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

Angst of Bloodhorse Has It Right on CRW

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., November 22, 2015—When I first learned that the Jockey Club was buying a controlling interest in “Bloodhorse” magazine, I feared the worst.

My initial reaction was that the austere organization would follow the lead of many racetracks which limit media credentials in an effort to manage the news, making reporters more dependent on information disseminated via press release.

Then I took a different tack, that The Jockey Club, whether you agree with its policies or not, yields immense influence, e.g., their laudable efforts on the discontinued use of raceday medication.

I now believe my initial concerns were unfounded, especially if the "new" editorial policy permits a column such as the one authored by Frank Angst five days ago. After all, creating a commotion isn't the Jockey Club's default position.

But you know an item is on point when it stirs controversy, considered a dirty word inside the industry--even when its point of view is trying to correct something that is unfair on its face, and that's computer-robotic wagering.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (40)
Jeff Gural: HRI’s Executive of the Year

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., November 17, 2015--Jeff Gural and I have had only two brief conversations in our life, one of a social nature the night New Meadowlands celebrated Tom Durkin, their former longtime harness announcer. It was shortly after Durkin announced his intention to retire.

But we celebrated the Lord of The Meadowlands long before that night in East Rutherford. I never met a racing executive who walked his talk more than Gural, from his unabashed love for the game to putting up his own $120 million to revive a track that had lost much of its luster.

We’ve written about how he takes integrity matters into his own hands by hiring a former state trooper to bolster track security by instituting an in-house integrity program at the glitzy venue a 25-minute ride from Manhattan’s lower West Side.

He had trainers suspected of using illegal drugs which were being administered at a Jersey Turnpike rest stop before they exited at 16W and entered the new receiving barn he built to house and monitor all horses racing that night.

He’s shipped split drug samples to Hong Kong on his own dime after instituting an unannounced out-of-competition testing program because he believes that “if you’re not doing out-of-competition testing, you’re not testing at all.”

Gural takes full advantage of private property provisions of the law, something all tracks could do if they truly had the will to do so and were willing to put the customer first. His policies are in place at his other harness tracks, upstate New York’s Tioga and Vernon Downs.

A horse owner, he believes that horsemen and tracks should be subservient to the good of the game. Citing an apparent lack of will and dwindling state budgets, Gural, a member of the Water, Hay and Oats Alliance, recently called on Thoroughbred tracks to follow his lead.

While he thinks USADA would be an effective, independent regulator, the simplest solution is for track owners to follow his initiatives, challenging the operators of America’s top five Thoroughbred venues--Churchill Downs, Gulfstream Park, Keeneland, Santa Anita and Saratoga--to make a game-changing impact.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (10)

Jockey appeals make a mockery of rules

Suspensions are a primary tool to control over-aggressive or outright reckless race-riding. But jockeys are allowed to make a mockery of the system by lodging appeals, then withdrawing them and serving the time when it is convenient. This can't be allowed to continue. Speaking of rulings, the NY Gambling Commission is scheduled to finally release its report on the investigation of Steve Asmussen, which was settled in Kentucky almost a year ago.

Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (15)
Decoupling could benefit thoroughbreds

Florida horsemen are marshalling their forces to combat another effort in the Florida legislature this spring to decouple the necessity to run dog racing and jai alai to maintain a racino. This could be a misguided effort. Gulfstream and Tampa Bay Downs have given no indication they would curtail racing if decoupling passes and the anticipated end of dog racing and jai alai would give horses a monopoly in pari-mutuel wagering. Rather than fight decoupling, thoroughbred efforts should be concentrated on tailoring any bill to the advantage of horse racing.

Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (10)

Thinking Upset in First Kentucky Prep and Other Featured Thoughts

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., November 21, 2015--Don’t blame me for this extremely early Kentucky Derby preview. Simply point those fingers at Churchill Downs if you must. After all, they have kept the Delta Downs Jackpot in place as a Derby qualifier. In fact, ditto that for the Delta Princess and Kentucky Oaks.

And so Vinton, Louisiana is the place to be Saturday where sunny skies are projected and where an All-Stakes Pick Four with a $200,000 guarantee is in place, the sequence ending with Delta’s million-dollar mile-and-a-sixteenth for juvenile males.

Both are Grade 3 and worth 10 points on the Derby/Oaks qualifying scale. Again, the track is expected to be fast, as is forecast for Louisville and New York.

In South Florida, where there’s always a chance of afternoon thunderstorms this time a year but not specifically expected Saturday, two graded stakes, one for each sex and also at the G3 level, are being offered at Gulfstream Park West, nee Calder.

At Churchill Downs, the G3 Cardinal for fillies and mares 3 & up at eight and a half furlongs is one of its best Fall features each year based on competitiveness and field size—again is an extremely tough puzzle.

But, paraphrasing Manfred Mann, “mama, that’s where the value is.” We’ve left five fillies in our exacta mix: Faufiler (6-1), Sistas Stroll (8-1), Emotional Kitten (12-1), Button Down (7-2) and Kiss Moon (5-1). We believe Button Down is most likely to prove best in show.

Here’s a detailed handicapping look-in at the four other Saturday offerings:

Written by John Pricci | Comments (3)
Maryland My Maryland, New York and Kentucky, Too

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., November 13, 2015—Laurel Race Course continues its simulcast resurgence this weekend with the $350,000 DeFrancis Dash memorial sprint program featuring five other listed stakes at $100,000 per event.

And the heavy heads will all have their opportunities elsewhere: Aqueduct is offering the Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap for older turf males going 11 furlongs while Churchill Downs has a beauty scheduled, the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere for three-year-old fillies on grass.

The latter at 1-1/16 miles is the last graded event restricted to sophomore female grass runners this year. It drew an overflow field of 18 but only 14 will start, four also-eligibles notwithstanding.

Weather handicappers are predicting clear skies for all three venues but given recent wet conditions in New York, there rates to be some cut in the ground on a turf course sure to be less than firm. And that’s where our handicapping look-in will begin:

AQUEDUCT RACETRACK: The Red Smith drew a field of 10 including one Main Track Only. While the gate will not be as crowded as Laurel’s, this feature is no less contentious, not with equines saddled by emissaries of Brown, Casse, Clement, McGaughey, Motion, Mott and Pletcher.

Six of the nine Red Smith starters have peaked our interest. Our top contenders from the inside-out:

Written by John Pricci | Comments (5)

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
La Verdad could cap career with G3 Fall Highweight win

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - In what could be the final start of her illustrious career, La Verdad will take on males for the second straight year in the Grade 3, $250,000 Fall Highweight Handicap on Thursday at Aqueduct Racetrack.

A daughter of Yes It's True out of the Hook and Ladder mare Noble…

Nov 24 | Categories: Aqueduct, | Comments (0)
$100,000 Tropical Turf Handicap (G3) Quotes

Trainer Marcus Vitali (Lochte): “I wasn’t concerned. I was actually hoping it came off the turf. I’ve been dying to try this horse (on the dirt). A long way back when we first got him, he ran in the wet at Gulfstream and got beat a nose, had a tough trip and still came running.


Nov 22 | Categories: Gulfstream West, | Comments (0)
$100,000 My Charmer Handicap (G3) Quotes

Trainer Bill Mott (Lady Lara): “The timing from her last race worked out well. We shipped her down here and we weren’t sure if we were going to run her. She took the ship well and seemed like she looked good and was training good, so we decided to go ahead and run.

“After we got around…

Nov 22 | Categories: Gulfstream West, | Comments (0)
Churchill Downs Stakes Recap: $100,000 CARDINAL HANDICAP


(Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015) - Canadian invader Button Down (GB) found the chilly and rainy conditions on Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs to her liking as the 4-year-old filly swept past the…

Nov 22 | Categories: Churchill Downs, | Comments (0)
Artie Schiller quotes

Randi Melton, assistant to winning trainer Mark Casse of Sky Flight (No. 1): "Perfect trip with the one-hole. We were able to sit off the speed to see what it was like and try to have a little something to aim at, which is what Joel did. He's such a tremendous rider. [Aztec Brave] gave us our work to…

Nov 22 | Categories: Aqueduct, | Comments (0)
Churchill Downs Stakes Advance: GRADE III CARDINAL HANDICAP


(Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015) – Carl F. Pollard’s Kiss Moon and Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Emotional Kitten, winners of graded…

Nov 20 | Categories: Churchill Downs, | Comments (0)
Gulfstream News & Notes - Thu 11/19

Castellano Back Where It All Began Saturday
All Included Makes Florida Debut In Tropical Turf (G3)
Distorted Beauty Seeks to Make Big Sister Proud in My Charmer (G3)

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Two-time reigning Eclipse Award winner Javier Castellano, aiming for his fifth straight…

Nov 20 | Categories: Gulfstream West, | Comments (0)
Fair Grounds Barn Notes: Thursday, November 19

• Rachel Alexandra Half-Brother Debuts Sunday
• Amoss Aiming for a Dozen and a Derby
• Eden Prairie Tops Salty Saturday Allowance
• Heitai Looking Like a Million for Saturday’s Return
• Work Tab


Nov 20 | Categories: Fair Grounds, | Comments (0)
Artie Schiller; Notebook on Saturday at Aqueduct

Lubash leads Artie Schiller; Pletcher pair top Notebook on Saturday at Aqueduct

- A pair of stakes races highlight a nine-race Saturday card at Aqueduct Racetrack, featuring the $100,000 Artie Schiller for 3-year-olds and up at a mile on turf, along with the $100,000…

Nov 20 | Categories: Aqueduct, | Comments (0)
Churchill Downs Barn Notes: Wed 11/18


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015) – Carl F. Pollard’s Kiss Moon will attempt to land her second graded stakes win of the year when she starts as the 120-pound high weight and faces a dozen fillies…

Nov 18 | Categories: Churchill Downs, | Comments (0)
Gentlemen’s Bet Awarded Victory in $350,000 De Francis Memorial Dash

Win Via DQ Highlights $850,000 Fall Festival of Racing Program

– Harry T. Rosenblum’s Gentlemen’s Bet notched a victory in Saturday’s $350,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash with the assist of a stewards’ decision that resulted in the disqualification of first-place…

Nov 15 | Categories: Laurel, | Comments (0)
Churchill Downs Barn Notes - Sat 11/14


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015)
– Grade I-winning millionaires Dortmund, Hoppertunity and Keen Ice, along with Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI)…

Nov 15 | Categories: Churchill Downs, | Comments (0)