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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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Doubling Your Pleasure Is Double The Fun

I was thinking as I watched Joe Talamo remain cool under fire, allowing the first Grade 1 of his career to come to him, that this could be the golden age of the apprentice.

What are the chances, after all, that a Julien Leparoux and a Joe Talamo would come along one right after the other?

And so Talamo won the Vanity with Nashobas Key, keeping his partner undefeated in five career starts, then the second Grade 1 of his career a few hours later on the unlikely Bilo at the expense of the heralded Surf Cat.

But then everyone was doubling up yesterday.

There was Rick Violette, getting a Grade 1 title for Prioress winner Dream Rush after he won the opener with maiden breaker Sacred Charm, his second impressive debut winner in as many days.

Clinton Potts shipped 3,000 miles and won a pair of graded stakes on the almost washed out Summit of Speed program at Calder, taking the Grade 1 Princess Rooney with Rivers Prayer and the Grade 2 Carry Back with Black Seventeen.

But then everyone was doubling yesterday. Veteran Jean Luc Samyn took the listed Crockadore with Junkanoo Party then went back to back aboard Inside Info. A natural for Samyn, fittingly, a Samyn on the Green double.

Alan Garcia won a pair, getting through inside on the entire field twice; one turf, one dirt. If you missed his first winner at $19, maybe you got his second at $38?

That turf win was for Barclay Tagg, who doubled after juvenile maiden Tale of Ekati graduated impressively in the second race, giving Eibar Coa a sweep of the early double.

And Robbie Albarado doubled, at Calder of all places. But then he probably would follow the four-year-filly Smittys Sunshine anywhere, which would make sense. Yesterday was her sixth straight win.

Written by John Pricci

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fireworks Galore In Both Holiday Features

On paper, todays Grade 2 Dwyer at Belmont Park might appear a two-horse race between Kentucky Derby also-rans Nobiz Like Shobiz and Any Given Saturday. Down the road it could have even more implications, however.

Sightseeing, who split those two in the Wood Memorial then came back to win the Peter Pan, subsequently skipped the Belmont in addition to skipping the Derby. Shug McGaughey is clearly pointing towards a Midsummer Derby. But if a couple of heavy heads show up in the Travers, its possible the Phipps runner might skip that dance, too.

As an aid in reaching his goal, Shug is adding blinkers--perhaps borrowing Barclay Taggs, whos removing the eyewear from Nobiz in todays primary feature--in an attempt to get the colt to react quicker to his riders cues. McGaughey, and videotape study, concluded Sightseeing was a little late getting Edgar Prados message in the Peter Pan.

Meanwhile, who knows how good First Defence is? As a two-year-old he finished second to Zanjero going long at Churchill Downs before the latter underscored his talent with a fine effort subsequently in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.

Making his three-year-old debut for Bobby Frankel on May 28th, First Defence won a seven furlong allowances easily over the track in 1:20 4/5. Hes 2-for-2at Belmont Park and todays added ground is no problem. He is the Dwyers dominant early speed.

Speaking of zip, Commentator, the horse with issues but also with immense talent, will try to dominate the Grade 2 Tom Fool with early gas.

Should he add the Tom Fool trophy to his record of nine lifetime wins in 12 starts--including four victories at the seven-furlong distance and over the Belmont surface--it will be interesting to see if trainer Nick Zito runs him back in the Whitney.

Commentator won that storied Saratoga Grade 1 two years ago. But first things first. The six-year-old gelding needs to defeat a speed-laden group and have enough strength left to attempt the Whitneys additional two furlongs.

In all, a good day to be a racing fan. Enjoy your holiday.

Written by John Pricci

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

He Shed His Grace On We

Cant get used to the idea that tomorrow is Independence Day. How can there be a 4th of July weekend when the big day falls on a Wednesday?

Never got a five-day holiday weekend when I was in school.

When I was a kid, July 4th was a huge racing day. Actually, still is, but because of the way the calendar falls this year, my big-race barometer is more than a little askew.

At Belmont Park tomorrow, there will be two big races to celebrate the countrys birthday; the Dwyer Stakes for three-year-olds, and the Tom Fool, a seven furlong event that almost always attracts some of the countrys top sprinters.

But the big action is not limited to New York, New York. In upstate Canandaigua, just outside Rochester, a Kentucky Derby winner will appear for the first time in Finger Lakes racetrack history. We speak of the celebrated New York-bred, Funny Cide, seeking a field he can defeat.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

But the highlight, of course, will be the return of two current Kentucky Derby three-year-olds in the Dwyer.

Perhaps Nobiz Like Shobiz and Any Given Saturday might have a better second half beneath the glaring sophomore lights than they had earlier this season. If they have developed further since May, it could be one hell of a Saratoga and fall.

Alas, we shall see. But in the meantime, lets celebrate whats truly great about this country at this time in our storied history: Scooter Libby walks among us a free man.

Written by John Pricci

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