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.

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.

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

Tampa Bay Downs in Saturday Spotlight


By John Pricci
Exclusively for 123GAMING.COM

Reprinted via special promotional arrangement with

OLDSMAR, FL., February 12, 2016—The inexorable March toward Louisville continues this holiday weekend.

Champion Juvenile Nyquist returns on Presidents Day in Santa Anita’s G2 San Vicente, an important West Coast springboard, along with Oaklawn Park’s Southwest Stakes—with an expectant large field if the $500,000 means anything.

The Southwest is almost always a great betting race and Arkansas has become a trendy path to Churchill Downs ever since Smarty Jones, really, and especially thanks to 2015 Horse of the Year, American Pharoah.

Golden Gate Fields will take its second NoCal step to the Midwest with Saturday’s G3 El Camino Real Derby which, ironically, has proven over the years to be a better Preakness than Derby barometer. No less than 14 have been entered.

All Florida roads lead north on Alligator Alley this weekend when bettor-friendly Tampa Bay Downs offers the Sam F. Davis Memorial, a great leg-up, figuratively and literally, to the March 12 Tampa Derby and, hopefully for those entered, beyond.

The Grade 3 mile and a sixteenth took a recruiting hit several years ago when Churchill Downs removed it from the Derby points qualifier rotation, and this year the event lost some star power when the accomplished Airoforce got off to a late start to the campaign.

Nonetheless, Mark Casse will have an interesting prospect in Whatawonderflworld, a winner of three straight going long, including the recent Ocala Breeders’ Championship. The Davis will be his fifth career run but only his first on dirt.

Other horses that promise to make the Davis a good betting race are Rafting, a Tapit colt and winner of the Smooth Air for Graham Motion; Morning Fire, winner of the 7-furlong Pasco prep, and two from Mr. Pletcher—who’s bringing Johnny and Javier with him.

There are three other stakes of note on Tampa’s docket: the G3 Endeavour, featuring the return of Filly Turf Champion Tepin; the G3 Tampa Stakes that has attracted a field of 12, including more than a few graded winners, and finally the listed Suncoast featuring a dozen sophomore fillies going two turns.

In addition to those four races, we’re taking a handicapping look-in at Laurel’s G2 Barbara Fritchie—only seven entrants but a highly competitive event, and we’re going to try to help you make sense of the 14-horse El Camino Real.

To get there we’re going to go through the Campbell, a once important handicap fixture that’s been reduced in prestige and purse but is still sought after by Maryland horsemen. This year’s event features the redoubtable gelded six-year-old Page McKenney, bringing his lifetime slate of (42) 15-12-4 into the fray.

Now, on to Oldsmar!


Written by John Pricci | Comments (5)
Weekend Preview: The Magnificent Seven

Exclusively for

By John Pricci

Reprinted via special promotional agreement with

It’s the first week of February and while the three-year-old spotlight takes a back seat to older Grade 1 handicappers on both dirt and turf in South Florida, West Coast sophomores will get their moment in the sun; literally and figuratively.

The Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Memorial attracted its share of tried and true stakes runners but none that have yet to reach the division’s upper echelon; the operative word being yet.

As Bob Baffert said this week in relation to Mor Spirit’s three-year-old debut in the mile and a sixteenth Lewis: “This is when you start heading to the deeper part of the pool.” Baffert should know; he’s won this race five times.

But star quality, or lack thereof, is not the case with respect to sophomore fillies seeking to become Kentucky Oaks titlists thanks to the return of the brilliant, undefeated Songbird (1-5); the operative word being brilliant.

Further, Oaklawn Park offers the Martha Washington Stakes as the early stop on the three-year-old filly road to Churchill Downs on the first Friday in May. The question: Is Nickname top class and worthy of elite status?

Santa Anita’s Grade 2 San Antonio for older handicappers took a jolt this week when the four-year-old debut of Dortmund was put on hold yet again. Baffert said he didn’t like the way he was training, but isn’t it likely more than just that?

Stablemate Hopportunity (3-1) will step into the breach and is a worthy top contender very likely to improve off his season’s debut show finish in the G2 San Pascual. Of course, there will be no shortage of talent in Gulfstream Park’s storied G1 Donn.

G3 Hal’s Hope winner Mshawish is using Saturday’s 9 furlongs as a bridge to Dubai. Depending on how he runs, he will race in either the $10 million Dubai World Cup or the Dubai Turf, also a Grade 1.

The Medaglia d’Oro six year-old will attempt to become a G1 winner on two surfaces, having won last year’s GP Turf Handicap, this year’s renewal one of three supporting graded stakes on the docket. The 13-race card is, as expected, offers value-laden opportunities.

A handicapping overview of seven races of major interest on both coasts:

Written by John Pricci | Comments (0)

Super Saturdays wouldn’t be hurt if some stakes were spread out

Super Saturdays are becoming regular occurrences at Gulfstream. They're great. But in packing these cards with stakes, non-Super Saturdays are suffering. The next two weekends feature a six-horse stakes for older females and a five-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-old fillies. This is not what racing fans have come to expect from the prime winter meeting. In an unrelated matter, some of the sports biggest stars are pointing to the March 26 World Cup program in Dubai. They all race on Lasix in the U.S. but will race without it in the Middle East. So much for the argument that Lasix is essential.

Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (22)
Let’s not drape the roses on Mohaymen just yet

Mohaymen looked like one of the ones in the Holy Bull. But let's not lose sight of the fact that there is an undefeated Eclipse champion, Nyquist, on the West Coast. Thanks to a $1 million bonus, the showdown of the undefeated colts could come in April, not May.

Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (16)

Serious Proposals for Meaningful Regulation in New York

ELMONT, NY, February 2, 2016-- The New York State Gaming Commission's monthly meeting is hardly high level entertainment, especially when compared to Sunday's Super Bowl and the Christmas day release of the football film, Concussion.

The current movie, starring Will Smith, depicts the story told by Frontline in League of Denial, a 2013 report on brain injuries in the NFL.

Frontline, the PBS documentary series, proved the NFL denied knowledge of brain injuries and that the league's head office lied about it, then denied treatment to players after they had become aware.

A payment of $765-million was the result of a settlement between the NFL and the players union, made as a direct result of concussion-related brain injuries.

Injury reports in professional sports used to be dubious but, aware that people actually bet on sports, the reports are now quite concise. A false injury report in the NFL will draw a fine from the offending team--or is supposed to, anyway.

MLB and the NBA have strict rules regarding injury reports as well. While the NHL has been an industry leader in treatment of head injuries, it continues to use the Pat Quinn methodology of reporting only upper or lower body injuries.

Quinn pioneered this type of reporting when he took over as coach of the Philadelphia Flyers for the 1979-1980 season. His reasoning was not to let the opposition know where to target his injured players. This decades old method of masking the truth has long needed an overhaul.

Just as racing’s does now.

Written by Mark Berner | Comments (34)
Politicians, Residents Take Wrong Turn on Belmont Casino Issue

ELMONT, NY, January 19, 2016¬-With the Iowa Primary a fortnight away, some politicians are feeling the love, others the hate, but all with one goal in mind.

In one upper middle class village, passionate politicians, civic leaders and residents are driving the populace on both sides of one key issue: Should Video Lottery Terminals be allowed to turn Beautiful Belmont Park into the Casino on the Cross Island.

An overflow crowd estimated at 2,000 attended a rally at Floral Park Memorial High School in opposition of the planned casino exactly one week ago. On Saturday, protestors will march around Belmont Park to focus even more heat on the issue.

Many leaders and residents spoke out against the casino proposed by Nassau OTB on December 29, 2015. Even Father Tom, half of television’s “The Priest and the Rabbi” entry with Rabbi Marc Gellman, rallied parishioners at Our Lady of Victory RC Church seeking to defeat the proposal.

Residents are fine with having Belmont Park as its neighbor; they just don’t want a casino in their own backyard. Does politics get any more local than this?

Opponents don’t want “that kind of gambler” in their neighborhood or in the vicinity of nearby schools. They're using the same dog whistle language being used in the 2016 Presidential campaign: Classic NIMBY; fear of “the other” who brings crime and real estate devaluation to the neighborhood.

As expected, the casino has the support of Nassau County Executive, Ed Mangano. “Belmont Park is a logical selection as the existing gambling facility is underutilized,” Mangano said in a statement when the plan was first announced.

Mangano already has included $20 million in revenue from the casino in his 2016 budget.

But Floral Park Mayor Thomas Tweedy went on record, calling VLTs the crack cocaine of gambling. Sound like a familiar refrain?

Written by Mark Berner | Comments (34)

Not So Super

HALLANDALE, BEACH, FL., February, 9, 2016—I don’t usually wander off message, knowing the HRI Faithful doesn’t like it when I do, but even straight-laced Newsday permitted me to write a Super Bowl column as its public-handicapper-in-residence.

Whenever I stray into NFL-speak, I recall what Andrew Beyer once said to me about the Super Bowl. “I consider it my patriotic duty to bet the game,” he said. And that was long before the Air Force buzzed stadiums and mega-stars replaced marching bands at halftime.

From a handicapping perspective, I had no feeling for Sunday’s game and said so last week to the best sports handicappers I know: Trainer John Parisella, HRI’s own Tom Jicha and two New England best-buds, Vin O and Tony P. All liked the Broncos, as did sports maven Marc Lawrence.

But I saw no way the Broncos could outscore the Panthers. And Carolina had a strong defense, too, just not #1: I’ve been a defense-first guy ever since the New York Jets beat the mighty Baltimore Colts in Supe III, the day I married Toni Bresha, January 12, 1969.

I’m embarrassed to admit this but it’s true: I made a token $10 bet on Carolina to win the first half at -3½. I bet sports for entertainment, bragging rights, not for income. If critics want to say I bet this game “like a little bitch,” I’d be defenseless.

Written by John Pricci | Comments (8)
A Jim Donn-dy of a Weekend

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., February 7, 2016—Saturday at Gulfstream Park, a horse called Mshawish beat everything thrown his way.

• He beat the handicapper who assigned him a pound less than a stablemate who has never come close to winning a career Grade 1.

• He beat Keen Ice, the only horse to defeat the 2015 Horse of a Lifetime, the field’s only other Grade 1 titlist.

• He beat the odds of becoming one of those rare animals to earn Grade 1 status on both turf and dirt, like he's some kind of 21st Century John Henry or something.

• He beat the bettors, including this one, who disrespected him at a dismissive 9-2, as if Pletcher and Velazquez were strangers to the bright lights.

• In taking command in the shadow of the high-beam lighting at the finish line, he even beat the darkness, winning the last event on a 13-race program in what his trainer thought was the performance of the six-year-old's lifetime.

Anyone familiar with Todd Pletcher understands that he knows his horses and the competition very well, and when talking about either he’s quite correct, politically and otherwise.

But even Pletcher somewhat lowered expectations this week on one the barn’s stable leaders, which made yesterday’s nine furlong Donn score in 1:47.89 so gratifying:

"I loved the way he finished up at a mile and an eighth," Pletcher said. "That was the one thing we were looking to prove--that he could stay a mile and an eighth on the dirt. I actually thought he ran the best race of his career, really.”

Meanwhile, at Gulfstream’s sister track out West, an undefeated champion with nothing to prove, Songbird, was devastating in her three-year-old debut, winning the one mile Las Virgenes by 6-1/2 eased lengths after first opening 10 at the top of the lane. And jockey Mike Smith never once sat down in the irons.

To answer the burning question on the mind of most fans, owner Rick Porter said: “It would be nice to win the Kentucky Derby, but I'd like to do it with a nice colt... I don't like the point system. We'd have to run in the Santa Anita Derby… I think it'd be great for your ego, but the smart move is to stay on the path we're on to the [Kentucky] Oaks."

"At least now we got a race in her and we can try to make some more plans. We want to run here at Santa Anita.” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. "What we do in between now and the Santa Anita Oaks, I don't know."

Rightfully, that answer is anything that Hollendorfer wants his filly to do.

But, of course, there’s another reason why there will be no Derby run for Songbird. The elephant in Porter's shedrow is Eight Belles.

Immediately after the Las Virgenes, HRI colleague Tom Jicha put Songbird’s performance in proper perspective. “Three of the fillies behind her are now pointing for the Kentucky Derby.”

Written by John Pricci | Comments (22)


Track News Releases
Track News Releases
Gulfstream News & Notes: Fri 2/12

Undefeated 3-Year-Old Mohaymen Sizzles in Return to Work Tab Friday
Stonetastic Opens Season in Sunday’s $65,000 Miami Shores
Fond of Sarah Looking for First Stakes Win in Miami Shores

– Shadwell Stable’s Mohaymen, undefeated winner of the $350,000…

Feb 12 | Categories: Gulfstream, | Comments (0)
Presidents Day Card Draws 270 Nominations

Holiday Program Features 12 Starter Stakes worth $680,000

– A total of 270 horses were nominated to 12 starter stakes worth $680,000 in purses that will comprise a special Presidents Day holiday card Monday Feb. 15 at Gulfstream Park.

The $60,000…

Feb 11 | Categories: Gulfstream, | Comments (0)
Mshawish Earns G1 Status on Dirt in Saturday’s Donn Handicap

Pletcher-Trained Veteran Like to Start Next in Dubai World Cup

– Al Shaqab Racing’s Mshawish joined elite company Saturday with his thoroughly commanding triumph in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park.

His two-length triumph gave…

Feb 7 | Categories: Gulfstream, | Comments (0)
Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1)

Lukes Alley Posts Mild Upset in Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1)

Even-Money Favorite The Pizza Man Finishes Fifth in $350,000 Stakes

– Trying Grade 1 company for the first time, Melnyk Racing Stables consistent homebred Lukes Alley ran down stubborn…

Feb 7 | Categories: Gulfstream, | Comments (0)


“She has such a high cruising speed, she has gears.

“You always worry about horses that are brilliant at two. Sometimes they won’t mature or grow anymore at three. You’re anxious to see what will happen.

Feb 7 | Categories: Santa Anita, | Comments (0)


“No, I never had any concerns. I actually got there quicker than I wanted to. I was loaded going into the stretch. He’s pretty special and I’m looking forward to facing more competition.

Feb 7 | Categories: Santa Anita, | Comments (0)
Gulfstream Today 2.5.16

Rainbow 6 Carryover Stands at $508,090 for Saturday
Donn Day Card to Feature Guaranteed Late Pick 4, Late Pick 5 Pools

– There was no unique winner of the 20-cent Rainbow 6 on Friday, leaving a jackpot carryover of $508,090.75 for Saturday’s stakes-filled…

Feb 6 | Categories: Gulfstream, | Comments (0)
Sheriffa, Threehailmary’s square off again in Biogio’s Rose

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Multiple stakes winners Sheriffa and Saythreehailmary's face each other for the first time in 2016 on Sunday at Aqueduct Racetrack as they head a field of six New York-bred fillies and mares in the $100,000 Biogio's Rose at 1 1/16 miles.

Saythreehailmary's, trained by…

Feb 6 | Categories: Aqueduct, | Comments (0)

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Pricedtoperfection ($11.40) was ridden to perfection by jockey Joel Rosario in the $100,000 Sweetest Chant Stakes (G3) to give trainer Chad Brown his fifth straight win in the one-mile turf test for 3-year-old fillies.

Owned by Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence,…

Jan 31 | Categories: Gulfstream, | Comments (0)
Sassicaia splits rivals to take G3 Toboggan

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Robert V. LaPenta's Sassicaia may have been a late entrant in the Grade 3, $150,000 Toboggan, twice rescheduled due to inclement weather, but his timing quickly proved to be impeccable, springing a mild upset to score his first graded stakes victory on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Jan 31 | Categories: Aqueduct, | Comments (0)
Sunny Ridge shines in G3 Withers win

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Jason Servis said he was confident in Sunny Ridge's chances heading into Saturday's Grade 3, $250,000 Withers, but he felt even better when he saw the 3-year-old Holy Bull gelding enjoying a perfect trip down the backside at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Jan 31 | Categories: Aqueduct, | Comments (0)
Gulfstream Notes 1.28.16

Maturing Greenpointcrusader Returns to Action in Holy Bull (G2)
Conquest Big E Carries High Expectations into Holy Bull
Gold Takes Time-Will-Tell Approach with Awesome Banner

Maturing Greenpointcrusader Returns to Action in Holy Bull (G2)

Three months after…

Jan 28 | Categories: Gulfstream, | Comments (0)