There will be no Triple Crown champion this year after the owner of Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike announced on Thursday that his colt will jump the Preakness Stakes and race in the Belmont Stakes instead.
Owner Rick Dawson said his horse came out of the Derby in fine form but he and trainer Eric Reed decided not to push Rich Strike into the second leg of the Triple Crown in Baltimore next Saturday after just two weeks off, especially after winning America’s most famous horse race (and a legion of fans) 80-1.
The colt didn’t even enter the Derby field until the day before the race, when Ethereal Road pulled out.
“Our original plan for Rich Strike depended on the Kentucky Derby. If we weren’t racing in the Derby, we’d be pointing to the Preakness,” Dawson said in a statement. “If we were racing in the Derby, subject to the outcome of the race and the condition of our horse, we would give him more recovery time.”
Dawson said a possible plan was to race the horse, nicknamed Ritchie, in the Belmont Stakes in New York on June 11, but in any case give him five to six weeks between races.
“Obviously with our tremendous effort and winning the Derby there is a very, very tempting move to alter our course and run into the Preakness at Pimlico which would be a great honor for our whole group,” Dawson continued. . “However, after many discussions and considerations with my coach, Eric Reed, and a few others, we will stick with our plan of what’s best for Ritchie, that’s what’s best for our group, and move on to run in the Preakness, and point to the Belmont in about five weeks.
In a statement, Reed said of the horse, “What matters most is what’s best for him. We hate the decision we had to make, but it was the right one.
But Dawson and Reed had warned that sending Rich Strike to Baltimore was not a sure thing. At Churchill Downs, the Derby’s home in Louisville, Ky., the colt was at a racetrack where he had previously won (by 17 lengths). The track is conducive to Rich Strike’s late closing style.
The Preakness is one-sixteenth of a mile shorter than the Derby, and the Pimlico Race Course layout features tighter turns and demands more agility.
There are also far fewer horses than the 20 that showed up in Louisville and none are likely to set the same fast pace that completed Rich Strike’s late kick. In the Derby, the colt caught Epicenter and Zandon, who were tired after chasing the early leaders.
Rich Strike’s defection means Epicenter, who finished runners-up in the Derby and entered the Preakness, are now likely favorites to claim the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
The mile and a half Belmont Stakes, with its big turns, should help Rich Strike perform at his best, especially after five weeks of rest.
Or at least that’s what Dawson and Reed bet.
They got cunning when they decided to bring Rich Strike into the Derby, just like bettors who believed in colt. Rich Strike paid $163.60 on a $2 bet to win. Only Donerail in 1913 had a higher payout, at $184.90.
Still, it’s always disappointing for horse racing fans when a Triple Crown offer isn’t on the table. And Rich Strike had a particularly compelling story that resonated even with non-horse racing fans.
It was purchased in a claiming race for $30,000. The colt is the only horse Dawson has in training. Rich Strike rider Sonny Leon, a 32-year-old Venezuelan, also has a working pedigree. He was the 11th runner in the nation last year, but racked up those wins mostly at remote tracks in Ohio. He had never won a graduated stakes race before the Derby, and Dawson, Reed and Leon were all making their Derby debuts.
In 2019, Country House became the first Kentucky Derby winner to skip the second leg of the Triple Crown since Grindstone in 1996. Country House had finished second in the Derby but was elevated to first after race officials disqualified Maximum Security, who crossed the line first. , to interfere with multiple horses.
Bill Mott, who coached Country House, said the colt developed a cough. The Derby turned out to be the colt’s last race. He is now a stallion in Kentucky.