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, November 23, 2007

Future on Display Today at Churchill

Earlier this week, we did our commercial for tomorrows Cigar Mile program at Aqueduct, one of our favorite days on the New York calendar. But today theres a bonus.

This morning Ill be keeping one eye on the live Aqueduct program and the other on the press box television, the one featuring the Churchill Downs simulcast.

The card at Churchill is my co-favorite of the fall meet in Louisville. Its called Star of Tomorrow II and it features a dozen races for juveniles, starting at 11:30 a.m.

My other favorite? Stars of Tomorrow I, which I missed because it was on the Sunday after Breeders Cup.

Note to Churchill: The day is too good, too interesting, to be a kind of scheduling afterthought. Its a Saturday event! And promote the hell out of it so that no one, including those who really look forward to it, misses it.

The Churchill co-feature is the Grade 2 Golden Rod for fillies at 8.5 furlongs. The feature, at the same distance, is the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes for colts.

But take a glance at the rest of the Churchill card. Full fields at every level, many at meaningful distances. Turf, too. Upsets will abound--a good thing for the Dime Superfecta crowd.

The Golden Rod features the undefeated Pure Color, 3-for-3 for Bob Holthus including the G3 Pocohantas over the track, vs. Bill Motts Sunday Holiday, third in both the G1 Frizette and G3 Tempted.

As a prelude to the Ky. Jockey Club, a preliminary allowances at a mile features Jedi Code, an impressive maiden winner for Ian Wilkes, ridden by Calvin Borel. The colt is 1-for-1 at Churchill after getting blinkers and Lasix. The competition is Web Gem, from Team Lapenta/Zito, and Monla, who came from the clouds after a poor star to beat 11 rivals impressively in his Keeneland debut for Todd Pletcher.

In the Jockey Club, it will be interesting to see how Wicked Style rebounds from his Breeders Cup Juvenile slop debacle and if Cool Coal Man, another Lapenta/Zito colt, can make it 3-for-3 around two turns.

Dont be too surprised then if several, if not all, of these return for the feature race on Mays first Saturday of 2008.

Written by John Pricci

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Alan Garcia’s Star On the Rise

At the Saratoga Harness simulcast last weekend, a crescendo was beginning to rise as Hunting beneath Alan Garcia was beginning to cut Utopias leading margin with every stride. After Hunting reached the finish line first in the Stuyvesant Handicap, someone in the group behind me said: Looks like this kid Garcia is going to be the next Bailey.

Actually, Hall of Famer Jerry Dale Bailey already has a successor, the heir apparent to the unofficial title of Go-To Stakes Jockey.

Garcia is a truly exciting star jockey prospect. But its not because his performance aboard Hunting was anything special. The favored Utopia had done the dirty work, racing a loose leader into defeat. To Garcias credit, he didnt rattle, instead waiting until the last instant before putting a ride on his late running colt.

Rather, it was his effort aboard Dantastic that was anything but routine. It was the kind of ride that one day will vault the young man into the pantheon that will make him the equal of Bailey, a fellow Hall of Famer.

Coincidentally, it was on the turf, the surface over which Bailey became celebrated and earned him the nickname Greenlight because of the way the inside path, the shortest way home, was always there when he needed it.

Saving ground into the stretch, Garcia found room to the outside between rivals, ducked back to the fence when a lane opened, and waited until the final split second to swing out a second time and nail the leader right on the line.

The maneuver compelled racecaller John Imbriale to shout: Dantastic won it, what a ride by Alan Garcia!

And it was Garcia that was absolutely the difference between victory and defeat aboard Lahudood at Belmont Park and Shakis in Saratoga.

But it is Garrett Gomez, who last weekend became the all-time leading single-season stakes winning jockey with his 71st victory of the year, who is the heir apparent. Its Gomez whos first on the speed dial of every trainer in America with a good horse.

This weekend, GG will ride the stakes favorite at Churchill Downs tomorrow, have two stakes rides at Hollywood Park Friday, will return East to ride Midnight Lute in the Hill n Dale Cigar Mile on Saturday, then return to Hollywood to ride favorites in two Grade 1s grass stakes on Sunday.

Garrett Gomez is not the next Bailey. Gomez already is the new Bailey.

Written by John Pricci

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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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