John Pricci

HorseRaceInsider.com 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 MSNBC.com, 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, November 20, 2011


Thoroughbred Racing’s Crazy About Class


SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, November 20, 2011--As I was leaving Saratoga Gaming & Raceway this afternoon, a crazy idea popped into my head from out of nowhere. I wish I could say this was an unusual circumstance.

But what is unusual is that the Breeders’ Cup is over now and I've already started getting into end of year mode and really looking forward to Saturday’s Cigar Mile, Gazelle, Remsen and Demoiselle program at Aqueduct Race Track.

Not only is Saturday the occasion for the last Grade 1 on the NYRA calendar for 2011 but it’s the last veneer of truly big-,time New York racing until Wood Memorial day; the first Saturday of April in 2012.

More on Thanksgiving Saturday’s big races later this week.

With respect to the racing that begins in New York a week from Wednesday, the game will be better this winter, of course. Snowbird trainers will leave behind better horses than they have in the past because of the VLT-infused purses.

But it’s still the winter track, with its tight turns and no races out of the seven-furlong and mile chutes. You either race six furlongs or two turns with nothing in between. Sorry, but that’s just not big time sport in our view.

The inner track surface truly has been a marvel all these years. No track is immune to the dreaded freeze-thaw cycle, but this winter surface has held up remarkably well.

The mistake probably was not winterizing the Big A main track in the first place.

Speaking of big-time classy racing, I have a pet peeve. Did you happen to take note of Sunday’s feature race at Aqueduct, the Adirondack Holme?

It was an overnighter for New York-breds going a flat mile. It was won by Groomedforvictory over Johannesburg style by a head in a worthy 1:35.73, with a final quarter-mile in a tad over :24 1/5.

It was like a graded stakes event masquerading as a state-bred tune-up for something else. And, so , what’s the point?

The point is the race was run as the third on a nine-race program. Did we really need to keep the seven-horse field out of the Pick Six and late Pick 4 that badly?

But don’t blame the racing office for this, rather the bean-counting top level management. That’s why they get the big bucks; keeping their eyes on the big prize, the bottom line.

Never mind that New York racing has forgotten its big time status except for major racing days and Saratoga. Why should fans respect a perceived status when the organization fails to show respect for its top horses or its past?

Would it make such a big difference in handle if feature races, which tend to draw small fields, were run in their more traditional penultimate race on the card spot?

It might make a difference in the way true fans take another look at New York racing.

Which brings me to that unusual idea that pooped into my head leaving the harness track today.

The Breeders’ Cup races are what they are, named what they are because of the entrants involved. The names of the original races have remained unchanged except for when sponsors have been brought on board.

Consider: There are two races for older horses going one mile. The original mile, of course, is run on turf. This race was always a little confusing to me in terms of its name.

After all, we think of milers in this country as potential stud horses who were stars on dirt. I get it that they wanted a race we could win, as opposed to the longer BC Turf in which foreigners always figure to have an edge.

So when Breeders’ Cup instituted a mile race on dirt, it was called the Dirt Mile to differentiate. OK, so then there’s no need to call the original Mile the Turf Mile.

Breeders’ Cup has never named a race after a horse--unless that horse turned out to be a sponsor for a particular stud farm--because no one horse should be bigger than the event, right?

But even after Miesque won it twice, and after Lure won it twice, and even the remarkably ageless Da Hoss accomplished the same feat, what horse ever has ever been more closely associated with this event than Goldikova?

If it would have been one of the three pre-dating Goldikova, it is likely that it would be Miesque, especially considering the manner of her victories and the fact that she’s a she.

Add to this the fact that one man, Freddie Head, was associated with both fillies, the latter as a trainer and former as Miesque’s rider, what would be more appropriate than to brand this race not the Turf Mile--to avoid confusion with the Dirt Mile in future generations--the Goldikova Mile?

When some new Breeders’ Cup fan in 2020 asks, what’s a Goldikova Mile, think of the yarn that could be told?

Or maybe you believe some future horse of either sex is going to win this race three years running ever again?

So, is this a crazy idea? Or is it, in the idiom of the moment, crazy?





Written by John Pricci

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