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

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 (5)
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)

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)

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)
Efforts to tighten medication rules are at the mercy of horsemen

The campaigns to ban race day medication and create a testing system overseen by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency are doomed to frustration unless a way is found to remove the ability of horsemen to shut down simulcasting, a hammer they have shown they are not averse to using. Also, Saturday opened my eyes to someone who, based on recent history, might be among the greatest trainers who ever lived.

Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (2)

Business As Usual: Appellate Court Denies Dutrow Appeal

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., June 25, 2015—On June 24 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit dismissed trainer Rick Dutrow’s appeal of a 10-year suspension based on his claim that he was denied due process in a 2011 New York State administrative hearing.

This ruling in no way qualifies as an upset, of course. It’s simply how the process works: State’s conduct administrative hearings to adjudicate cases de jure in the guise of acting in the public interest then deny constitutional guarantees during that process.

These hearings are de facto kangaroo courts in which agenda rules. Strict rules of evidence do not apply, hearsay is permitted, and because of racing’s patchwork quilt of drug testing and regulation the results most often are capricious and arbitrary.

Even though the burden of proof is on the state, the presumption in these cases is that the client is guilty. Resultantly, appeals courts are loathe to reverse the findings of administrative hearings, reversals somehow being a tacit admission that the state process was flawed at best or, in Dutrow’s case, unconstitutional at its core.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (11)
Part 3 HRI Special Report on the Dutrow Case: Patti Cerda Speaks Out

What you are about to read is an unsolicited, personal, unabridged statement of an ex-NYRA employee in response to several readers who believe that some of the individuals who defended Rick Dutrow Jr. in the comments section of Part 1, Part 2 of HRI’s Special Report--an investigation into the Dutrow case in which the trainer was suspended for 10 years--did so because they were friends of Dutrow. In Part 3, Patti Cerda, for 20 years the Manager of the NYRA Identification Office responsible for issuing credentials to all individuals having business at any of the three NYRA tracks, states that she was made to issue false identification badges to undocumented backstretch workers or risk losing her job. That process is counter to federal and state laws, in short, an illegal act. The following is her account, edited for syntax and punctuation only

Written by John Pricci | Comments (80)


Track News Releases
Track News Releases
$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)
$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)
Keeneland Barn Notes for Oct. 3


Oct 3 | Categories: Keeneland, | Comments (0)
Quotes from the $250,000 Thoroughbred Club of America (G2)

Anthony Hamilton Jr. (winning trainer of Fioretti)

“We knew she was strong coming in, but this was a tall order.”

On whether he will take advantage of the automatic berth to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) Fioretti received for the victory and run her in the…

Oct 3 | Categories: Keeneland, | Comments (0)
Champagne (G1) Quotes

Dominick Schettino, winning trainer of Greenpointcrusader (No. 2): "He was training good up to the race. His first two races, even though he won, he had tight trips down inside. We talked about the track, being inside, I basically left it up to Joe. He got a little shuffled back at the break and the…

Oct 3 | Categories: Belmont Park, | Comments (0)