Rich Strike’s Journey at Belmont Park
Rich Strike, the surprise winner of the Kentucky Derby, has arrived at Belmont Park, marking his presence at the upcoming 154th Belmont Stakes. Ten days prior to the highly anticipated race, Rich Strike took to the dirt training track for a trot, providing a glimpse of his form before settling into the barn for a well-deserved nap.
A Familiar Routine
Accompanied by exercise rider Gabriel Lagunes and outrider Juan Galvez on his trusty pony, Rich Strike embarked on a leisurely two-lap jaunt around Belmont Park’s exercise track. Trainer Eric Reed, shedding light on Rich Strike’s future schedule, shared his plan of incorporating paddock schooling in the mornings followed by training on the main track.
A Budding Friendship
Reed emphasized the importance of routine for Rich Strike, stating that the adjustment to a new environment will only take a couple of days. He also highlighted the colt’s need for companionship, particularly with his pony. As they spend more time together, Reed anticipates that Rich Strike and his pony will become good buddies, providing the Derby winner with a sense of comfort on race day.
Rich Strike’s Spectacular Memorial Day Show
Rich Strike certainly knows how to put on a show. On Memorial Day at Churchill Downs, the colt treated the crowd to an impressive display, breezing through five furlongs in just 59 seconds. To the delight of his connections, Rich Strike carried on with a six-furlong gallop out in 1:12, showcasing his confidence and untapped potential.
A Promising Performance
Trainer Eric Reed expressed his satisfaction with the Memorial Day breeze, noting that Rich Strike’s performance exceeded expectations. Despite the track being slightly quicker in the afternoon, Rich Strike’s workout aligned perfectly with the team’s plan. Reed also remarked on the colt’s increasing relaxation during morning exercises, highlighting his growing confidence and playful demeanor. It seems that Rich Strike knows he has achieved greatness in the Kentucky Derby, leaving his connections eager to witness his continued success.
Rich Strike: Skipping the Preakness Ruffles Feathers
Despite the unexpected victory at Churchill Downs, Rich Strike’s absence from the Preakness Stakes stirred up some controversy among racing purists. Trainer Eric Reed, along with owner Rick Dawson, made the decision to skip the Triple Crown’s middle jewel due to the colt’s carefully planned schedule.
An Unplanned Triumph
Just like Reed, Dawson never anticipated winning the Derby, which prompted their initial decision to bypass the Preakness. However, as the reality of their triumph settled in, the team had to rethink their strategy. Reed, drawing from past experiences, remembered the December Gun Runner race at New Orleans where Rich Strike struggled when his routine was disrupted. With this in mind, the trainer firmly believed that the Preakness would have posed a significant challenge for the colt.
An Intentional Approach
Every race Rich Strike participates in requires meticulous planning, considering various factors such as distance and track conditions. Reed acknowledged the difficulties that come with Rich Strike’s running style, making it a challenge to emerge victorious in any race. He empathized with the heightened expectations surrounding the colt after his historic Derby win, emphasizing the importance of thoughtful decision-making in order to maintain his success.
The Belmont: Always the Target
In choosing to bypass the Preakness, Rich Strike followed a path not taken by a healthy Derby winner since Spend a Buck in 1985. Spend a Buck went on to win the Jersey Derby instead, driven by the pursuit of a $2 million bonus rather than the potential for Triple Crown glory. Last year, Mandaloun, the Derby winner, skipped both the Preakness and Belmont, though it is important to note that he was not the Derby winner when he made the decision. The late Medina Spirit, who initially finished first in the Derby but was later disqualified due to a positive drug test, opted out of both races as well. All eyes were now on Rich Strike as the Belmont Stakes became the ultimate target for the talented colt.
Looking Ahead: The Travers Stakes
As Rich Strike continues his journey, trainer Eric Reed has his sights set on the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga on August 27. This prestigious race also happens to be the desired destination for other contenders such as Epicenter, the runner-up in both the Derby and the Preakness, along with Early Voting, the victor of the Preakness, and Zandon, who claimed third place in the Derby. With an impressive lineup, the Travers Stakes promises to be a highly anticipated showdown among the top three-year-olds.
Rich Strike’s arrival at Belmont Park has marked the beginning of an exciting chapter in his racing career. The Kentucky Derby winner’s journey, from his routine-oriented approach to his stunning Memorial Day performance, has captivated racing enthusiasts and left them hungry for more. As Rich Strike prepares to participate in the Belmont Stakes and looks ahead to future races, he continues to embody the spirit of thoroughbred racing, embodying the hopes and dreams of fans, connections, and the sport as a whole.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. How did Rich Strike adapt to the new environment at Belmont Park?
Rich Strike thrives on routine, and although being in a new place presented some initial challenges, he quickly settled into his new surroundings. As he familiarized himself with his pony, Rich Strike became more comfortable and is expected to form a strong bond with his companion leading up to the race day.
2. Why did Rich Strike skip the Preakness Stakes?
Trainer Eric Reed and owner Rick Dawson made the decision to skip the Preakness due to Rich Strike’s carefully planned schedule. Reed cited the importance of maintaining the colt’s routine and the potential disruption that the Preakness could have caused. Their focus has always been on targeting the Belmont Stakes and other significant races in the future.
3. How did Rich Strike’s Memorial Day show impact his confidence?
Rich Strike’s impressive workout on Memorial Day not only showcased his exceptional abilities on the track but also boosted his confidence. Having delivered a performance that aligned with the team’s expectations, Rich Strike displayed playful behavior and awareness of his Kentucky Derby victory, indicating his growing self-assurance.
4. What is Rich Strike’s next major race?
The Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga on August 27 is the next major race on Rich Strike’s agenda. With competitors such as Epicenter, Early Voting, and Zandon also targeting the Travers Stakes, it promises to be an exhilarating event for three-year-olds. Trainer Eric Reed believes the Travers Stakes is a fitting race for Rich Strike’s continued success.
5. How does Rich Strike’s running style affect his chances of winning?
Rich Strike’s running style, characterized by his preference for closing strong in the latter stages of a race, poses unique challenges. His success often depends on factors such as distance and track conditions. While his running style makes it difficult to win every race, Rich Strike’s talent and the strategic approach of his team make him a formidable contender in any competition.