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'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

Last year’s BC winners an under-achieving group

It might be a good idea to draw a line through last year's winners when handicapping the 2015 Breeders' Cup. Lady Eli was 3-for-3 this season but none of the other nine who returned managed to win more than once. Three were shut out. On the good news front, Gulfstream ended its second unopposed summer meeting with handle up more than 11% then topped itself with an opening day at Gulfstream West (Calder) that was up 87% from a year ago.

Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (0)
Jockey Club Gold Cup is an Effinweak race

The Jockey Club Gold Cup used to one of the most important races on the national calendar, often the decisive event for year-end titles. Not this season. The best in the East, Honor Code and Liam's Map, are skipping it to prep in other ways for the Breeders' Cup. American Pharoah and Keen Ice are also training up to the Breeders' Cup. Defending champion Tonalist is nothing like the horse who won last year. Meanwhile, it's possible that last weekend produced three or four Breeders' Cup winners.

Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (12)

Thoroughbred Racing: Whose Game Is It, Anyway?

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., October 6, 2015—To paraphrase a popular refrain commonly heard on one side of the aisle in the nation’s capital, I’m no economist, but the recent handle figures released by Equibase appears to indicate that if you throw enough money at the purse structure, bettors will come.

The surprising aspect here is that not only do the horsemen benefit from increased purses but so, too, does the industry. The numbers clearly indicate that bettors prefer to wager not only at the best price but on the best product available.

Statistics show that the formula for success this entire year, thanks to the month of September, has been relatively simple: Decrease the number of races by 5%, increase the amount of purse money by $15-million, and reap a $71-million reward.

We check the national handle figures when they are released by the Equibase News Service each month. For the most part, the percentage increases or decreases are almost always minimal or, in bean counters language, flat.

But not last month, and not so, albeit to a lesser degree, for the third-quarter of fiscal 2015. The third-quarter betting figures show a total handle increase of 3.65% across the U.S. compared to 2014. That’s a fairly significant gain.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (21)
Wigglin’ N’ Jigglin’ Through First Round of Cup Preps

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., September 27, 2015—We bring you this interruption in our analysis of first-round of Breeders’ Cup preps in order to provide a look at possibly the greatest pacing event we’ve ever seen on a half-mile harness track.

As stated here often, we cut our horse-racing teeth at Roosevelt and Yonkers Raceways, highlighted by those amazing Friday night Free-For-All pacing battles between Eddie Cobb’s Adios Butler and Clint Hodgins’ Bye Bye Bird.

Not long after that came the slugfests between Stanley Dancer’s Cardigan Bay and John Patterson’s Overtrick. Meetings with Frank Irvin’s Bret Hanover would come later, one that required fans to park alongside the Thruway because lots at “The Yonk” were filled.

One picture will be worth a thousand of my words. Suffice it to say that getting hung out for three-quarters of a mile in 27-second quarter-miles, then resurging to win when apparently beaten, just doesn’t happen. A mile in 1:49 3/5, on a half-miler?

Enjoy the race of the weekend:

East Side, West Side, All Around the Breeders’ Cup Prep World

With Keeneland hosting its first ever fall championship event, contestants will be coming far and wide--from New York, California and Europe--to compete in the U.S. World Championships.

It follows that both Belmont Park and Santa Anita had to front-load their graded stakes schedules, to the detriment of both. There’s only so many top class runners to go around. Even races such as the storied Jockey Blue Gold Cup, scheduled for Saturday, has not been immune.

As for competition for good horses, other million-dollar events have proven a lucrative distraction to history and tradition. Of greater significance may be the fact that trainers would like to have their Breeders’ Cup preps over the surface which will host the event.

A city like Philadelphia, for instance, is efforting to become a top racing market, entitled to a spot on the national simulcast map, however brief, despite its player-unfriendly takeout policies.

For Breeders’ Cup horsemen, last week’s seven-figure Grade 1 and Grade 2 events provided opportunities to give them what they covet; graded titles, big bucks and six-weeks spacing prior to a possible championship-defining moment.

Round One Confirms, Denies, Potential Promise and Greatness

Written by John Pricci | Comments (20)

Marc Lawrence College & Pro Upsets, Oct. 3-4

Arkansas over TENNESSEE by 3

We had the Hogs in this spot last week and they failed to deliver the money when Texas A&M blew a game-winning field goal and sent the game to overtime – where the Aggies won by 7 points. But we’re right back on the Razorbacks here versus an opponent who, for the second time this season, had a statement-making win in their grasp but let it slip away. Yes, Tennessee keeps finding new ways to lose games in heart-breaking fashion: last week the Gators grabbed the lead with a 63-yard TD pass from Will Grier to Antonio Calloway with 1:26 left on 4th-and-14 to overcome a 27-14 deficit. Then the Vols saw a 55-yard FG go inches wide on the final play of the game. Wow...all this on the heels of losing in double overtime to Oklahoma two weeks prior after blowing a 17-0 lead! Bad enough that Tennessee is just 1-4 ATS as chalk after facing Florida but last Saturday’s Gator gut-wrencher at the Swamp could put this young Vols team in a serious tailspin. That’s not a prescription for success against a hungry, pissed-off Arkansas squad that’s gone 7-2 ATS of late in this series, including 5-1 ATS when placed in the role of underdog. If that’s not enough to make you go hog-wild in tonight’s game at Neyland Stadium, there’s always The Clincher: College Football teams off a SUATS loss who faced the toughest schedule in the nation last year are 21-6 SUATS since 1980 when playing off back-to-back SUATS losses, including 17-2 ATS when facing a .750 or less opponent.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (0)
College and Pro Upsets—Sept. 26 Weekend

East Carolina over VA Tech by 7

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us. Fool us nine times, shame on the men who married Zsa Zsa Gabor. As she put it, “I was a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man I keep his house.” Well, it appears Frank Beamer has taken a page out of Zsa Zsa’s book as he is just 2-9 ATS in his last 11 tries as a road favorite,
including 0-3 SUATS when playing off an away game. And this ridiculous line must have Va Tech’s name and past reputation written all over it as the Pirates are 17-3 SU in their last 20 home games, with only one loss coming by more than 5 points. Yes, after bowling each of the last three years, Ruffi n McNeil’s men find themselves in a 1-2 hole to start the season but there should be no panic as the Pirates are 17-12 SU and 21-8 ATS in games with a losing record since 2005, including 16-3 ATS as a dog of 3 or more points. And don’t forget: McNeil is 5-0 ATS in his last five versus the ACC and 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS off back-to-back losses. Even series history sides with ECU as the Pirates are 5-1-1 ATS since this matchup reconvened in 2007 after a seven-year hiatus. And while Green Acres isn’t the place to be for Zsa Zsa’s sister, Eva, Greenville certainly isn’t the right spot for Beamer’s boys this last Saturday in September. Not with the Hokies staring dead-ahead to a revenger against Pitt and this word from The Clincher: Va Tech is 0-10-1 ATS as a favorite of 3 or more points versus an avenging opponent off a SU loss.

Written by Marc Lawrence | Comments (0)

There’s Gold in Them There Florida-Breds

HALLANDALE DEACH, FL., October 4, 2015—It began in earnest when a couple of oil wildcatters from the Midwest came to Ocala in the northern part of the state wanting to get involved with thoroughbreds in search of fame and fortune.

Not many fledgling horse people get into the racing business so successfully, so quickly. But, after being convinced by trainer Hugh Fontaine to take a chance on a sickly colt-- infirm enough to be named Needles--Bonnie Heath and Jack Dudley were on their way.

The colt grew out of his problems by the time he was 3 and by that summer of 1956 was healthy and talented enough to become the state’s first dual classics winner, taking that year’s Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

The fledgling program took off from there and 20 years later Louis Wolfson’s Harbor View Fam dropped a handsome chestnut foal they named Affirmed. In a span of two decades, Florida’s breeding program was producing runners that were competing on the national stage.

In between, William L. McKnight, who made the transition from mail room to board room at the 3M company, experienced great success with his own breeding operation at a nursery he named Tartan Farm.

During his tenure there two great champions were bred; the inimitable Dr. Fager and a filly sprint champion, a legendary weight carrier named Ta Wee. The scotch-tape king's Tartan operation also produced the highly influential sire, Intentionally.

South Florida racing grew right along with its program. Calder Race Course was born in 1971, constructed by developer Stephen A Calder, with the first synthetic track of its kind, the Tartan Track, developed by McKnight’s 3M Company.

Back in the day, the best of the Tartan string was sent up to New York with legendary Hall of Famer trainer John Nerud. The Florida division was placed in the care of the talented horseman Frank Gomez.

Such was the quality of the stock and Gomez’s handling of the Florida division that the tandem became the leading owner and trainer of the Florida-bred stakes program.

That is until Fred Brei, also from the Midwest, later established his Jacks or Better Farm .

What started as a local nursery, just as Tartan did, eventually became a national player. In 2010, their homebred Awesome of Course won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and was eventually sold as a broodmare prospect for $2.3 million to multiple Eclipse Award-winning breeder Adena Springs.

In addition to her, Jacks or Better bred, among many others, Jackson Bend, third in the 2010 Preakness before winning the Grade 1 Forego at 4 and the G1 Carter at 5. Both horses were developed early by the outfit’s South Florida-based trainer, Stanley Gold.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (5)
In Contemporary Racing, There’s No School Like Old School

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., September 29, 2015—When it comes to words and deeds, the two can often can worlds apart. Actions do speak loudest, of course, but the best actions are just good words put in motion.

Trainer-speak never lands gently, however: “The horse couldn’t be doing better.” “The work was just what we wanted.” “We’ll let the horse tell us,” etc.

All are well-meaning homilies. But the latter is more. Letting horses speak is the method that allows latter-day horsemanship to works best. Simply stated: Take care of the horse and the horse will take care of you.

On today’s NTRA conference call advancing Super Saturday prep weekend at both Keeneland and Belmont Park, the conversation and mindset of the participants was comforting, reassuring and instructive, decidedly “old school.”

Anyone familiar with the Jerkens family always knows what to expect; loquaciousness and guile? Never. Humility and honesty? Always. It was that way with the late, great Allen Jerkens; it's the same way with his son, Jimmy.

Compared to Tonalist, expected to rule as favorite in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Jerkens trainees Wicked Strong and Effinex do not enjoy the same high profile.

Effinex never seems to garner the respect he’s earned while Wicked Strong, a solid Triple Crown and Travers competitor last year, has not achieved what was expected from a top class three-year-old of 2014.

As for Effinex, Jerkens made the point that he disagrees with the notion that Tonalist had a bit the worst of it in this year’s Suburban Handicap and that Effinex somehow was the beneficiary.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (11)


Track News Releases
Track News Releases
Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup

Sentiero Italia Tops Field of Nine for Saturday’s
Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Presented by Lane’s End

LEXINGTON, KY (Oct. 7, 2015) – Godolphin Racing’s Sentiero Italia, coming off Grade 2 victories as the favorite at Saratoga and Belmont, headlines a field of nine…

Oct 8 | Categories: Keeneland, | Comments (0)
Quotes from the $150,000 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine

Bill Mott (winning trainer of Harmonize)

On whether Harmonize is good enough to advance to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf
“I think so. It’s nice to see that she’s versatile enough to come from back in the pack like she did. She struggled with ground…

Oct 8 | Categories: Keeneland, | Comments (0)
Harmonize Earns Breeders’ Cup Berth

LEXINGTON, KY (Oct. 7, 2015) – Larkin Armstrong’s heavily favored Harmonize rallied from the back of the pack and outdueled Sapphire Kitten in the stretch by a neck to win the 25th running of the $150,000 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine (G3) for 2-year-old fillies before a Wednesday afternoon crowd of 9,685.

Oct 8 | Categories: Keeneland, | Comments (0)
Gulfstream Park West Registers 87 Percent Opening-Day Handle Boost

Rolling Super Hi-5s, Early Pick 5, $5 Quinella Well Received
Super Hi-5, Late Pick 5, Rainbow 6 Carryovers Thursday

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – Wednesday’s opening-day handle for the 41-day Fall Turf Festival at Gulfstream Park West registered an 87 percent increase over 2014 figures.

Oct 8 | Categories: Gulfstream West, | Comments (0)
$1 million International Trot at Yonkers Raceway

Norman happy with Invitational Trot draw for favorite Bee A Magician

New York, NY --- Following the draw for Saturday afternoon’s $1 million International Trot at Yonkers Raceway, the phrase of the day is “Girl Power.” Converting the expression into multiple languages…

Oct 7 | Categories: U.S. Trotting Assn., | Comments (0)
Keeneland Barn Notes Oct. 6


Oct 7 | Categories: Keeneland, | Comments (0)
Gulfstream Park West Opens Second Season

My Charmer (G3) and Tropical Turf 'Cap (G3) Nov. 21
Eight Stakes on Millions Preview Day Worth $625,000
Juvenile Showcase Nov. 28 Featuring Six Stakes

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - The second Fall Turf Festival at Gulfstream Park West kicks off Wednesday, Oct. 7 with 20 stakes in 41 days…

Oct 5 | Categories: Gulfstream West, | Comments (0)
Keeneland Barn Notes for Oct. 5


Oct 5 | Categories: Keeneland, | Comments (0)
$500,000 In Reality (Florida Sire Stakes) Quotes

Trainer Stanley Gold (Fellowship): "I was hopeful for all three, but I was looking for Abercorn and Brighton Lane, but this one, he jumped up and did it. You never know with the babies. He had a really outstanding work last week that surprised me, and I thought if he ran back to that work, there's no…

Oct 3 | Categories: Gulfstream, | Comments (0)
$500,000 My Dear Girl (Florida Sire Stakes) Quotes

Trainer Marialice Coffey (Flora Dora): "We had faith in her. She's a big, very well-within herself filly. She's always been very relaxed about everything so we thought it was worth a try."

(How long race been on radar): "Since the beginning of time, since they broke her. They had this race…

Oct 3 | Categories: Gulfstream, | Comments (0)
Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) Quotes

Christophe Clement, winning trainer of Tonalist (No. 6): "We're back here, we won this race a year ago and it's great. I thought that even when he got beat this year, he never ran a bad race. He's a top class horse. We're back on top. I'm delighted for Mr. Evans. Obviously, he believed in us all along.…

Oct 3 | Categories: Belmont Park, | Comments (0)
Quotes from the $1 Million Shadwell Turf Mile (G1)

Brian Lynch (winning trainer of Grand Arch)

“Great to see him, as he gets older, just keep getting better and better. We had this race in mind this year after a game effort last year (second by a length to Wise Dan), and (jockey) Luis (Saez) seems to get along with him fantastic. I was…

Oct 3 | Categories: Keeneland, | Comments (0)