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
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

Lost: A Racetrack and Probably Some Fans

SARATOGA SPRINGS, Aug. 18--What a relief. In the midst of my 1600-mile drive to Saratoga, I began reading stories that said the track at Saratoga had been lost on Saturday. My immediate thought was, how could people be wasting time looking for Pokemon when the most famous race track in America is missing?

Thankfully, this turned out to be hyperbole. The lost track, as described by Johnny Velazquez, turned out to be justification for the jockeys to refuse to ride the last six races of the card.

I was on the road, so I have no idea how extreme conditions were at the Spa. But I do know I have been there many times when it was raining when I woke up in the morning, never stopped all day, yet a complete program was run.

I also know that no matter how hard it might have been raining, it likely didn't exceed the Biblical downpours at Gulfstream a couple of times a week during summer. Nevertheless there hasn't been a rain cancellation in my memory.

When it's really bad or lightning is in the area, horses are held in the paddock until conditions become more tolerable. Even on the gloomiest of days, there is sufficient natural light during to run until 7 p.m. and beyond. NYRA called it quits not much after 3 p.m.

NYRA certainly didn't want to lose a Saturday at Saratoga. However, you have to wonder how much effort was made to save the cancelled races. You also have to wonder how much consideration was given to the potential long term repercussions to Saratoga and the Adirondacks tourism industry.

Saratoga probably draws a greater percentage of fans from in excess of 100 miles away than any other racetrack in America, especially on a Saturday. Fans last Saturday are likely to think twice the next time they consider the marathon drive if there is even a hint of a storm.

Also, fans pay $200 or more a night in area hotels and motels to spend a day or two at the Spa. Speaking from first-hand knowledge, a lot of these reservations are made weeks or months in advance. There also is sure to be hesitation on the part of many to making this commitment next year.


Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (25)
To get people into racing, turn fans into owners



Most racing fans dream of owning a horse. The cost puts this dream out of reach for all but the wealthy. Churchill Downs pioneered an idea this spring, the CD Racing Club, which allows fans to become part of an ownership syndicate for as little as $500. One of the two horses the Club owns has already won. Hundreds of members and their friends, some of whom probably never go to the track, were there to cheer her on. This mirrors a personal experience. A group of racetrack friends pooled our money and bought a $20,000 claimer, who won his first two races for us then got claimed for $40,000. We hope to get back into the game ASAP. Most importantly, each of us had an entourage of family and friends to root on our horse. They, too, can't wait for us to get back into the game. Racing has scores of new fans.


Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (10)

Stars Shine: Good Horses = Good Racing = Good Business

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, August 21, 2016—

Dear Diary,

Who said you can’t go home again? Like New Orleans, Saratoga is a place you feel more than see. It’s as if you’ve never left, especially given five decades of prior experience.

In Saratoga, the horse that has the right of way at all times. Posted signs virtually everywhere tells you as much.

As for Saturday’s racing, including the final two legs of a special Pick 4 wager that combined three Grade 1 stakes and a Grade 2, the final two legs at Del Mar, was spectacular.

Saturday was the kind of day when you feel sorry for all those people who just don’t get it about the game. Even the non-stakes where highly competitive, featuring many tight finishes.

Betting notwithstanding, it boggles the brain that sports fans seem unwilling to appreciate the athleticism involved in the sport of Thoroughbred racing; the equines, the jockeys and, most significantly, the interaction between them.

On sun-baked afternoons from coast to coast, two SoCal based horses, Songbird and California Chrome, were so dominant they made graded stakes-winning rivals appear inferior by comparison.

Questions were answered. Songbird, indeed, can carry her speed a mile and a quarter, even if it took 26.99 seconds to close the deal.


Written by John Pricci | Comments (9)
On the Road Again, Almost

LIC, NY, August 14, 2016—

Dear Diary,

It’s not Saratoga yet but we’re collecting out tack and will be on our way sometime in the next 48 hours.

On Saturday we kicked back some, made a few wagers and settle in to watch “Saratoga Live” for the first time. It’s unavailable in SoFla. We have FS1 in our area, not FS2.

But it almost didn’t matter, because it rained. And when summer storms appear in Saratoga, lots can happen, none of it very good.

But I, and the NYRA, got lucky. But the association deserves credit for creating a Grade 1 double wager featuring the newly upgraded Fourstardave—thank you Wise Dan—and the storied Arlington Million.

The Million was the first international seven-figure turf event in the U.S. and instant classic—thank you John Henry.

It would have been very successful, judging by the wide open nature of both races, but then storm clouds appeared on the horizon.


Written by John Pricci | Comments (17)

Technology a Friend of Fans and Horses Alike

ELMONT, NY, August, 23, 2016 – Last year on the Fourth of July, I went to the new Yankee Stadium with my son.

I used to go to the old ball park in the Bronx as a kid with my grandfather, who had season tickets. Some years I'd go to as many as 20 games.

I haven't followed baseball in decades and would have never have thought to go if my daughter hadn't given me her tickets.

My kids grew up in the press box, on the backstretch, and backstage. Now that I'm the grandpa, it is nice to be granted access through my daughter.

I always got a feeling of excitement, a little extra pounding in my chest, when I saw the green expanse of the playing field at the old ballpark in the Bronx. It will will take some time before that vibe is present in the new ball park, if ever.

But the new stadium has an open indoor-outdoor feel, and the service at the facility is superb. Cool. The wait staff brought food to people in their seats--and they weren't special people in special boxes. Just folks.

I found that this can happens when and if you download the Yankee Stadium app. You can order tickets for seats, pay for parking, make a dining reservation and more.

Well, the New York Racing Association just recently partnered with VenueNext, the company that helps put on the show at the new Yankee Stadium. I also learned that the NYRA had to deal under different circumstances.


Written by Mark Berner | Comments (0)
A Horse Is a Horse, Of Course, But Fantasy Sports Isn’t Gambling?

ELMONT, NY, August 9, 2016 – If it looks like a pig, squeals like a pig and smells like a pig, it's a pig. Even if you dress it up in a Saratoga hat and put lipstick on it, it's still a pig.

The New York State legislators have changed the pig, by definition, and now call it a (cash) cow. And with the approval of Governor Andrew Cuomo, Daily Fantasy Sports will resume in this state in time for the lucrative NFL season.

The legislators of New York State decided if they call DFS a game of skill rather than a game of chance it could be legalized. In this way, New York's law is compliant with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, which excludes fantasy sports that are a game of skill.

New York's new DFS law is the result of a successful court challenge by the state's Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, who reached an agreement with DraftKings and FanDuel to shut down DFS wagering in March of this year.

New York's new description of Interactive fantasy sports contests now reads:

“A game of skill wherein one or more contestants compete against each other by using their knowledge and understanding of athletic events and athletes to select and manage rosters of simulated players whose performance directly corresponds with the actual performance of human competitors on sports teams and in sports events.”

In other words, gambling is still gambling, a game of chance no matter how one parses the language.


Written by Mark Berner | Comments (10)

With Saratoga Looming, Something Old and Some New Things

HALLANDALE BEACH, July 17, 2016—From Southern California to the Jersey Shore, and from Kentucky and, as of this weekend, Indiana, all roads are lead to Saratoga for the most consequential summit among three-year-olds of both sexes this year.

It begins next weekend when sensational Songbird, a filly that some, myself included, say is reminiscent of Ruffian, gets her first serious challenge when she meets Carina Mia in the Coaching Club American Oaks.

If all goes well for both, a rematch in the storied mile-and-a-quarter Alabama on August 20 is promised.

The week after--if all goes well in the Haskell Invitational and Jim Dandy--a rematch of Triple Crown achievers Nyquist, Exaggerator and Creator would be extraordinary, a few talented new shooters sprinkled in for added interest.

Beyond this, the human races figure to be even more interesting. With Chad Brown having an extraordinary Belmont meeting, you know perennial Saratoga leader Todd Pletcher wants to retain his title.

Interesting here will be the battles between Pletcher’s juveniles vs. Brown’s legion of turf runners. Weather will factor into this, of course. Brown came close last year and with more talented dirt runners in the barn, this could be his year. Both will be going all-in. This rivalry isn’t media-made; it’s real.

With the addition of Florent Geroux and the strong riding of Joel Rosario in New York this year, the jockey battle, always of supreme interest in Saratoga, will be very highly contested.

With Geroux, the country’s leaded graded-stakes rider, joining Rosario, Saratoga titlists Javier Castellano and Johnny Velazquez, the prodigious Ortiz brothers and the emerging Manny Franco, the jockey race will be lively and highly competitive; great for bettors.

Of course, the results will depend on the quality mounts as most trainers have their “go-to” guys and barns can go hot or cold regardless of focus and intent.

Five days and counting but, first, some unfinished business:


Written by John Pricci | Comments (22)
“Improvement of the Breed” No Longer Applies to Thoroughbred Racing

Like the author of the following, Dr. Steven A. Roman, creator of the Dosage Index algorithm that measures a sire's pre-potency for passing on his distance racing capability to its offspring, I am not optimistic when it comes to racing's future when measured against real-world materiality.

But what sense does it make to be a horseplayer or, for that matter, the owner of a well-bred two-year-old, if you can't dream a little?

It's in that spirit, in the hope that Roman's long goodbye will resonate with a heretofore unknown guardian angel, one brilliant enough to invent a magic wand so big that it can be waved over 38 horse-racing states and the District of Columbia.

The following remarks are the thoughts of a man who at no time wanted to make racing a profession, but rather it remain an avocation, something to love, see it prosper and endure, enjoyed by a wider audience.

I've written this before but upon leaving the Gulfstream Park walking ring behind the Florida Derby horses this winter as a few thousand fans surveyed the scene, I turned to a track executive and said: "I feel sorry for all the people that don't get it about Thoroughbred racing."

And I still mean that and why I, personally, will not leave the game until someone pulls the remote out of one cold dead hand while I try to bet with the other.

For Roman, his love of the game was enough to apply his science background to pedigree study, and he made a mark. How many others tethered to the horse can say the same with that qualifier?

All in racing who truly love it, and wish it would last forever, please don't raise your hand. Instead, step up and do something crazy; think outside the bottom line, about a long range plan that could work over time.

So. will the racing industry finally act to reverse overall negative perceptions of the game, or is it already too late?

Here, then, Part 2 of Steven Roman's long goodbye to the game...


"Solutions cannot be achieved without difficulty because of the overriding economic interests of those within the industry, but there are things that can be done. The objective, short of eliminating the sport, is to minimize the likelihood of injury and death, accepting that riders have a choice but the horses do not.

"As an industry outsider I have no say in implementing change, but I can have an opinion. An obvious step is the complete elimination of race day medication with severe penalties for violators, up to and including criminal prosecution or a lifetime ban depending on the severity of the infraction. This protects not only the athletes but the interests of the horseplayers as well.

"I've never understood why any transgressions by trainers, owners, riders or veterinarians that could affect the outcome of a race and, consequently, the bankrolls of horseplayers are tolerated at all. Which other gambling outlet permits similar behavior? What would the penalty be if the ownership or staff of a Las Vegas casino was caught cheating? Would it be a slap on the wrist? I doubt it.

"Another even less likely approach is a switch to racing exclusively on grass, a surface well documented to reduce (but unfortunately not eliminate) fatalities and which is the standard racing surface for most of the world. The industry did experiment, generating mixed results, with all-weather synthetic surfaces as a substitute for dirt. In reality, synthetic surfaces are not the same as or even a close approximation to dirt.

"If safety truly was the primary concern a safer surface, turf, already exists. A. F. Carke in American Association Equine Practitioners 55:183-186, 2009 noted that although it appears synthetic surfaces are safer than dirt, when synthetic surfaces replaced turf courses, Fatal Musculoskeletal Injury (FMSI) rates increased, confirming turf as the safest type of surface.

"I personally believe the real motivation behind the introduction of synthetic surfaces was purely economic with increased safety a secondary consideration and good for public relations. The drainage characteristics of synthetic surfaces are supposed to keep them viable under virtually all weather conditions. The desired result? No revenue loss from cancellations due to weather-related problems. And, presumably, although debatable, maintenance costs can be lower as well.

"There may have been marginal improvements in safety with synthetic surfaces, but that may be because they are inherently slower compared to dirt. However, as a trained scientist I found it disturbing that these surfaces were installed and used without any prior long-term studies of their health effects on the horses or the riders.

"Synthetic surfaces are formulated in different ways but generally consist of sand and polymeric materials in fiber form usually modified by the addition of rubber and wax. As the surface particles erode under continual exposure to mechanical effects (e.g., the pounding of horses' hooves, harrowing, etc.) and environmental effects (e.g., heat, sunlight, wind, moisture, etc.) the dust and vapors created are inhaled by horse and rider.

"It's bad enough when the athletes' lungs are exposed to the dust from the breakdown of dirt particles. It's far worse when they are exposed to dust and vapors from eroding synthetic materials and even natural materials that are potentially carcinogenic or may physically damage the respiratory system. Not knowing the long-term effects should be completely unacceptable - but not, apparently, to those who control the game.


Written by John Pricci | Comments (27)



 


Track News Releases
Track News Releases
UPDATED QUOTES California Chrome Romps in Pacific Classic

JOCKEY VICTOR ESPINOZA – “Before the race, no matter what strategy I have, everything changes when the gate opens. So, right when I was behind the gate I thought ‘You know what, I’m going to send out of here. I’m going to send hard out of the gate and then move out just a little toward the…


Aug 21 | Categories: | Comments (0)
Saratoga Race Course Notes, Sunday, August 21

Mohaymen to skip G1 Travers, re-routed to G1 King's Bishop
• Creator in final breeze for Travers; Gun Runner on deck for work
• Songbird lands softly after G1 Alabama romp
• Brown thinking "big" with maiden winner Favorable Outcome
• Majesto is G1 Travers-bound

Aug 21 | Categories: | Comments (0)
Alabama (G1) Quotes

Jerry Hollendorfer, winning trainer of Songbird (No. 6): "I was just happy to see her out there and rating nicely, Mike looked pretty confident on her. I thought she would run well down the lane and she did. I never like to say it's easy but she's just got a lot of talent. She makes it looks easy but…


Aug 21 | Categories: Saratoga, | Comments (0)
Nonna Mela proves much the best in G2 Adirondack

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Coming off a lengthy maiden victory, Nonna Mela easily handled the jump to stakes company for an impressive win in the Grade 2, $200,000 Adirondack for 2-year-old fillies at Saratoga Race Course on Friday.

The 100th running of the Adirondack had originally been scheduled…


Aug 20 | Categories: Saratoga, | Comments (0)
“Best Ever” TVG Pacific Classic Has Nine Runners Saturday

Saturday’s $1-million TVG Pacific Classic, already called by many the best edition of the Grade I headliner Del Mar has ever presented, will feature three superstars and nine runners all told in a mile and a quarter battle royale that will unfold as the highlight of an 11-race program at the shore…


Aug 20 | Categories: | Comments (0)
Adirondack (G2) Quotes

Todd Pletcher, winning trainer of Nonna Mela (No. 2): "It's worked out well. Vinnie and Teresa [Viola, owners of St. Elias Stable] made the decision to send all of these babies early to Palm Beach Downs. They all got started there and, in the case of Bode's Dream, she broke her maiden at Gulfstream and…


Aug 20 | Categories: Saratoga, | Comments (0)
Saratoga Race Course Notes, Friday, August 19

Mohaymen under radar, on target for G1 Travers
• Baffert back for G1 Travers with American Freedom, Arrogate
• Sheer Drama's final work before Ballerina
• Destin puts in "good, steady breeze" in last work before G1 Travers
• Governor Malibu puts in breeze for Travers

Aug 20 | Categories: Saratoga, | Comments (0)
Grand Arch tries for repeat in rescheduled G1 Fourstardave

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Jim and Susan Hill's millionaire Grand Arch will take on a salty field of turf specialists as he looks to defend his title on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course in the rescheduled Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap, which has been awarded Grade 1 status for the first time…


Aug 18 | Categories: Saratoga, | Comments (0)
Songbird looks to soar in Grade 1 Alabama

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Bird is the word for Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama at Saratoga Race Course, where Fox Hill Farm's stellar Songbird will continue her pursuit of perfection in the meet's marquee race for 3-year-old fillies.

First run in 1872 when Woodbine earned $2,650 for…


Aug 18 | Categories: Saratoga, | Comments (0)
Saratoga Race Course Notes, Wednesday, August 17

Porter recounts Songbird's journey ahead of G1 Alabama
• Travers-nominated Destin to work on Friday
• Summer Revolution works half-mile for Travers Day assignment
• Saturday's Troy draws nine for turf

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.
- Everyone is looking forward…


Aug 18 | Categories: Saratoga, | Comments (0)
‘Amazing’ Ben’s Cat Going After Seventh Straight Mister Diz Win

10-Year-Old Gelding Can Equal North American Record with Victory

LAUREL, MD
– After all these years, Hall of Fame horseman King Leatherbury doesn’t even try to search for the right word to describe his stable star, 10-year-old multimillionaire gelding Ben’s Cat.




Aug 18 | Categories: Laurel, | Comments (0)
Saratoga Race Course Notes, Monday, August 15

Creator and Gun Runner work in company ahead of G1 Travers
• Baffert confirms American Freedom, Arrogate for Travers, Hoppertunity possible for G1 Woodward
• Songbird breezes 'smooth' half-mile ahead of G1 Alabama
• Haveyougoneaway on target for G1 Ballerina
• My…


Aug 16 | Categories: Saratoga, | Comments (0)