HRI Featured Writers
HRI Featured Writers

Pricci’s Free Race Analysis

Five days per week, John Pricci will provide analysis of that day's feature race. His long term approach, combining visual interpretation with informed Energy Figures, has resulted in a positive ROI since the feature's inception, from May, 2007 through the latest results.

Executive Editor John Pricci
Executive editor John Pricci provides his insights on everything thoroughbred racing. Big horses, big races, politics, it's all here in his " Morning Line " blog and " On the Line " column


Tom Jicha
Tom has been a sports writer, columnist, and an editor at various times throughout a journalistic career that spans more than four decades. His passionate writing and reporting on thoroughbred racing can now be read in his "Ante Post" blog.


Indulto
Indulto's "Players Up" blog. Taking his nickname from the King Ranch color-bearer of the 1960s, Indulto now devotes his time to advocate for the recreational player and hobbyist, but prefers lower takeout rates for all rather than subsidized rebates for the few.


Robert Earle
Rob Earle is a lifelong horseman, IT whizzkid & racing fanatic, and will be bringing you some industry thoughts in his "Easy as 123Bet" blog.


Marc Lawrence - On Sports
Marc Lawrence will be contributing his sports handicapping insights and providing college and NFL Best Bets in his " Playbook" blog.
 
 


Latest Columns and Blogs

Moving Parts But No Change at Top of HRI Derby Power 10


HALLANDALE BEACH, March 22, 2015—Pretend for a moment you own Dubai Sky. Would you have spent your hard-earned $6,000 to nominate your horse to the Kentucky Derby? Before you answer, check the Spiral Stakes replay for yourself.

Do you spend that money only to find out that your three-year-old is unable to match up with the best of his generation on the dirt? Well, with the March 23 nominations deadline, the owners are expected to do just that.

A short trip down memory lane might be helpful here. Consider that only Needles and Animal Kingdom won the big race coming in off a six-week break. History is not on his side and neither is the unknown of unknowns—his suitability to dirt.

But he’s now won four straight dating back to September of his two-year-old year and on Saturday won his first race ever over an all-weather surface.

Looking at raw times, it took Animal Kingdom 1:52.32 to win the 2011 Spiral Stakes, the slowest renewal ever, but Dubai Sky won his edition with authority, saving no ground at all, getting the trip in 1:50.26, a heartbeat away from the stakes record.


Written by John Pricci | Comments (3)
HRI Derby Power 10, Week 2: #1 With a Bullet


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., March 16, 2015—Some people have all the luck; others have a stranglehold on HRI’s Week 2 edition of the Kentucky Derby Power 10.

As a three year old debut, a comeback race from an injury, a sloppy-track trial, or a paid public workout over a handful of rivals, American Pharoah made his competition look overmatched. He was nothing short of awesome taking Saturday’s Grade 2 Rebel Stakes.

Recovering deftly, showing athleticism following a bobbling start in which he partially pulled off his right front shoe, the colt’s brilliance took over while racing as kindly as you will ever see from a front-running winner.

There were times on the backside when American Pharoah appeared to be absolutely galloping, responding only when Victor Espinoza moved his hands slightly.

Can you say pushbutton?


Written by John Pricci | Comments (3)

Violette Responds to Florida Derby Non-Inquiry

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., March 28, 2015—Just received a text response from Upstart's trainer, Rick Violette, concerning the stretch incident in Saturday's Florida Derby. In mid-stretch, the winning Materiality came out beneath left-handed urging from Johnny Velazquez and into the path of Upstart, forcing Jose Ortiz to steady his mount.

No head-on replay was shown at the track following the race.

It is extremely unlikely that the incident cost Upstart the win. That, however, is not the point. The Gulfstream Park outrider, whose job it is to signal the stewards should a jockey want to lodge a foul claim, signaled the "all clear" to the officials before Ortiz had a chance to lodge an objection. When he reached the outrider, he was told it was "too late."

With or without the rider's objection, the stewards were obliged to lodge an inquiry of their own. There certainly was enough there to indicate to the connections and the public that the officials actually witnessed the stretch run of Gulfstream's signature event.

Of course, Upstart was the horse disqualified from first in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. It was a controversial call which, for the record, then and now, we thought to be correct. In our view, Saturday's non-decision decision would have been correct, too--again, not the issue.

Once more, incidents like these show how racing's officiating process in deeply flawed yet there remains no transparency in stewards stands throughout the U.S.

Violette's text message: "[The decision] turned quick official into rush-to-go-home official. Did an injustice to the horse, the owner, and the betting public. Regardless of the ultimate decision, robbed the connections of any revue. There was contact and for the stewards not to put up the inquiry on their own underscores the depth of their inconsistency. To call it official after it was clearly heard on the companies [sic] walkie talkies underlines their lack of competence."

International Star Sweeps; Birdatthewire Impressive in Gulfstream Oaks

He’s not the fastest and not the flashiest three year old of 2015 but who can argue that International Star is neck and neck the grittiest member of his generation.

In gamely beat Stanford--who Materiality made look like a second tier three year old in the Islamorada at Gulfstream only to prove that assessment inaccurate in Saturday’s Louisiana Derby—International Start proved that he carries guns into knife fights.

He just won’t let you finish in front of him.

His praises were being sung long before Saturday because of his uncommon versatility as to distance, style and surface preferences while beating you inside, outside, doing whatever it takes. On Saturday, he did a little of everything.


Written by John Pricci | Comments (5)
This Weekend, Racing Takes the World Stage

HALLANDALE BEACH, March 27, 2015—Unless Dubai Sky turns out to be the second coming of Animal Kingdom, the 2015 Kentucky Derby winner will race in the next 15 days.

This is that time in the prep season when the scores can really change, figuratively and literally—when it comes to qualifying Derby-entrance points.

Down Louisiana way, International Star, the horse with the winning ways who lights a raging fire under no one, is a 3-1 favorite to sweep the Fair Grounds three-race series of the Lecomte, Risen Star and tomorrow’s Louisiana Derby.

His versatile attributes have been well documented and his outside #9 slip will make him no less formidable on the day.

Once again, he will have War Story (4-1) to beat, the colt that continues to train lights out and will have a new passenger in Joe Talamo, as Kent Desormeaux switches or was pushed off War Story, the rider leaving that runner with too much to do in the Risen Star.

Of perhaps it was Wayne Lukas who invited him to rider Mr. Z (4-1), who removes blinkers but adds Desormeaux, after getting out of Hot Springs town to join the cast in New Orleans.

It was, in Lukas’ opinion, either the quirky hard-hitter will prefer the Fair Grounds surface to Oaklawn Park’s, or he’s getting out of Dodge before American Pharoah returns two weekends from now for the Arkansas Derby. Either seems prudent.


Written by John Pricci | Comments (3)

Derby starting gate shouldn’t have a back door

Dubai Sky and Firing Line both came up big last weekend to clinch Kentucky Derby starting berths. But Dubai Sky did it on an artificial surface and Firing Line went to the middle of nowhere to crush a field of nobodies. Meanwhile others will be slugging it out in races like the Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial to win their right to run for the roses.This isn't right. Also, Kentucky horsemen are objecting to the reasonable proposal that tracks be allowed to write races for horses whose connections are willing to compete without Lasix. What is it the naysayers fear?



Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (14)
Upstart draws outside No. 9 for Florida Derby

Rick Violette wasn't thrilled when Upstart drew the outside post 9 for Saturday's Florida Derby. But the colt who has finished first in a couple of Gulfstream stakes this winter will make his final Derby prep in the $1 million stakes. Todd Pletcher has the early second and third choices in Itsaknockout, who was put up to first on the DQ of Upstart in the Fountain of Youth, and Materiality, who is two-for-two in his brief career.

HALLANDALE--It’s a good thing Saturday’s Florida Derby drew only nine entrants. Upstart drew the outside post for the mile-and-an-eighth $1 million stakes and his trainer, Rick Violette, said if it had been the 11 or 12, he might have been getting on a plane.

This was a light-hearted reference to Violette wavering for weeks about whether to make Upstart’s final Kentucky Derby prep in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream or the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct a week later.


Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (0)

A Quixotic Quest for Quality via Quantity

LOS ANGELES, March 19, 2015--The strategy of saturating selected Saturdays with graded stakes seems to be gaining strength within several racetrack ownership domains.

It appears to be succeeding in increasing the sport's exposure as well as the handle generated on those dates, but it remains to be seen whether interest in betting on thoroughbred races has actually been expanded in the process--and if total overall handle has increased as a result.

Santa Anita Handicap day has traditionally been an exercise in stakes-stacking but with somewhat static results. Approximately 5,000 more people came out to watch Shared Belief demolish a less than stellar field in the Santa Anita Handicap last Saturday than came to see him face off with California Chrome in the San Antonio Handicap four weeks earlier.

But that was still almost 15,000 fewer than the 40,810 who showed up on opening day to see him narrowly defeat an unheralded band of sprinters in the Malibu.

However, this was about 1,000 less than the 27,121 at last year's Big Cap for the anticipated rematch between Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge that turned out to be Game On Dude's finale, too. Both year's all-sources handle was just under $15 million.


Written by Indulto | Comments (2)
A Cross Country View from the Left Coast

Los Angeles, February 11, 2015—When the sprint-sharpened Shared Belief sat off a snail's pace and collared the questionably-conditioned California Chrome in the final furlong, it appeared that a tighter, more confidently-ridden Horse of the Year contesting the lead earlier with faster fractions could have been closer at the finish.

As such, the issue of individual superiority between the two rivals has yet to be settled in my view, and until their common conqueror Bayern re-enters the picture, so do future divisional rankings appear a work in progress.

Other than Bayern's stablemate Hoppertunity, the Grade II invitational event at Santa Anita offered little competition for the two superstars who both eschewed acquisition of a Grade I title scheduled less than an hour earlier cross country at Gulfstream Park.

I found it hard to believe that Bob Baffert thought he had a shot with his second-string in the San Antonio and that he was blowing a G1 opportunity for Hoppertunity facing what looked like, on paper, weaker Eastern opposition.

That suspicion was strengthened when Constitution, beaten by Hoppertunity in last year's G1 Clark Handicap, captured the Donn Handicap. That result drove Baffert's folly down to 5-1, enticing me to save with him in a superfecta over the dynamic duo, with the remainder fourth, for a fraction of my investment in a no-brainer universally-cold trifecta that came to fruition, albeit just barely.

In attempting to create a coast-to-coast success by showcasing the sport’s best older horses, The Stronach Group (TSR) somehow managed to avoid separating its brightest stars. In response to an expanded wagering opportunity and extended live television coverage, a somewhat disappointing 21,522 fans watched the centerpiece event live. Further, the $500K guaranteed Cross Country Pick Four betting closed $27,000 short of projections.


Written by Indulto | Comments (23)



 


Track News Releases
Track News Releases
Oaklawn Barn Notes - Saturday, March 28

Gold Medal Dancer Works toward Apple Blossom Start

On the brink of retirement a month ago, Gold Medal Dancer is in the best form of her career as she nears the biggest race of her career. In her first workout since a breakthrough victory, she traveled five furlongs in a brisk :59.20 Saturday…


Mar 29 | Categories: Oaklawn, | Comments (0)
Louisiana Derby Week Notes: Friday, March 27

Coalport Continues to Impress
• Swift Jugni Stretches Out in Fair Grounds Oaks
• Good Deed Ready to Take on the Boys
• Bluff to Aim toward Keeneland Allowance
• Mizz Money to Appalachian




Mar 28 | Categories: Fair Grounds, | Comments (0)
Gulfstream Florida Derby

Castellano To Ride All 14 Races Florida Derby Day


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – For a guy who wasn’t even supposed to be in South Florida on Saturday, jockey Javier Castellano is going to have a busy day.

The two-time defending Eclipse Award winner will ride all 14 races…


Mar 27 | Categories: Gulfstream, | Comments (0)
Oaklawn Park Barn Notes - Friday, March 27

Promise Me Silver Looks to End Meet in Instant Racing

Unbeaten Promise Me Silver is scheduled to return to Oaklawn for the $100,000 Instant Racing Stakes for 3-year-old fillies April 11, trainer Bret Calhoun said Friday morning. Calhoun said he hopes to use the six-furlong Instant Racing…


Mar 27 | Categories: Oaklawn, | Comments (0)
Louisiana Derby Week Notes: Thursday, March 26

• Slumber Looms Large in Muniz
• Stanford, Divine Oath and Red Rifle Ship Well for Pletcher
• Lovely Maria Likely for Ashland
• Grade I-winning Turf Mare La Tia Retired




Mar 27 | Categories: Fair Grounds, | Comments (0)
Florida Derby Notes 3.26

Materiality Following Familiar Path to Florida Derby
Florida Derby Performance to Decide Ami’s Flatter’s Stakes Future
Romans Fillies Facing Off in Gulfstream Park Oaks
$500,000 Late Pick,$300,000 Pick 5 Florida Derby Day

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Last March, trainer Todd…


Mar 26 | Categories: Gulfstream, | Comments (0)
Gulfstream Florida Derby

Upstart, Itsaknockout Clash Again in $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby

Grade 1 Triple Crown Prep Highlights Saturday’s 14-Race Program with Nine Stakes

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Ralph M. Evans’ Upstart figures to be very popular at the betting windows at Gulfstream…


Mar 26 | Categories: Gulfstream, | Comments (0)
Louisiana Derby Week 2015 Notes: Worktab Report

LOUISIANA DERBY

A DAY IN PARADISE – Monday, five furlongs in 1:00 flat (4/16) – Larry Jones –“He worked really well. He’s coming in as well you can hope for, like all of my horses on Saturday. We know we’re being ambitious with him, but when you run for that kind of money there…


Mar 26 | Categories: Fair Grounds, | Comments (0)
Louisiana Derby Post Position Quotes

POST 1 – STANFORD (Florent Geroux, 5-1)
Todd Pletcher (trainer) – “(I’m) happy with the post. He will likely be forwardly placed.”

POST 2 – MR. Z (Kent Desormeaux, 4-1)
D. Wayne Lukas (trainer) – “I don’t think it makes too much of a difference. There’s a…


Mar 26 | Categories: Fair Grounds, | Comments (0)
Oaklawn Barn Notes - Wednesday, March 25

Sprint Champion Work All Week Gets Back to Work

Reigning male sprint champion Work All Week had his first published workout since winning last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint Wednesday morning at Oaklawn. Breezing over a fast-rated surface, and after the renovation break, Work All Week covered…


Mar 26 | Categories: Oaklawn, | Comments (0)
My Point Exactly Set for Return in Florida Derby

Kaplan Trainee Slated for Start in Gulfstream's Signature Race off Long Layoff
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL -- My Point Exactly is scheduled to run in the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park on March 28 off an impressive stakes debut victory last time out. The 3-year-old gelding…


Mar 21 | Categories: Gulfstream, | Comments (0)
ST. JOE BAY LIKELY FOR LOUISIANA DERBY

Altamira Racing Stable and David Bernsen’s St. Joe Bay is likely to return to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots from his California base for the Grade II $750,000 Louisiana Derby on Mar. 28, according to conditioner Peter Miller. The dark bay son of Saint Anddan set a quick pace while hounded by 111-1…


Mar 21 | Categories: Fair Grounds, | Comments (0)