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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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Good Works Keep Derby Favorites In The Mix

If an interested party cares to make a gentlemans wager, I will bet that when Derby betting opens at Churchill Downs Street Sense will be favored on the first flash of live betting. Only an octopus could have supplied more ink than was given the colts Derby workout at the Louisville track.

Influential Derby observer Steve Haskin put the five-furlong breeze in :59 flat with the two best Derby workouts hes seen recently, those of Barbaro and Smarty Jones. And we know how those Derbys turned out.

Always within himself, SS finished strongly while under no pressure to do so and galloped out another furlong in :12 2/5, earning him a six furlong out time of 1:11 2/5. It was so good trainer Carl Nafzger called the move perfect before and after the work. Smart guy, Nafzger.

What impressed Haskin was the fact the colt exited the work without drawing a deep breath. Can you say Derby fit? The rest, of course, depends on how Street Sense handles 19 rivals on the track a week from Saturday. But Louisvillians love bluegrass connections and Nafzger is one of their favorite folks.

Likely post time favorite Curlin--visually impressive and undefeated--worked five-eighths at Keeneland in 1:00 4/5 with a final quarter mile of :23 2/5 on Polytrack. Trainer Steve Asmussen likes the fitness and rebounding properties Polytrack offers but also is smart enough to know the colt should have a blow at Churchill, scheduled for early next week.

Wood winner Nobiz Like Shobiz worked a purposeful five furlongs in :59 3/5 at Belmont Park for Barclay Tagg, but it was what he did after that was more significant. Gallop-out times of 1:27 for seven-eighths and 1:42 and change for a mile is almost Whittingham like, although Charlie would have preferred a strong one-mile work, not a gallop-out, over the Churchill track. But shipping in late worked for Funny Cide and trainers are creatures of habit, especially Derby-winning trainers.

Written by John Pricci

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Self Confidence Name Of Derby Game For Pletcher

Is this the year Todd Pletcher, three-time defending Eclipse champion as this country's leading trainer, final breaks through to win his first classic? If he does so, it will be to the beat of his own training regimen.

He will not worry about the eight weeks between races for the light-bodied Circular Quay. If this were any other race, he would give this little colt with the big finish ample time to recover between starts. If that means eight weeks, so be it. Who would know this better than Pletcher, who has followed all the historical rules and is winless in 21 attempts.

Nor will he worry about the five week layup for Scat Daddy. Barbaro did it. Why not his own Florida Derby winner? He had a decision to make with Any Given Saturday. Do you want four weeks rest into the Blue Grass or four weeks going into the Derby? He chose the latter. Any Given Saturday wilted like a tired colt in the Wood Memorial. The extra week for the Derby, at this juncture, looks like a prescient call.

Pletcher will start Sam P. off what has become the traditional four week break. Any argument that Santa Anita Derby participants have not earned their share of Derby glory? And, of course, there's Cowtown Cat. Countless Derbies have been won by the horse that gets good at the right time. And like Illinois Derby-winning War Emblem, Cowtown Cat is a "now" horse. And he's been working bullets since that last race, perhaps getting even better than good. Could the timing be any better?

Like Sinatra, Pletcher will do it his way. If recent history is a measure, who can argue?

Written by John Pricci

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Monday, April 23, 2007

The Pletcher Three-Year-Olds Work Weekends

Soaring By's disappointing effort in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes notwithstanding, Todd Pletchers Derby (and Oaks) three-year-olds had a useful working weekend at Keeneland.

The Polytrack surface continues to play fast in the mornings even though running times dont always reflect that in the afternoons, especially in races around two turns.

The weekend began with Illinois Derby winner Cowtown Cat ripping through five furlongs in :58 4/5. Without a clear-cut speed type signed on for the 20-horse Kentucky Derby, the move seemed to indicate that Pletcher would be content to take the front-end if its available.

With most of the major contenders in stalking mode, keeping an eye on one another, the Cat could steal away to a relatively easy lead. Much will depend, of course, on which horses make the final cat as well as the draw for post positions.

Any Given Saturday appears to have all his energy back, working Sunday morning in the same :58 4/5 beneath Garrett Gomez, his Derby partner. He galloped out a crisp six furlongs in 1:11 2/5.

Scat Daddy, with regular rider Edgar Prado in the boot, worked a deliberate five furlongs in 1:00 4/5. His out time was a useful 1:15 for three-quarters of a mile, observers commenting to Insider that Prado sat motionless, allowing his mount to coast home on his own terms.

Circular Quay, of course, needs to be trained hard since he will start in the Derby off an eight-week respite. As he often does, Pletcher worked the horse in company with another good horse, the filly Rags To Riches, the overwhelming Kentucky Oaks favorite.

The team worked in 1:00 1/5 and galloped out another furlong in a strong :12 4/5. Its the second time these highly talented three-year-olds worked in company, showing the confidence Pletcher has in both to handle pressure applied by a high-class work-mate.

Written by John Pricci

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