Maryland stakes over surface and trip. Just missed wit wide trip in GP finale and picks up Paco here. Really turned heads with 46 1/5, fastest work of week at KEE.


Pack Istan (20-1) finished evenly when third in 6F in debut over TP Synth. Likely to benefit for barn doing well with limited chances but draws pole. Unknown quantity; guesswork.

Lady Soul (5-2)
raced head to head throughout debut as favorite going 6F at GP for Todd/Johnny team. Three very solid works over deeper PBD since; added furlong a plus.

Final Decision (20-1) raced mid-pack and tired when 31-1 in OP debut; live rider switch to Geroux, however. Curious.

Sweet Legacy (20-1)
is from mare who’s only other foal won and has been in steady training at deeper Payson. Distance suits but Rusty, profitable with Landeros, is 1 for last 71 first-timers.

Hang On Annie (6-1) stayed fairly well for third going a mile in TP Synth. McPeek 17% effective with turnbacks and reaches out for Gary Stevens; intriguing.

Linda (8-1) came from the clouds following poor start in 6F Tampa debut, beaten only 4-1/2 lengths. Wilkes, profitable with first Lasix and second-time starters, switches to Julien. Best value on early line.

Ma Can Do It (2-1) made mid-race move before tiring going two-turns in OP season’s debut. Third in G1 Alcibiades at 2 and Romans also-rans often improve dramatically next out.

Dear Elaine (4-1) showed improvement in second start with Lasix in 2YO finale, earning top Pricci Energy Rating. LoPresti having profitable 2016 and is 17% efficient with layups of 90 days +. Three-year-old maturity and barn profitable with Lanerie; very sharp 47 KEE work.

Talkless Smilemore (10-1) comes off consecutive bullet works at CD and has conditioning on the turnback, but form has declined and loses Geroux.


Da Big Hoss (7-2) has not hit the KEE board in two starts but has won half his 4 lifetime starts at marathon trip. Earns excellent PERs and two-time G3 retains Geroux.

Up With The Birds (3-1)
is winless since July 2014 but was second in G1 Canadian International in October and Motion 21% profitable with 90 days + layoffs and in graded stakes. Placed in one of two on this course and (3) 1-1-0 at this trip; fastest on best go.

A Red Tie Day (20-1) ships in from SA for Baltas with switch to Stevens after beating cheaper in last—his third of four turf starts--and owns five subsequent works and is well bred for marathon debut; interesting price shot.

Idolo Porteno (12-1) was twice a turf winner in South America, tuned up with top Energy Rating in G3 Razorback on OP dirt and Correas/Paco team 2-for-2 this meet--15-1 winner Wednesday. Live price shot.

Royal Albert Hall (15-1)
ships in for O’Neill reuniting with Prat and comes off sharp 10F score. Late developing 4YO gelding is stoutly bred for the trip.

Twilight Eclipse
was narrowly beaten in G1 Turf Classic last fall BEL and is a worthy (12) 2-2-5 in turf marathons but raced dully in season’s debut at GP, a course he usually likes; mixed signals.

Kaigun (5-2) finally broke through to win G2 Pan Am last out following four consecutive seconds; (4) 1-2-0 at the trip; in career form and getting along nicely with Bravo.

St. Albans Boy (15-1)
finished well too late following wide trip in Kaigun’s Pan Am (see replay); third in G3 Sycamore here last fall; Rubley, switching to Graham, profitable with ship-ins.


Brilliant Belle (2-1) was a good second for $50,000 two back at OP, raced very wide from extreme outside subsequently now down two classes for Cox, a 33% angle. Single potential.

Bettyng On Lucy (10-1)
gets trainer change to McKeever going turf to dirt following even 5th in FG turf sprint; tries dirt in second start switching to Graham and pedigree wants today’s added trip.

Only One Wish (7-2) goes turf to dirt dropping to career low level turning back off turf route for Sharp with Brian Hernandez on a return call.

Ladybug's Holiday (12-1) has nature—17% debut sire, dam’s thrown eight winners—but not nurture; Pessin 0 for last 21 newcomers. Gets Geroux, however; mixed signals.

Uno Cita (20-1) has been beaten 52 lengths total in four lifetime starts at 21, 31, 17 and 29-1, respectively.

Court The Storm (8-1) has had 12 chances to no avail, including last five vs. claimers at Turfway, but is second off a layup for Pinzon, a profitable 21% in that scenario.

City Beauty (5-1)
was beaten 16 lengths vs. $50,000 claimers in KEE debut; returns in a week with a significant drop. Wakeup potential.

Gift Of Sense (5-1)
five year old maiden returns off May 29 layoff and has done her best racing going longer.

Pour Girl (12-1) dropped into claimer in TP finale and showed some improved early speed; winless newly turned trainer makes KEE debut. Exits key race: two winners.

Valida(30-1) goes from Ben Colebrook to 8% trainer while moving up in class and turning back with quicker; note he worked crisply at KEE back in February.

See Saturday's Feature Race Analysis for selections via promotional arrangement with

Written by John Pricci

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Friday, April 15, 2016

And Then There was One WEEKEND PREVIEW APRIL 15, 2016

Exclusively for

Or there are two preps, depending on how you view Saturday’s Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

And, so, on the Saturday after New Year’s Day, Aqueduct’s Jerome Stakes began the long and winding road to Louisville.

This weekend, Oaklawn Park’s Arkansas Derby, scheduled to run an hour after the Keeneland three-year-old fixture, concludes the final and 24th part of the 2016 Kentucky Derby prep puzzle.

Here’s a handicapping look-in at the two aforementioned preps along with the Plenty of Grace turf mile for three-year-old fillies at Aqueduct, and three more stakes from Keeneland, including the G1 Jenny Wiley. First stop, Big Apple:

Schematic includes major contenders, listed in post-position order with early line odds:



Mah Jong Madness (10-1)
likes the course and distance well enough, trainer Morrison is a profitable 18% off 90 days + layups, has tactical speed, competitive figures, an inside draw and Gryder fits those dynamics nicely. Good value at early line odds.

Strike Charmer (3-1)
won at this course and distance in the fall when fresh and repeats that pattern here; graded stakes winner and graded placed, she’s very well spotted here and switch to Franco fits mare’s style. Excellent Thoro-Graph and Pricci Energy ratings.

Coming Attraction (5-1) just missed in tough trip GP finale, mini-turnback helps but she does meet faster and tougher for top connections.

Harp N Halo (6-1) is 2-for-4 on turf, 1-for-1 at the trip, looked sharp winning lone winter start--legging up at Tampa--and has won going dirt to turf before. Slower than other majors but on forward looking pattern.

Mrs. McDougal (2-1) graded winner and graded placed, earned excellent figures at 3 and returns as first-time 4YO; Chad 26% efficient with 90 days+ layups and reunites with winning rider Jose Ortiz. Fast, classy and added maturity.


Creator (10-1) was a good-finish, tough-trip third in Cupid’s Rebel following blowout score taking maiden allowance in OP debut; strongly bred for added trip and Santana on return call from inside post. Highly competitive figures and looks forward.

Suddenbreakingnews (5-1)
hellish trip as Rebel fave when beaten less than five following worst-to-first bold-finish, impressive Southwest score. Bred well for added distance and owns some of field’s fastest figures; benefits from anticipated pace scenario.

American Pioneer (8-1) is light on experience and accomplishment but long on talent with competitive Thoro-Graph and Pricci Energy ratings in two top tries over strip; interesting that Bejarano ships in for the ride. Tough dynamics, however.

Unbridled Outlaw (10-1) had much improved early speed to place gamely vs. older last out--not his preferred style. Tough trip third in G3 at 2 from off the pace; change of tactics anticipated but is slower than major rivals and needs to step it up big time.

Dazzling Gem (12-1)
chased the pace outside throughout G2 Louisiana Derby, persevering gamely late after headstretch issues. Switch to speed ace Talamo and is 2-for-2 on this ground. Hurried spot in order to make the Derby?

Whitmore (9-2)
placed gamely in rapidly run Rebel following premature move after a tough trip placing from far back in prior. Improved markedly since blinkers, owns excellent figures on all scales, developing incrementally, and benefits from second-time Irad.

Cupid (2-1) was most impressive in frontrunner Rebel score, a change-of-pace after off-the-pace maiden breaker; has worked thrice since including old school seven-eighths in 1:24 3/5. Likely reverts to waiting tactics from outside slip and just might trip here.

Gettysburg (6-1)
broke maiden at today’s trip, field’s lone 9F winner, and placed gamely chasing pace throughout from wide post in Sunland Festival at same distance in last; picks up Johnny but slip #12 a killer.


Are You Kidding Me (8-1) was quite successful at Canadian G2 level last year and Attfield can get them ready off lengthy breaks. Been in training at Palm Beach Downs since January for this.

Noble Bird (7-2) has yet to regain last year’s Foster form of last but won over surface; had no chance in very-wide-throughout season’s debut, returns with subsequent 46 1/5 move from gate over today’s strip; switch to Julien augurs well for barn.

Eagle (3-1)
had rough first turn in FG finale then raced flat thereafter. Owns superior figures and returns to preferred surface (2-for-2 at KEE) and reunites with regular partner Brian Hernandez.

Neck ‘n Neck (9-2) lacks killer instinct but consistently very-hard tryer with consistency that worked well for this after legging up in 2016 debut at Tampa; just might improve for Landeros.

General a Rod (7-2) has excellent back class and figures, won his only start over course, but has not moved forward even after switch to Pletcher; gets white hot Luis Saez.

J S Bach (10-1)
is up in class and distance for Todd seeking fifth straight--have seen this movie before with these connections--and newly turned 4YO possibly interesting price play for barn 25% profitable in LAY-2 scenarios.


Miss Matzoball (3-1) seeks third straight and half her lifetime wins came at today’s trip; must prove she’s as effective here as she is at Gulfstream; reunites with Javier.

Jewel of a Cat (7-2) is a five time winner at short turf sprint distances but is another South Florida specialist. Style appears severely compromised for major share.

Miss Ella (6-1) was second in her only start to Lady Shipman under these conditions at Saratoga last summer. Fired bullet for this before leaving Palm Meadows.

Tesalina (6-1) was a good third after mid-race move down the hill at Santa Anita after opening premature lead. Turnback helps, as does recent Turfway Park bullet.

Rapid Rhythm (20-1) meets tougher but all lifetime wins under these conditions. Two-for-two for Stidham, reunites with Geroux, and worked extremely sharp half mile for this here last Sunday.


Direct Message (15-1)
jumped up with Lasix, especially second time, overcoming trouble to break maiden at 9 furlongs in GP finale. Hot Luis Saez on the re-ride; possible price and money shot.

Swipe (9-5) spent his juvenile season finishing second to Nyquist in graded stakes, including fast finish placing after early trouble in BC Juvenile. Class call and Keith Desormeaux will have him ready off the bench. Question of intent and price ante post.

Riker (6-1) exits key race in which he never threatened in Outwork’s Tampa Bay Derby. Only beaten 4 lengths in Juvenile at 2; legged up in Oldsmar and Geroux sticks. Good value at early line odds.

Collected (2-1) the in-form Baffert won G3 Sham in January dirt debut in and was authoritative winner of Sunland Festival coming into this; Bullet Bob 32% with shippers; gets Castellano.


Dacita (8-1) won G2 Ballston Spa at Saratoga last summer and had very tough trip when narrowly beaten in GP season’s debut after adding blinkers; Javier takes return call.

Recepta (12-1) exits key race, losing by a head in G1 Matriarch, her 2015 season finale. Working bullets for turf ace Jimmy Toner for 2016 debut and attracts Geroux; won here last spring.

Itsonlyactingdad (12-1) returns with good spacing for Todd, profitable with his ship-ins. She also won here off similar layup last spring, is 2-for-2 at the trip, and gets Saez.

Wekeela (6-1), Group 3 winner and Group 1 placed, makes U.S. debut for Chad (23%) with first-Lasix and is 30% profitable with new acquisitions.

Tepin (4-5) Filly turf champion comes into this after two straight scores at Tampa, now returns to scene of her biggest lifetime score, beating colts in BC Mile. What’s not to like?

Tiger Ride (30-1)
newly turned 4YO is slower and less accomplished but enters this on a good line making second start off the layup for Motion/Prado team. Breezed in 58 3/5 on Palm Meadows turf last Saturday; possible money prospects.

See Saturday's Feature Race Analysis for on-the-record selections

Written by John Pricci

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Friday, April 08, 2016

123 WEEKEND ADVANCE: 3 Derby Preps & Grade 1 Pick 4, too

Exclusively for, reprint courtesy of

SOUTH OZONE PARK, NY—Of the four huge 2016 Kentucky Derby preps remaining, three will take place this weekend, from East to West and the Blue Grass, too. We just love the Triple Crown playoffs.

To celebrate two of them, officials in New York and Kentucky have come up with a delicious Pick 4 wager featuring four Grade 1s, the 7-furlong Madison and Carter for elder middle distance runners of either ex.

The Blue Grass and Wood Memorial for Derby-age runners are the marquee events and the Carter Handicap and Madison are about the toughest middle-distance races we’ve seen in quite some time. Maybe, in fact, on balance, the toughest Pick 4 ever.

The fields are deep, extremely competitive, and offer no highly viable means of holding costs down relative to desired returns. My kingdom for a single!

Meanwhile, here’s the skinny on the major contenders and Tote Busters for the Wood-Blue Grass Pick 4 that will attract major handle. Horses listed in post order with early odds:


CAVORTING (6-1) makes 4-year-old debut off willing tough trip 3rd in G1 LaBrea following solid-finish wide fourth in BC Distaff Sprint. Fast figures, solid workline, McLaughlin 25% profitable 90-day layoffs +. Only knock is the 1-hole; major player.

makes 5-year-old debut after winning BC Distaff Sprint. Obviously likes Keeneland; Chad Brown profitable with repeaters and 27% 90-day layoffs +. Gives weight to many.

SUNDAY RULES (8-1) Unknown at trip and Keeneland but big figures going 6-1/2 furlongs, which often translates to 7F. SoCal flyer a danger to shake loose. Serious question marks but ability is there.

DANCING HOUSE (8-1) earned excellent Pricci Energy Rating winning G2 Barbara Fritchie in February at today’s trip. Has improved on dirt, returns with good spacing, and is 1-for-1 at Keeneland.

CLOTHES FALL OFF (10-1), uncoupled McLaughlin, makes 4-year-old debut. Came into her own as late-season 3-year-old, style suits today’s dynamics and gets Lanerie in Kentucky. Tote Buster potential off maturity angle.

THIRTEEN ARROWS (30-1) earned lifetime best Energy Rating at Keeneland, at this trip, and with Geroux. Fast works for Jones but may be need-lead type. Likely a huge price.

STOPCHARGINGMARIA (7-2) just missed by half-length in this last year coming off similar layup, earning competitive figure. BC Distaff winner obviously loves surface and is 4-for-5 recently with Castellano. Very tough spot for return and post hurts.

Unbelievably competitive event is an ALL for those with deep pockets or strong opinions elsewhere.



DONEGAL MOON (5-1) showed marked improvement in rapidly run Parx allowances. Worthy (2) 1-1-0 over surface, well posted, attracts aggressive Martin Garcia. Serious contender with anything close to latest run.

CHERRY WINE (12-1) was very good, tough trip fourth in G2 Rebel off a short break and interrupted training. Owns excellent turn of foot, can kick mid-pack or from the clouds; gets Lanerie. Excellent value at early line odds.

ZULU (5-2) Showed talent and courage when second in Mohaymen’s Fountain of Youth making route debut--which may be the good news and bad news. His performance here may provide accurate Derby barometer on all Florida-based 3-year-olds.

BRODY’S CAUSE (4-1), G1 Breeders’ Futurity winner over course, exits extremely fast G2 Tampa Bay Derby in which he never lifted a hoof, making this very tough call. Would take a leap of faith even off recent, brilliant 5-furlong drill. Likely improvement, but how much?

freaked for new trainer Pletcher on Aqueduct Inner but may need the lead and this is a big leap in class. If he answers those questions affirmatively, has a puncher’s chance at huge price.

MY MAN SAM (10-1) was very good second to Matt King Coal on Aqueduct Inner and has not taken backward step on Pricci Energy scale in three-race career. Briefly freshened, training very well, but badly victimized by draw. Offers good value at this price, however.’

With so many improved or on healthy patterns, trip will be everything here.



SHAGAF (2-1), undefeated and impressive visually, he has nothing to prove but must move forward if he is to be taken very seriously in four week. Tactical speed with the class to finish the deal; worthy favorite given dynamics.

ADVENTIST (10-1) is going to be a major 3-year-old once he overcomes greenness, running in spots when he isn’t flat-out troubled. Highly competitive Thoro-Graph figures but weak on Pricci Energy scale. The value at anything near early odds.

FLEXIBILITY (8-1) has yet to make a poor effort except possibly last time when returning on short rest. Freshened, working extremely well and was tested for class at 2. Well posted and reunites with Franco.

MATT KING COAL (3-1) owns freakish speed and has the ability to stat, at least 1-1/16 miles, anyway. Never has taken a backward step, comes off new pace top, brilliant recent works and must catch him to win.

OUTWORK (5-2) raced very well at Tampa twice so he’s legged up, was an excellent second to well-regarded mate Destin, owns fast TG figure and change-of-pace Energy Rating in last. Working well for Todd/Johnny team.

What to do? Shagaf is classy and undefeated, Matt King Coal could prove to be a freak and Outwork is fast and developing. Grass renewal.



SASSACAIA (10-1) has improved markedly for Rudy as late season 4-year-old, winning G3 Toboggan off impossible trip. Owns main track win but seven-eighths might be too far for best

MAJESTIC AFFAIR (5-2) just missed after chasing hot pace in G3 General George and briefly freshened for this since. Gets along great with Carmouche and Chad profitable returning with this type of spacing. Versatility helps chances given dynamics.

DADS CAPS (8-1) is defending Carter titlist, was speed sharpened in two preps for this, is 3-for-3 on this surface, reportedly has blinkers removed and gets switch to the Patient Irad. Will be finishing late.

GREEN GROTTO (12-1) regressed badly on short rest last out but has been briefly freshened and looms controlling speed once again; dangerous

SALUTOS AMIGOS (2-1) came from impossible last while impossibly wide in G3 Tom Fool. Worthy 3-for-5 on the Big A Main and owns two wins at the trip but best game appears 6F and gives weight to many.

was scratched from ungraded Sir Shackleton on Fla. Derby undercard in favor of this Grade 1. Good pacesetting third in GP Handicap mile and gets switch to Johnny. Todd likes his turnbacks.

CALCULATOR (6-1) owns slower figures has developed poor gate habits; made premature wide move and tired in Santa Anita’s G2 San Carlos won by last-run Kobe’s Back. LAY-3, recently turned 4-year-old is nicely drawn and picks up Alvarado. Favorable dynamics.

Dads Caps and Calculator are likely to provide fair value. As stated, an unbelievably tough P4 sequence. A safe and speedy journey to all your runners.

See Saturday's Feature Race Analysis section for on-the-record selections

Written by John Pricci

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