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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Monday, December 17, 2007

Country Star Rocks the Vote

An addendum to Fridays Eclipse Award vote column, and were sure glad we didnt fax the official ballot over to the NTRA hoof counters.

Were making a change. The change is odds-on not to affect the status of the protem juvenile fillies champion, Indian Blessing. In a game with no absolutes, shes a lock.

But following the result of Saturdays Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet, we have a new second choice in the Stonerside home-bred, Country Star. In fact, if Indian Blessings didnt have the words Breeders Cup in the race title, we would elevate the new shooter to #1.

After debuting on turf, Country Star made her synthetic surface debut in the G1 Alcibiades. Actually she entered Keenelands storied juvenile filly fixture as a maiden. So, she graduated in a G1. Thats a little unusual.

But it wasnt enough to give her consideration to break into the top three, fleshed out by the undefeated Rated Feisty and Proud Spell, 3-for-3 until her runnerup finish in the Juv Fillies.

But after Country Stars track record for a mile and a sixteenth of 1:40 2/5--thats right, track record, not stakes record, by a two-year-old filly, making her a perfect 2-for-2 in G1s around two turns.

Thats as many G1s as the protem champion, and one more around a second turn, a subjectively more impressive aesthetic for us.

With this change to insert Country Star at #2, well drop Rated Feisty a notch on our final ballot. Proud Spell? We hardly knew ye.

Actually, her Alcibiades over nine rivals was so impressive we thought about giving her an honorable mention for it, but didnt think that would be fair to the connections of Rated Feisty and/or Proud Spell. No apologies now, not after she earned her way in.

After the Alcibiades, Bobby Frankel said that the daughter of Empire Maker would not race again this year. Now we know he really meant that she wont run in the Breeders Cup this year.

(I wonder what he might have done if this was the inaugural year for the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Im just saying).

Frankel did insist that he wanted to have a good three-year-old for 2008. Well, hes got one.

You know, I probably wont send in my ballot until after Dec. 22. Thats the day they run the Cash Call Futurity for the colts at Hollypark. Whats good for the gander

Written by John Pricci

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ignore Hunches at Your Own Peril

As it turns out, theres only one Evening Attire. Remember him? It was only last week, a stirring stretch run and a Grade 3 photo won, three weeks short of his 10th birthday.

I was hoping for more of the same yesterday at Calder. Revved Up, now two weeks from his 10th birthday, was looking to win the G2 William L McKnight at Calder. Again.

His form was promising, too. He won the prep for it, his third win in four lifetime starts over the course, and yesterday he was looking for his fifth win at a mile and a half.

Not every nine-year-old is Evening Attire. Kent Desormeaux really didnt help him that much, either. He started out great, stalking a moderate pace while saving ground, a textbook tack for winning on the grass.

But the jock gave up that position, angled him off the fence, and while leaving the backstretch for the third of three turns, a rival went up the fence, another went outside, and the rider needed to stay his mount.

A grinding mover until he unleashes his substantial kick, he was taken out of his game, and the big run was not forthcoming. In fact, he was a flat fifth through the lane.

Not that the winner was plausible, unless youre a fan of a hot jockey. Precious Passion is a nice developing four-year-old and hes been keeping pretty dicey company of late. But not only was he lacking a marathon win at any distance, he had never even run that far.

And he was off the board in his only Calder start. So then why did Elvis Trujillo, a winner of nine of his last 33 rides through Thursday, take the call? I couldnt figure it out, but I kept on looking at Precious Passion because of Trujillo. And Elvis was proving to be the king of the Grand Slam II program, having already won the Kenny Noe and Fred Hooper handicaps earlier.

You know how this story ends, right? Would you believe, $136.20 to win?

But it really looked like such a great spot for the old boy, and 7-2 was a fair price. I was looking for some of that Evening Attire karma.

Sometimes, though, youve just got to take a clue from your subconscious and throw caution to the wind. Because sometimes its just jockey racing and you're allowed to be right for the wrong reason.

Written by John Pricci

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New York Racing Running Out of Hope for Timely Settlement

With 18 days remaining to the end of racing in New York for the year, and possibly beyond, no progress has been made made in Albany.

It seems all parties are content to treat New Yorks racing industry with the same respect it normally reserves for the budget process: It will get done when it gets done. So what if its late?

Nobody in the Assembly, absolutely nobody, knows whats going on, Assemblyman Roy McDonald of Wilton told the local newspaper, the Saratogian.

Instead of sitting by our phones, we should be in Albany at our desks, doing things, McDonald added. Its a terrible way to do business. Its so unprofessional its embarrassing.

The State Senate will be in the Capitol today, presumably doing something. The Assembly will not.

Dont suppose that matters. The Democratic majority in the Assembly is expected to rubber-stamp whatever compromise is reached between fellow Democrat Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the Republican Senate led by its Majority Leader, Senator Joe Bruno.

The whispers and hunches we hear, and have, is that the Governor will get off the 30-year extension for the New York Racing Assn and perhaps try to convince the Assembly to accept a casino operation at Belmont Park.

For this, Bruno gets off his state-appointed public authority plan and actually allows NYRA to conduct its marketing and simulcast operations, like any real company. It could be, too, that he wants Capital Play to replace Excelsior Associates as the gaming operators.

The NYRA would probably have to cave somewhat and seriously reduce the current number of NYRA-elected Trustees on its Board. And, of course, cede the the title of the properties to the state.

But, at this point, who really knows anything?

Theres no date for the Assembly to return to Albany this month, and there wont until some progress is made between Spitzers and Brunos people. A Bruno spokesperson said that some progress has been made and that theyre really arent any differences that cannot be overcome. But don't be surprised if that involves a short extension beyond the Dec. 31 deadline.

So all this is unprofessional and embarrassing. Thats true. But theres another word for it, as this situation affects every citizen in this state. That word is criminal.

Written by John Pricci

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