HRI Featured Writers
HRI Featured Writers

Pricci’s Free Race Analysis

Whenever his daily work schedule permits, HorseRaceInsider executive editor John Pricci will analyze that day's feature race from a major thoroughbred-racing jurisdiction.

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.

Mark Berner
Mark has been a groom, clocker, handicapper, sportswriter, columnist and editor at various times throughout a career that has spanned more than three decades. His reporting and opinions on Thoroughbred racing can now be read on HRI in his "Inside New York" 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.

John Parisella
John Parisella has enjoyed a legendary career as a "horseman's horseman." At last count, he won 27 races with 27 different horses at 27 different tracks. His observations will appear bi-weekly, Mondays and Fridays in his "Parisella At the Races" 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

Del Mar Playing to Mixed Reviews

LAS VEGAS--I’m in the midst of my annual horse betting orgy in Sin City, 10 days of early in the morning until late night horse-playing. Out here, they consider Saratoga that track back East that runs during the Del Mar season. When in Rome…so this column will be somewhat West Coast intensive.

The Pacific Classic, the nominal centerpiece of the Del Mar meeting, should be embarrassed to use its last name this summer. There’s nothing classic about it. If it’s not the weakest million dollar race for older horses in memory, I can’t think of what is.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (0)
Racing and Sports at Honeymoon Stage, But It Won’t Last

Sports betting in NJ hasn’t hurt racing handle. In fact, it appears to be helping. But renowned sports handicapper--and Saturday racetrack regular--Marc Lawrence sees that eventually turning around.

Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (6)

Jockey Club Needs Action on Good Ideas

August 14, 2018--In the day, I always looked forward to attending the Jockey Club Round Table conference in Saratoga. You know it was long ago because mainstream media was formally invited back then, outlets had an actual place at the table.

And it mattered little that the press were seated in the back on the room. But when sports editors were replaced by younger employees with little or no knowledge of racing, the sport got less and less space in newspapers.

Fans of the sport began to be considered a niche that newspaper budgets could ill afford, and this was pre-cyberspace. Horseplayers had become disposable readers because political correctness was all the rage. Today, full time racing coverage no longer exists in print.

While the times have changed, passionate fans and serious horseplayers are getting some attention via cyberspace and cable television, and this is the good news because the Jockey Club appears to have picked up the ball and is beginning to run with it. It had no choice.

If the Jockey Club wants to continue living up to its mission, time has come for it to be woke. When an industry loses about one of every three dollars that supported it only seven years ago, action is the only alternative.

Since 2011, 11 racetracks have gone out of business and the Jockey Club wants to reverse the trend now that it appears the bottom has stabilized. It intends to use its deep pockets to affect change; no more regressions to the mean. The time for “study” is over.

The austere racing organization made its position quite clear last Sunday morning in Saratoga Springs. Now it needs to walk its talk.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (18)
From Saratoga to East Rutherford, New York-Breds Rule

It was Whitney Day, 1981, and I was about to be introduced to New York State Thoroughbred Breeding program in a big way, only I didn’t know that at the time. It was my fourth year on the job, third as a Saratoga press box regular.

Of course, I knew everything and nothing back then, but as I looked around I could see some famous bylines, competitor colleagues whose presence inspired me to be the best me I could be. The course was simple:

Learn some horseracing history; the people and the horses, both. They didn’t teach those things in my Queens neighborhood. And I was in awe of the environment that day: The Whitney; it’s important. It’s right there in the name.

When a Finger Lakes shipper, bred in New York State, came in and swooped away the blue-blooded Whitney trophy, it was at that point that I learned a Saratoga racetrack crowd actually could make a building shake.

I only remember experiencing that one other time, in 2009, when Rachel Alexandra beat back the boys in the equally storied Woodward Stakes.

But what just happened? I looked at the track program. The horse’s name was Fio Rito. Trainer Michael Ferraro tightened the girth, Leslie Hulet did the booting. He brought a gaudy record with him but never with this kind.

And the local crowd loved it, proud of their state-bred champion. After breaking through the gate before the start, not even that kiss of death could stop him he raced head to head through nine furlongs, repelling two challengers.

At the end, Fio Rito held off MacKenzie Miller-trained, newly blinkered, and perfect tripping Winter’s Tale. And he didn’t steal a thing. The contested half-mile went in 46 3/5, and he completed his mile and an eighth in 1:48 flat.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (6)

Hard-Nose Justify Will Go Down in History

LOS ANGELES--It’s amazing how readily hyperbole can polarize any conversation these days. For every enthusiastic supporter of some allegedly positive aspect of racing or politics, there seems to be a skeptic, contrarian, or conspiracy theorist willing to rebut that position.

In that spirit, I respectfully challenge the following statement by HRI Executive Editor, John Pricci, in his recent "On the Line Blog piece:
”What is ... indisputable is that what Justify achieved over a period of 112 days was the greatest achievement ever in the sport’s long and storied history.”

First, I feel compelled to question whether the level of accomplishment was higher for the trainer than the horse. Second, couldn’t we at least wait until the true mettle of those Justify defeated can be determined in his absence before applying such a superlative?

Despite media exaggeration, those deserving stellar status still shine brightly. Most would agree that Justify, Gun Runner, Arrogate, California Chrome, and American Pharoah deserve their accolades, as do Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra.

Lesser lights have shined brightly, but briefly, streakers such as Snow Bird, Nyquist, and I'll Have Another; firecrackers like Animal Kingdom, Will Take Charge, Game On Dude, Beholder.

Were West Coast and Collected simply one hit wonders?

Taken at face value, the Justify saga is certainly extraordinary: A three-year-old colt wins six straight races over 112 days to go from unraced maiden to undefeated Triple Crown Winner, Divisional champion, and probable Horse of the Year.

In the process, he also won two Derby-qualifying preps, and proved as adept on wet surfaces as on dry ones. Perhaps he could have run faster, but there was never any need to do so. So what’s not to like?

For older fans like me who savored the extended successful careers of Kelso and Forego, and the rivalries of Dr. Fager and Damascus, Affirmed and Alydar, and Sunday Silence and Easy Goer, it feels less like a loss and more like a robbery.

Written by Indulto | Comments (0)
Triple Crown Reform Rendered Unjustified

LOS ANGELES, June 25, 2018—In the week leading up to the Belmont Stakes, former NYRA CEO, Charles Hayward opined,
"… whatever the outcome, the Belmont Stakes, as the last leg of the Triple Crown at a mile and a half, has outlived its usefulness ...

… Whether there is a runner eligible for the Triple Crown going into the Belmont or not, the outcome of the race has been consistently disappointing.

… over the last two decades the quality of the Belmont field, as compared to the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, has been sorely lacking

... for the horses that do not win the Derby, their connections regroup and put together three-to-six-month plans for those who do not continue on the Triple Crown tour.

... the mile-and-a-half Belmont is a lone wolf - there is no other Grade 1 stake at that distance on the dirt in the U.S.

... no trainer in the U.S. under normal circumstances would run a horse at a mile and a quarter, a mile and three sixteenths and a mile and a half over five-week period.

... the current distances and race spacing are no longer consistent with current industry practices."

Following the well-attended running of the final TC leg, Bob Ehalt observed,
"… after six different horses won the next six Triple Crown races in 2016 and 2017 ... you wondered how long would it be before ... the clamor for change started anew.

Now, thanks to Justify, that notion of altering the series can be put to rest."

Written by Indulto | Comments (31)

Money Laundering in Horse Racing News?

The New York Racing Association conducts North America’s elite meet for Thoroughbreds at Saratoga Race Course each summer. Horseplayers, stakeholders and horsemen always strive to be there.

However, some never get to go to the races at The Spa. Most of the characters in “Missionville,” a novel by Alex Brown, are among those who do not ever get to go to the storied racetrack in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.

Brown, a long-time equestrian, penned a suspense-filled Thoroughbred mystery equal to that of legendary Dick Francis in his first try at writing fiction.

With precision, Brown focused on today’s controversial topics with the insight of a horseman. And with “Missionville,” the author of Barbaro’s official biography hit the equivalent of a literary Pick 6.

The novel is set at Missionville--the eponymous racetrack of Missionville. The track is owned by the richest man in a small Pennsylvania town, Harry Mitchell.

Harry Mitchell, his trainer, Mike Franks, and their three-year-old colt, Dancer’s Foil, are the only ones from Missionville to make it to Saratoga, where they take on a Triple Crown winner in the Travers Stakes.

Is it art imitating life? “There’s some of Pete in me,” author Brown said of his main character, trainer Pete Wright. “I’ve trained one or two horses over the years, but Pete more closely resembles a few of my friends. We are all horsemen and we all hang out in bars.”

Or the other way around? “I think Missionville is a great model for money laundering,” said Brown. “There are so many opportunities to clean money through betting, paying cash for your help, owning racehorses, etc.”

Written by Mark Berner | Comments (30)
Of Regulations, Champagne Cocktails and Saratoga Dreams

Saratoga Springs is a place of dreams. I know. I met my wife there the day Spit Curl won the Alabama Stakes.

We were married on the closest corresponding dark Tuesday three years later. The recently departed Judge Larry LaBelle performed the ceremony at The Big Red Spring on the grounds of Saratoga Race Course.

Several media members missed the ceremony, though only steps away in the press box. That was the day the New York State Racing and Wagering Board announced that Lashkari’s Breeders’ Cup positive for etorphine, elephant juice, was overturned.

It can happen if your name is the Aga Kahn, but not if it’s Rick Dutrow.

At the July 16, meeting of the New York State Gaming Commission, formerly the NYSRWB, the commission denied Dutrow’s appeal to revisit the 10-year ban handed down by the NYSRWB.

Also at that meeting, the NYSGC unanimously approved passage of a regulation proposed by Association of Racing Commissioners International to support the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium’s model rule that it is supposed to mimic the World Anti-Doping Agency rule. The exception is Thoroughbred racing’s ever-present elephant in the room – Lasix.

The ARCI promoted model rule of the RMTC, adopted by NYSGC was lauded as a wide-ranging one that will propel Thoroughbred racing forward, but it has a huge loophole. The original anti-doping rules prohibits Lasix.

However, the rule adopted by the NYSGC makes an exemption for use of Lasix.

Written by Mark Berner | Comments (29)


Track News Releases
Track News Releases
Mandatory 20-cent Rainbow 6 Payout Set for Saturday

Rainbow 6 Carryover Jackpot Swells to $898,654
Mandatory Payouts Also Set for Late Pick 5, Last Super Hi-5
Princess Rooney (G2), Smile (G3) Top Summit of Speed Card

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Saturday’s Summit of Speed program, headlined by the $250,000 Princess…

Jun 30 | Categories: Gulfstream, |
Curlin’s Approval, X Y Jet Top June 30 Summit of Speed Nominations

Curlin’s Approval to Defend Title in $250,000 Princess Rooney (G2)
Alter Homebred among 23 Noms for ‘Win and You’re In’ Event
X Y Jet Tops List of 16 Noms for $250,000 Smile Sprint (G3)
Multiple Grade 1-Placed Gelding Seeks 6th Straight at Gulfstream


Jun 20 | Categories: Gulfstream, |
Madame Uno Seeks Rebound in Saturday’s $100,000 Ginger Punch

Jockey, Trainer, Owner Races Heats Up

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Her three-race win streak halted abruptly last time out, Madame Uno will seek to rebound in Saturday’s $100,000 Ginger Punch at Gulfstream Park.

The 4-year-old daughter of First Dude is scheduled…

Jun 14 | Categories: Gulfstream, |
Justify vs. nine in Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes

It's Triple Crown hopeful Justify vs. nine in Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets

Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner draws post 1, is 4-5 to win Saturday's "Test of the Champion"

By Jenny Kellner

ELMONT, N. Y. - Can he do…

Jun 6 | Categories: Belmont Stakes, |
Agreement Represents Giant Step Forward in Florida Racing

Florida Sire Stakes Highlights Innovative $2.5 Million Deal

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – P.J. Campo calls the recently-signed agreement between Gulfstream Park, the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association (FTBOA) and Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective…

Dec 22 | Categories: Gulfstream, |
Watershed looking to end year on high note in Queens County

Green Gratto faces talented field in $100,000 Gravesend

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Godolphin Racing's Watershed will headline a competitive field of nine in the $125,000 Queens County for 3-year-olds and up, one of two stakes races on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack alongside the $100,000…

Dec 22 | Categories: Aqueduct, |


Citing the widespread use of drugs on yearlings and two years olds that may result in improper bone development and the recent use of horse auctions to launder money for the…

Dec 14 | Categories: Horse Racing, |
Forever Unbridled Holds Off Abel Tasman To Win Longines Distaff

DEL MAR, Calif. (Nov. 3, 2017) – Charles Fipke’s homebred Forever Unbridled ($9.40) swept to the lead coming off the far turn and then held off a late bid from Abel Tasman by a half-length to win the 34th running of the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) for fillies and mares…

Nov 4 | Categories: Breeders' Cup, |
Rainbow 6 Hit at Gulfstream West for $177,500

Sunday’s Late Pick 5 Carryover $19,900

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – Gulfstream Park West’s Rainbow 6 was hit Saturday afternoon for $177,521.

The 20-cent wager had not been hit for 19 consecutive programs before Geh Schnell ($11.20), one of three live tickets in…

Oct 29 | Categories: Gulfstream West, |



Oct 29 | Categories: Breeders' Cup, |


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017)
– Cooler temperatures and the leaves changing colors signify the return of live horse racing to the Louisville area as Churchill Downs, the historic home of the Kentucky Derby, readies to open its 128th Fall Meet on Sunday,…

Oct 28 | Categories: Churchill Downs, |
Rainbow 6 Carryover Jackpot Reaches $113,131 for Thursday

Tapit Filly My Favorite Gift Impressive Debut Winner
Jockey Jaramillo Enjoys Four-Win Afternoon

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – The 20-cent Rainbow 6 went unsolved for the 17th consecutive program Wednesday, growing the carryover jackpot to $113,131.66 for Thursday’s eight-race program.

Oct 26 | Categories: Gulfstream West, |