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
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

Equestricon Breaks Quickly for the Fans, Less So For Players

SARATOGA SPRINGS, August 15, 2017—As trade shows go, depending on how much time and passion is devoted to the effort, what you see is exactly what you get. Whether it be trains, boats, cars, or comedians, standard are usually met.

In that context--and in that context only—when I left the Saratoga City Center, my socks remained right where they were when I put them on this morning.

But considering this is horse racing we’re talking about, it was difficult for true lovers of Thoroughbred sport--whether they were first attracted by the horse, the spectacle or the gambling, not to walk away captivated.

What was so impressive was that it happened in the first place. It was something that veteran racetrackers never thought they would see.

So the fact that Equestricon did happen made it an unqualified success. If one wanted to parse those words, the observer would say it was a very worthy first effort. It was the kind of debut that in time could move horse racing forward despite its many impediments.

We could not spend more than several hours a day on Monday and Tuesday but wanted to feel the atmosphere.

After cruising all the exhibits, many belonging to “signature event partners,” we thought the event was in the main nicely attended, especially considering Monday was a racing day.

We noted many of the organizations that one would have expected to see at a horse racing convention: America’s Best Racing, Breeders’ Cup, Daily Racing Form, National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame, NYRA and TVG.

Other lesser-tiered partners were racetrack organizations; the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Keeneland, The Stronach Group and Woodbine.

We spent time at three conferences. The first was “Racing Media: Past, Present and Future.” We arrived during the session and assume that past media was addressed before taking our seat.


Written by John Pricci | Comments (18)
Trainer Battles Make for Good Sport, Betting Not So Much

SARATOGA SPRINGS, August 13, 2017—

DEAR DIARY,

The Who’s Hot-Who’s Not aspects of handicapping relating to current trainer and jockey standings are, as an exercise, somewhat perfunctory. And that’s the case at virtually every race meet in America, but not this one.

Saratoga is one meeting where everything is magnified, especially considering it’s the only lengthy session that still attracts wholesale mainstream media coverage, whether it be electronic, print or online.

So it follows that one of the major storylines here is the battle for leading trainer between last year’s champion, “local boy” Chad Brown of nearby Mechanicville, vs. perennial leader Todd Pletcher.

It does not escape us that this is a battle between upper-dogs, each having access to a couple of hundred of the best pedigrees in the world every year. Their operations never require rebuilding their as much as their need to simply reload.

Still, diary, in our first full week here, this competition has been pretty dramatic with Brown having a five-win when we arrived last weekend. Then the Pletcher barn began firing on all cylinders and the battle is on in earnest.

The sense is that Brown simply can’t help himself when it comes to winning races with a collection of the best stock he has trained to date while at once Pletcher seems like a man on a mission, wanting to reclaim a title he won a dozen times.

Most observers would agree that Pletcher is the more diplomatic of the two, both would likely downplay the intramurals and talk about how their goal is to make their owners happy by increasing the value of their stock. Make no mistake; that’s true, of course.

But this rivalry is real, each with a burning the desire to out-win his rival; the bigger margin, the better. It’s not like “these teams don’t like each other,” but it’s close.


Written by John Pricci | Comments (18)

New Spa Dirt Surface Needs Adjustments

Images of thoroughbreds emerging from the morning mist, or standing boldly on the racetrack before an idyllic multi-hued Saratoga sunrise, permeate social media, where very little happens without public critique.

Posts and tweets from the Spa started long before the current meet began and are so voluminous now it is hard to keep pace. One important thread I do follow concerns Saratoga’s main track, as reported for HRI on July 11.

Reiterating: SARATOGA: INSIDE INFO

Clocking horses and tracking racetracks, veteran clocker Bruno De Julio (Racingwithbruno‏ @Racingwithbruno) tweeted: “Saratoga Main Track - added materials - clay added to main. Turf course - new sod and new irrigation system - turf looks grand.”

We thanked De Julio for the good information, noting that additional clay in the track cushion will allow it to hold more water and that the main track could play differently when wet and as it dries out. The refurbished turf course is less like to play any differently.

As it turns out, the new composition of the racing surface needs a new and a different maintenance methodology to keep it in optimal shape for racing and training.


Written by Mark Berner | Comments (24)
NYRA On a Roll as Saratoga Approaches

The economic numbers for the first half of the 2017 U.S. racing year are in and the results are a mixed bag. Wagering, the monetary force that drives the game, was up for the entire year, the most recent in June in line with that. This is the good news.

The bad is that the rest of the economic indicators, those for purses, number of races, race days, number of starters and average field size were down across the board for the same periods; purses for the year being the lone positive.

All indicators are especially significant for the New York Racing Association because it handles 20 percent of all U.S. wagers. Some credit must be due NYRA for generating positive news because of the added visibility it provides via greater national exposure of its quality racing product.

The Stars & Stripes Festival at Belmont Park Saturday is the most recent example of the kind of “big-day” marketing philosophy NYRA employs to drive handle. Big NYRA races on live TV via the NBC and NBC Sports Networks lends heft to New York racing across the country.

Additionally, NYRA’s high quality house-produced “Belmont Live” and “Saratoga Live,” programs that can be seen on various FOX Sports networks, MSG+ and Altitude is the kind of video that the industry badly needs.


Written by Mark Berner | Comments (33)

High and low points of a week at the Spa

The Saratoga experience remains scintillating with the only downer NYRA, which gets tens of millions of dollars from the Aqueduct casino, not sharing any of the windfall with fans. To the contrary, it continues to nickel and dime (or $5 and $10) customers with unjustified price hikes. Meanwhile, Gun Runner is the latest champion to prove that Saratoga's reputation as the Graveyard of Favorites is more myth than reality.


Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (12)
Gun Runner can restore some normalcy to a crazy season


Champions and would-be champions have been disappointing at an alarming rate the past few months. Arrogate threw in the biggest clunker. Derby and Preakness winners Always Dreaming and Cloud Computing, respectively, came up wanting in the Jim Dandy last Saturday. Songbird has not returned to her dominant ways as a juvenile and 3-year-old. Drefong kissed off Mike Smith in the Pat O'Brien. In this atmosphere, Gun Runner will have every chance to improve his status in the Whitney on Saturday. But the way things have been going this year, it's caveat emptor.


Written by Tom Jicha | Comments (5)

Cross-Country Notes From Tracktown, USA

HRI is delighted to have an old friend visit, however briefly

For a time, Saratoga was as close as eight furlongs away, and as far away as New Jersey, North Carolina and Washington D.C.

As the meet proceeds into its 149th season, it’s farther away than ever. And that sorta’ bums me out.

But here’s the thing: I didn’t think it ever would!

Despite the tweets, YouTube HD videos of every race, it could never replace putting on a pair of slacks, a button-down shirt, tie and blazer and rubbing shoulders in the paddock with Lukas, Rice, Zito, as if it were 2008 again, and this rookie named Chad Brown won the first race of that meet and be its leading trainer for the next 29 minutes.

Eight years later and he was the record holding winner of 40 races, supplanting Todd Pletcher in a Saratogian Game of Thrones.

But all this is in the recent past. I live in Eugene, Oregon, nicknamed Tracktown for Nike, renown for Steve Prefontaine and the Olympic Track and Field Trials.

Having lived in Saratoga Springs, that nickname makes me laugh now.


Written by Brendan O'Meara | Comments (4)
Smarty’s Belmont Controversy: The Aftermath, Part V

Smarty Jones’ bid at the Triple Crown ended just a length short. Years later, the memory remains, and so too does Smarty’s resonant effect on the world of horse racing.

Four years later Big Brown was a live threat to win the Triple Crown. The memory of Smarty’s run was still fresh in everyone’s mind. He was the last horse that had a chance to do it.

Pat Forde, an ESPN.com senior writer then, wrote a piece titled “Ganging up on favorite isn’t unimaginable at Belmont.”

The idea is sinister. It’s sporting sacrilege. But it’s a question that needs to be asked.

Would someone actually enter the Belmont Stakes with the intention of making massive favorite Big Brown lose the Triple Crown rather than with the intention of seeing his own horse win?


Written by Brendan O'Meara | Comments (5)



 


Track News Releases
Track News Releases
Saratoga Race Course Notes 8/14

Competitive edition of G1 Travers attracts 17 nominations
• Highway Star remains on point for G1 Ballerina
• G1 Whitney winner Gun Runner 'happy' in half-mile work
• Bigger Picture eyes G1 Sword Dancer
• Holy Helena on target for G1 Alabama
• Old Friends…


Aug 14 | Categories: Saratoga, |
Thursday’s Rainbow 6 Carryover Jackpot Rises to $137,077

Bonita Fires Fresh to Win Panama City Handicap

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – The 20-cent Rainbow 6 carryover jackpot will stand at $137,077.94 when live racing resumes at Gulfstream Park Thursday.

The popular multi-race wager went unsolved for the 11th consecutive racing…


Aug 14 | Categories: Gulfstream, |
Saratoga Race Course Notes 8/13

Songbird confirmed for G1 Personal Ensign
• Oscar Performance targets G1 Joe Hirsch after Secretariat win
• World Approval exits G1 Fourstardave win in fine fettle
• G1 Hopeful may be next for gutsy debut winner Oskar Blues
• Brown keeps focus on Saratoga despite…


Aug 13 | Categories: Saratoga, |
GRADE I ARLINGTON MILLION QUOTES

Joel Rosario (jockey, Beach Patrol, 1st): “They told me I had to get him out of the gate and get into a good position and let him find himself. It took a little bit of time, but he really found his way after. I appreciate the chance and the opportunity to be able to ride him today.”




Aug 13 | Categories: Arlington Park, |
Fourstardave (G1) Quotes

Mark Casse, winning trainer of World Approval (No. 7): "When we saw the rain was coming, Ms. [Charlotte] Weber was concerned and we talked about it a few times, and I thought his race was so good in the [Grade 2] Dixie, I thought the rain it wasn't going to hurt her. We couldn't get Julien [Leparoux]…


Aug 13 | Categories: Saratoga, |
Pure Silver romps field in G2 Adirondack

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - It took just a few strides out of the gate for Pure Silver to get her customary lead before she quickly took command of the field of seven in cruising to a 9 ½-length win in the Grade 2, $200,000 Adirondack on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

Sent off at…


Aug 13 | Categories: Saratoga, |
GRADE I SECRETARIAT QUOTES

Jose Ortiz (jockey, Oscar Performance, 1st): “He [Oscar Performance] was sitting very comfortably in second and when I asked him to go he ran very well. I love that Brian [Lynch] gave me the opportunity on this horse. I’m very happy I won the race for them [connections John Amerman and Brian Lynch]”

Aug 13 | Categories: Arlington Park, |
Saratoga Race Course Notes 8/12

Cloud Computing's work impresses Brown, G1 Travers still possibility
• Haskell winner Girvin puts in 'maintenance half' for Travers
• Graded stakes-placed Petrov on target for G1 H. Allen Jerkens
• Travers-bound Good Samaritan has 'good energy' following breeze
•…


Aug 12 | Categories: Saratoga, |
Saturday Pick 6 carryover of $56,542 at Saratoga Race Course

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Bettors will be greeted with a Pick 6 carryover of $56,542 on Saturday's card at Saratoga Race Course, which features the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave in the tenth race.

A Pick 6 carryover seemed inevitable when 38-1 longshot Romantic Babe hit the wire first in…


Aug 12 | Categories: Saratoga, |
Saturday’s Rainbow 6 Carryover Jackpot Climbs to $94,332

Alexis Delgado Saddles First U.S. Winner
Tyler Gaffalione Wins Three to Push 2017 Total over 200

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – The 20-cent Rainbow 6 went unsolved for the ninth straight racing program Friday at Gulfstream Park, producing a $94,332.70 carryover jackpot for…


Aug 12 | Categories: Gulfstream, |
Arlington International Racecourse Barn Notes: Friday, August 11

Permian Prepared for Secretariat Performance
• Ascend Seeks Second Grade I in Arlington Million
• Rouget’s Duo Get Final Prep Before Million Day

PERMIAN PREPARED FOR SECRETARIAT PERFORMANCE

With Scottish withdrawn from Saturday’s Grade I Arlington…


Aug 11 | Categories: Arlington Park, |
Saratoga Race Course Notes 8/11

Pletcher happy with potential G1 Travers starters after Friday breezes
• Stakes winner No Dozing targets elusive graded win in G1 Jerkens
• Fayeq posts bullet work ahead of likely Travers bid
• Next start uncertain for G1 winner Mind Your Biscuits following breeze



Aug 11 | Categories: Saratoga, |