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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Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Sun Shines Bright On Old School Derby Favorite

In the end, it was a triumph for Kentucky Derby old school.

Two colts that loved the Churchill Downs track, one earning a championship on it, the other flashing a Derby-week trial that forced the historically inclined to invoke the name of the mighty Forego.

And it had a trainer, Carl Nafzger, who 17 years got a colt named Unbridled to peak seemingly the minute he entered the starting gate. Then, last week, put the finishing touches on his second Derby champion, even if he prepped him in a traditional fixture that played out more Green Grass than Blue Grass.

But after an old school racehorse named Street Sense gave Nafzger his second Derby victory and punched his ticket to the Racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga, there was no kissing of sweet 92-year-old patrons of the turf.

The 65-year-old semi-retired Louisville favorite this time was a vision of studied concentration as he watched his horse gallop out. He would allow only a lower case arm-pump in celebration as he accepted congratulations from the winners connections.

And wouldnt you know it? Calvin got through on all but one of the 20, and it seemed like none were trained by Todd Pletcher. And Larry Jones is now household name and his Hard Spun is hardscrabble speed. And so is Curlin, who showed more class in defeat than he ever did when undefeated and never again will I poke fun of Imawildandcrazyguy who finished like one wildandcrazyracehorse.

And didnt the Queen look resplendent and enjoying her new image courtesy of Helen Mirren and the third largest crowd in history turned a storm in May into a sunshine bright day for an American horse race.

In the age of the fifteen-minute diva, wasnt it a sight for old school eyes to behold? Somewhere, Tevye is dancing.

Written by John Pricci

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

So What If The Track Is Wet On Derby Day?

Weather reports from area code 502 call for rain. The worst of it to come today, more on Friday, with a chance that it will continue into Derby Day.

Churchill Downs is a fast-drying surface and the track maintenance department work the track strenuously to get it dry and fast by Kentucky Derby post time. Fast, with a capital F, generally is the byword on big race-days at the Downs.

We scurried to our wet-track sire stats as compiled by Bloodstock Research. We looked for two-sided pedigrees, horses that figured to excel in wet conditions because the offspring of the sire and grand-sire already have: We established a minimum criteria for sire and grand-sire combined at 36 percent efficiency. Here are the qualifiers, in alphabetical order:

Any Given Saturday: 41%
Cowtown Cat: 41%
Curlin 36%
Nobiz Like Shobiz 36%
Scat Daddy 45%
Sedgefield 36%
Stormello 39%
Street Sense 36%
Teuflesberg 40%
Zanjero 38%

Its just not easy finding an edge in this Derby. Some of the above are favorites; some are extreme longshots. Keep these percentages in mind if conditions are wet, especially for exotic wagering.

Written by John Pricci

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Toot, Toot Tootsie Don’t Cry

Insiders tell me there was much raising of eyebrows on the Churchill Downs backstretch yesterday morning when it was learned that Scat Daddy has been training up to the Kentucky Derby in a bar shoe. Such footwear has a plate running across the horseshoe that protects the frog, part of the bottom wall of the hoof that at once acts like a shock absorber and, like toes, if you will, helps a horse to grab the surface below.

While providing protection, bar shoes can prevent a horse from grabbing the surface in the best manner possible, especially on wet tracks. Bar shoes are not a positive sign but theyre not always the skull and cross-bones horseplayers often believe they are. Horses win wearing bar shoes, only not as often as they do without them.

Trainer Todd Pletcher indicated that Scat Daddy would not wear bar shoes on Saturday and that the colt has trained in them since he was a two-year-old. As the only two-time Grade 1 winner in the field, it doesn't look like bar shoes have impeded Scat Daddy's progress all that much.

Pletcher does not have a history of placing his horses over-aggressively, and the nations leading trainer wont run Scat Daddy in the Derby just to give him a better chance to win his first classic at the horses expense. Thats not Pletchers style. So take the bar shoe into account, but try not to over-think the situation.

Written by John Pricci

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