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

Too early to put down this year’s Derby generation

One of many rites of spring is a premature disparaging of the latest Kentucky Derby crop.This year is no exception. I would argue we should hold off a while until we see how long McCraken and Malagacy can maintain their unbeaten records; whether Tapwrit's Tampa Bay Derby is a precursor of brilliant things to come; and if multiple stakes winner Gunnevera might be superior to all of them. Also, Arrogate's presence in the Dubai World Cup is this weekend's big event but there are three or four horses in the supporting UAE Derby who could become serious players in the Triple Crown races.

Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (16)
The road to Louisville goes through Tampa

Tampa Bay Downs has been evolving rapidly from Florida's other winter track into a circuit that has to be taken seriously at the highest level. It has produced a couple of Derby winners in the past decade and chances are good that the two betting favorites in this year's Derby will have come from the Sam F. Davis and Tampa Bay Derby.

In other Derby doings, Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown have the opportunity to inject some much needed star power into this year's downgraded Wood Memorial at their home citcuit.

Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (23)

Hall of Fame Ballot Offers Many--Too Many--Worthy Nominees

The Racing Hall of Fame ballot arrived in the mail last week and it’s quite an eclectic lineup of 11 nominees. However, before we go on public record with our choices, this:

The Hall of Fame voting process historically has been problematic and a reliable source of great debate. Many approaches have been advanced over the years, some better than others, of course.

But the process currently in use, in our view, is not one of them.

Instead of breaking nominees down into categories, equines and humans, i.e. jockeys and trainers, all are lumped into one primary-type voting process.

So, for instance, who do you prefer, Javier Castellano or Goldikova? It might as well be the Pantheon of Apples v Oranges.

But that’s not the poorest feature, however. That distinction belongs to the voting rules themselves. It’s all spelled out in the cover letter:

1. You DO NOT have to vote for a specific number of candidates, human or equine.
2. You are being asked to vote “Yes” for as many or as few candidates as you wish.
3. The top four vote-getters, provided they receive more than 50 percent of the vote, will gain election into the Hall of Fame.

For us the issue is two-fold: the worthiness of an equines v. jockeys and trainers, and the fact that a vote for more than one in each category in effect cancels a voters prime choice.

While it’s way above my pay grade (my tax returns are available in order to dispel any potential emolument violations, or worse) I offer the following suggestion:

How about one vote for equine, trainer, and jockey, and one wild card in categories where voters are torn between two extremely worthy individuals? The Hall of Fame Committee can, as it does now, decide the appropriate percentage to gain admission to the Hall.

Beyond the above qualifications, this is what one ballot looks like, no slights intended. The preferences were based on empirical observation and a great compilation of statistical data provided by Hall of Fame staffers:

Written by John Pricci | Comments (4)
Weekend’s Past and Prologue

Now that the dust along the Triple Crown trail has settled following last weekend’s Xpressbet Fountain of Youth and Gotham Stakes, future plans are coming into clearer focus—or not. The road to Louisville is long and winding.

Graham Motion is going to play the wait-and-see, he-will-tell-us, game with the trounced Fountain of Youth favorite, Irish War Cry. But he shouldn’t blame himself.

“Maybe I should have told Joel [Rosario] to take him back.” Maybe so, but then he shouldn’t have had to.

Personally, I’m a big Rosario fan, both for his God-given ability and my ability to cash more often than not on some of his mounts. Actually, I’m a fan of all great riders, with due respect for all who ply this dangerous trade.

But Rosario should not have had to be told to sit off Three Rules’ hip and not get into a pitched pace battle with a very gifted Florida-bred speed merchant.

For all Rosario’s gifts, which often prove the difference between victory and defeat, he can be wildly inconsistent.

It’s hard to believe that this was the Rosario who was so egregiously overconfident aboard the 2016 Woodward favorite, Frosted, yet so recklessly speed-abandoned on Saturday’s over-bet favorite.

Motion also believed that his colt regressed from his previous effort, which he clearly did given his awful finish, but we disagree that his Holy Bull was the huge move that caused it.

On both the Thoro-Graph and Pricci Rating scales, his figure-lines were tight, not huge leaps forward. All his races have been fast and that, too, takes its toll. With rare exceptions, big efforts catch up eventually.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (14)

Behind Scenes Progress in Santa Anita Boycott Dispute

As far as the Santa Anita Boycott, scheduled for Mar. 23-27, is concerned, there is good news and bad news. But it appears a mini-crisis has been averted.

The bad is that without official backing of the Horseplayers Association of North America, it is highly unlikely that a boycott would be as successful as previous actions leveled against Santa Anita and Churchill Downs in the recent past.

The boycott does have the support of enough big bettors to make a dent, at least, have some negative impact on betting handle.

The good news is that a boycott may not be necessary at all. All the elements are currently in place to correct the poor California rule with respect to the Perfect 6 jackpot carryover, which occurs in the event of one race becoming an “ALL” and there is no perfect ticket.

Jeff Platt, President of HANA, called this morning to bring HRI up to speed about how his organization has been dealing with the issue behind the scenes in the name of political expediency.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (12)
Grade 2 at Gulfstream Features Grade 1 Speed

The following handicapping sketch of Saturday's feature race at Gulfstream Park brought to you courtesy of


1 - WHEATFIELD (20-1) Pricci Rating: 99 (at 6F)
Has compiled fine lifetime slate (17) 6-4-3 but lacks experience at this trip and draws the pole while making graded stakes and GP debut; extremely tall order but rates super-exotics consideration.

PR: 92
Jerkens barn presently white hot and is profitable with repeaters and graded stakes runners—a worthy 32% in LAY-2 scenarios. Owns 2-for-3 GP slate, 1-for-9 elsewhere, and was second in two tries at the trip on this track in 2016. Worked very well—fastest of 32 peers week of Mar. 10 but this is very salty spot.

3 – DANESSA AGAIN (30-1) PR: 82
Pace presser is stuck inside vs. faster set here—difficult trip looming. Both lifetime wins came at GP and she’s 1-for-2 at the trip but needs to step up her game considerably to be taken as a serious win threat. Top connects gives her shot at fourth.

4 – MIA TORRI (8-1) PR: 89
Two-for-two since entering the Navarro barn (shocking, I know) and was second in lone start at the CT bullring last fall, her only try in graded company. Likely to be trip sitting beneath Rosario and cannot be easily dismissed despite big step up here.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (0)

HRI’s Kentucky Derby Super Hi-5

Timing is everything in life does not qualify as stop-the-presses advice. But it is the reason why we’re altering the format of HRI’s Triple Crown rankings. After all, it’s only seven weeks out from the Kentucky Derby.

However, since there remains an overwhelming amount of development time before anyone visits their favorite betting hub, it’s appropriate to zero in on the personal observations of our staff and at once raise questions in the process. To wit:

Is this finally the year Todd Pletcher wins Derby #2, the same year that Bob Baffert lacks a major May player? Because, right now, it doesn’t appear that the 2017 Derby winner will be shipping in from the Golden State.

Unless, of course, it’s a filly but it doesn’t look like Jerry Hollendorfer is going to leap off the Oaks bandwagon. But you would think that his next target could be, say, the Santa Anita Derby. What colt is out there to fear at present?

And nothing says that you must race in the Kentucky Derby thereafter. And a Santa Anita Derby victory could make her a Horse of the Year finalist at season’s end should she maintain her present dominatrix status.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (20)
This Game Tugs at Your Heart from Both Sides

“God help me I do love it so,” said George C. Scott as “Patton” in the 1970 Academy Award-winning eponymous film, as the legendary General surveyed the carnage remaining from the previous day’s battle.

On Saturday, simulcasters were left to their own devices to see what happened after watching Mike Smith dismount from the immensely talented, undefeated Mastery on the clubhouse turn following a tour de force romp in the San Felipe Stakes.

Fans could see Smith at the colt’s head as he awaited assistance before the camera turned away and all that remained was hearing track announcer Michael Wrona informing the crowd that Smith was removing the tack from the dark bay son of Candy Ride.

But there was one telling image from the replay taken from an inside camera where upon galloping out Mastery made a godawful lead change, awkwardly and desperately jumping over to his right lead at that point.

It turned out to be a condylar fracture of the left foreleg that will require surgery Monday for the Cheyenne Stable runner who had just won his fourth lifetime start without defeat, his third at the graded level.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (30)


Track News Releases
Track News Releases
Gulfstream Today: Sun 3/19

Wednesday’s Rainbow 6 Carryover Jackpot Grows to $865,950

Watch Pegasus Hero Arrogate Compete in Dubai Next Saturday

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – The 20-cent Rainbow 6 went unsolved for the 18th consecutive program at Gulfstream Park Sunday, producing a carryover…

Mar 20 | Categories: Gulfstream, |
Oaklawn Barn Notes: Rebel Stakes Update



American Anthem, Hall of Famer trainer Bob Baffert’s hopeful for the $900,000 Rebel Stakes-G2 at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, will break from post 7 in the field of 11 3-year-olds when the promising but lightly-raced colt meets…

Mar 16 | Categories: Oaklawn, |


ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) _ Shaman Ghost beat Midnight Storm by three-quarters of…

Mar 12 | Categories: Santa Anita, |

GR. I, $750,000


JAVIER CASTELLANO, SHAMAN GHOST, WINNER: “I knew there wasn’t a lot of speed in the race so I just wanted to focus on the horse on the lead, Midnight Storm, and keep track of him.…

Mar 12 | Categories: Santa Anita, |

GR. II, $400,000


MIKE SMITH, MASTERY, WINNER: Regarding Mastery, who was pulled up after the wire and taken back to the barn via horse ambulance after being evaluated by track vet, Dr. Dana Stead – “He seemed to just go off…

Mar 12 | Categories: Santa Anita, |

Battalion Runner Breezes at Palm Beach Downs for G1 Florida Derby
Sunday’s Rainbow 6 Carryover Jackpot Expands to $436,714

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – St. Elias Stable’s Battalion Runner, a promising 3-year-old who has yet to be tested in stakes company, continued…

Mar 12 | Categories: Gulfstream, |
Gulfstream Today 3.10.17

Guaranteed Multi-Race Wager Pools Scheduled for Saturday
Rainbow 6-$600,000; Late Pick 4-$250,000; Late Pick 5-$200,000

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Saturday’s 13-race program at Gulfstream Park will feature guaranteed pools for the 20-cent Rainbow 6, the 50-cent Late…

Mar 11 | Categories: Gulfstream, |
Bluegrass Envy Seeks Upset in San Felipe (G2)

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Bluegrass Envy, a 3-year-old maiden bred by the University of Kentucky, takes his show on the road Saturday when he meets winners in the $400,000 San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita Park.

Owned by Loooch Racing Stables Inc., J Stables LLC and Courtney Schneider, Bluegrass…

Mar 11 | Categories: Santa Anita, |
TSG Ultimate Betting Challenge

National Champion Arsenault Part of TSG Ultimate Betting Challenge Field

Live Money Tournament Saturday at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita
$1 Million Bonus if Winner Goes on to Win BCBC

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Ray Arsenault, a winter resident of…

Mar 11 | Categories: Gulfstream, |


The big boys come out to play Saturday.

Among those entered at Santa Anita in five stakes—three of them Grade I’s—are Bob Baffert’s undefeated Triple Crown contender Mastery and John Shirreff’s nearly…

Mar 11 | Categories: Santa Anita, |


– After watching No Dozing breeze five furlongs at Tampa Bay Downs this morning with his wife Leigh in the irons, trainer Arnaud Delacour pronounced the 3-year-old colt a likely starter for Saturday’s Grade II, $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa…

Mar 7 | Categories: Tampa Bay Downs, |
Gulfstream News & Notes: Thu 3/2

Practical Joke Ready to Get Serious in $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2)
Made You Look Aims to Bring Turf Form to Dirt in Fountain of Youth
Watershed Set to Make Grass Debut in $200,000 Mac Diarmida (G2)

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Winter vacation for Klaravich Stables…

Mar 3 | Categories: Gulfstream, |