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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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Barbaro, The Movie!

Its probably two years from being released. Im betting Breeders Cup, 2009. Maybe Kentucky Derby, 2010.

With apologies to Shirley MacLaine, were going out on a limb. Barbaro is a sure thing hit.

How could it not? All the elements are there. Think about it.

An American equestrian, a gold medal winner at the Pan American Games, is one of a handful of people to survive a horrific plane crash.

Not only did he survive but he and his fiance helped save the lives of three children who were traveling alone to visit their grandmother in upstate New York.

The compassionate horseman decides, experience and inclination be damned. He would become a horse trainer. His career path comes full circle when he wins the Kentucky Derby.

I know what youre thinking: Too implausible, trite.

The horse that wins the Derby impressively becomes a consensus favorite to win the Triple Crown. But he breaks down in the Preakness, the fractures requiring 23 screws to put his leg back together.

Despite successful surgery, hes given about a five percent chance to survive. Far too generous in light of the circumstances, thought most racetrackers.

But his owners spared no expense; generous to a fault, accused some. The veterinary surgeon that attended him proves a generous, loving, dedicated and tireless genius.

The colt is the best patient anyone had ever seen.

The horse leads the network nightly news for a week. Thousands of blogs and forum items are written about him on web-sites around the cyber-world.

The hospital taking care of him begins to receive significant donations in his name. Cards and candles and flowers rim the surrounding fence posts.

The phenomenon doesnt stop.

Then, ultimately, tragedy. A disease with no cure claims him but because he lived it's now on everyones radar. Strides have been taken.

The man who will produce and direct the movie, from a magazine piece written by his cousin for the August 2007 issue of Vanity Fair, buys the rights with a major studio.

And the director knows a thing or two about making films, movies with a sports theme. Because didn't he turn his cousins book, Friday Night Lights, into a first rate film?

And didn't the film later become a first rate network television series about how a high school football team is the only reason to live in a small Texas town?

A town that could have been prologue to The Last Picture Show if not for the life-affirming value of sport and its heroes.

Love, dedication, hope. Playing at a theater near you.

Written by John Pricci

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Talent Throws Brass Hat Into Ring

It sure would be great if the recently returned Brass Hat catches another brass ring this year somewhere along the way. The handicap division could badly use this extraordinary horse.

The injury to Invasor, which rang true and didnt seem like a ploy meant to whisk away the Horse of the Year on two continents to the breeding shed, left a huge void.

It would be great if the popular Lava Man could fill that void, but he never will as long as he remains ineffective outside his home state of California.

Although his connections said theyd keep the rags to riches gelding in California, they seemed to leave the door to Monmouth Park's Breeders Cup Classic slightly ajar.

Maybe the speed favoring nature of the Jersey Shore surface will allow him to perform closer to his best. That would be a good thing.

Brass Hat seems to be a truly remarkable animal, and gave indications right from the start. While he stayed out of the Triple Crown limelight, he did win Derbies in Ohio and Indiana three years ago.

Sidelined with a condylar fracture of the right cannon bone for a year, he returned to win the New Orleans Handicap and Grade 1 Donn last year, winning in 1:47 1/5, a Gulfstream Park track record.

Following a second-place finish in the Dubai World Cup, a second serious injury, a sesamoid fracture, sent him to the sidelines again until last weekend, when he returned with yet another remarkable performance.

Trained by owner Fred Bradleys son, Buff, the six-year-old has indicated to his connections that hes ready for more.

Good for the horse and good for us. Given what hes been through, he's easy to cheer for.

Written by John Pricci

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

It’s A White Whale I Say!

Im not really starting racings second season, the championship season, in a good mood. Even with the Saratoga race meet just 15 days away, my passion is being blunted by apathy.

Horseplayers are the ones that have been most disappointing. Fans love to complain about whats wrong with the game. God knows theres much to complain about.

Medication issues, legal and otherwise, lagging technology, poor customer service, and overall product quality, are problems truly worthy of discussion. But then so is the cost of the product.

In the last decade, nationwide handle on horse racing grew from $10 billion to $15 billion annually. But in this millennium, its been flat. Why?

What does business do when sales are slow? It lowers the price, hoping to renew interest by making the product more affordable.

Racing is unique in the sporting world because its enjoyment is derived via fan participation. It is the greatest vehicle for gambling ever invented for the thinking man. So, what does the thinking handicapper do?

Absolutely nothing, if the response to a recent column on this site is any measure.

HRI is a new alternative in this data-driven game. Weve been happy to get five, six, or even more responses to some of the pieces that have appeared on this site.

But last weeks, on the four percent takeout on the Ellis Park Pick Four, got one response. One!

Could it be that no one understands the economics of wagering?

Im no math genius, far from it. But a wager that puts the odds in our favor over the long term, one where track executives and horsemen and legislators from the Commonwealth of Kentucky came together and took a risk for our gain and, ultimately, theirs?

This is a very big deal, and nobody seems to care.

Reaction, any reaction, yeah or nay, was anticipated. It would have been a welcome start to meaningful dialogue between racings considerable uncounted majority and the industry (simulcastors and OTBs dont take attendance). Instead, reaction was next to nothing.

Am I to believe that New Yorkers, for instance, are more interested in who gets the NYRA franchise than the current law that prevents OTBs from taking wagers on the Ellis Park Pick Four?

As if by just showing up the new operators of New York racing are going to put money back into horseplayers pockets?

And where is the racing media on this? Wheres the commentary? Again, yeah or nay, I dont care. But say something. Anything.

Written by John Pricci

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