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Rich Strike Out Of Preakness Stakes

James Murphy
by in Horses on
  • Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike will skip the Preakness Stakes on May 21.
  • His connections don’t think running him back just two weeks after the Derby isn’t in the horse’s best interest.
  • The working plan is for Rich Strike to enter the Belmont Stakes on June 11 in New York.

If nothing else, Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike has brought plenty of surprises to the 2022 Triple Crown season. The first surprise, of course, was winning the ‘Run for the Roses’ priced at 80-1 after making the race as an ‘also eligible’. The latest surprise? The announcement today from Rich Strike’s connections that he won’t run in the Preakness Stakes. At this point, the tentative next race for Rich Strike will be the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes at New York’s Belmont Park on Saturday, June 11.

Rich Strike had been ‘penciled in’ to the Preakness field by virtue of his Kentucky Derby victory. After all, the winner of the first leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown typically goes on to contest the second leg. While it is a break with horse racing tradition, the rationale of his connections–primarily trainer Eric Reed and owner Rick Dawson–is definitely sound. Their thinking is that bringing Rich Strike back after just two weeks isn’t in the horse’s best interest. Instead, they’d rather target the Belmont Stakes–the final leg of the Triple Crown–giving Rich Strike a more reasonable five weeks of rest.

The announcement was made in a statement by owner Dawson and released by the Maryland Jockey Club:

Our original plan for Rich Strike was contingent on the KY Derby, should we not run in the Derby we would point toward the Preakness, should we run in the Derby, subject to the race outcome & the condition of our horse, we would give him more recovery time & rest and run in the Belmont, or another race and stay on course to run with 5 or 6 weeks rest between races.

Obviously, with our tremendous effort & win in the Derby it’s very, very tempting to alter our course & run in the Preakness at Pimlico, which would be a great honor for all our group, however, after much discussion & consideration with my trainer, Eric Reed & a few others, we are going to stay with our plan of what’s best for Ritchie is what’s best for our group, and pass on running in the Preakness, and point toward the Belmont in approximately 5 weeks.

We thank the wonderful Preakness & Pimlico folks that have reached out to us & very much appreciate the invite.

We wish you all a great race!!!!

Rick Dawson, Owner
Rich Strike (Ritchie)
Winner Derby #148

First of all, Dawson’s nickname for Rich Strike–Ritchie–is adorable. Horse racing would be a better sport if more high level owners and trainers had nicknames for their horses. Trainer Reed is definitely on the same page as his owner as he told the Daily Racing Form:

“We felt like maybe the Preakness just isn’t the right fit for the horse. The horse is fine. We’ll look forward to running in the Belmont.”

Trainers and owners say that the ‘well being of the horse’ is their primary concern so often it has become a cliche. Clearly, that isn’t always the case. Dawson and Reed appear to be serious about doing what is best for Rich Strike. That was also the opinion of John Fradkin, owner/breeder of 2021 Preakness winner Rombauer:

That there are plenty of racing fans suggesting a conspiracy says everything you need to know about horse racing. Some are suggesting that Rich Strike is injured, but were that the case what would his connections have to gain by hiding it? Others are suggesting that Rich Strike’s connections are responding to Pimlico oddsmaker Keith Feustle’s assessment of the field. Fesutle said that he’d likely put up Rich Strike at 8-1 on the morning line. Here’s his assessment of the projected field’s hierarchy:

Pimlico oddsmaker Feustle will most likely install Epicenter as the favorite at a price around 9-5. Should Zandon run he’d be the second choice and the price on Epicenter might be a touch higher. Early Voting and Secret Oath would probably be next on the odds board followed by Rich Strike.

Tough to think that is the reason either. ‘On paper’, it’s obvious that Epicenter, Zandon, Secret Oathing and Early Voting have a more impressive resume than Rich Strike. Heading into the Derby, Rich Strike had won just one of his seven starts–a maiden-claimer on September 17 at Churchill Downs after which Dawson and Reed claimed him from previous owner Calumet Farm for a mere $30,000. The Daily Racing Form gave this recap of his racing career to date:

Rich Strike came into the Derby having won just 1 of 7 starts, that a maiden-claiming race Sept. 17 at Churchill Downs, his second lifetime start, from which Dawson and Reed claimed him for $30,000 from his owner and breeder, Calumet Farm, and trainer Joe Sharp.

Rich Strike lost his next five starts, including the Gun Runner at Fair Grounds, in which he finished 14 lengths behind Epicenter, who was the Derby favorite and finished second to Rich Strike.

Following the Gun Runner, Rich Strike lost three straight races at Turfway Park on the all-weather surface there. His final prep was in the Jeff Ruby, five weeks before the Derby. He will now have similar spacing to the Belmont.

Another conspiracy theory suggests that Rich Strike’s connections ‘know what kind of horse they have’ and for that reason are reticent to run him in the Preakness. Some think that they’ll end up skipping the Belmont as well. That’s also difficult to buy–certainly, Rich Strike’s connections realize that they caught ‘lightning in a bottle’ with their Kentucky Derby win. Even accepting that Sonny Leon is certainly a more skillful jockey than the racing world thought, it would be difficult for him to reprise his Kentucky Derby success. Anyone who watched the race knows that the race set up perfectly for a strong closing effort and thanks to Leon’s excellent ride Rich Strike was there to capitalize. The huge 20 horse field helped facilitate Rich Strike’s victory as well. That he’d be facing a significantly smaller field of opponents on a slightly longer track are certainly considerations.

My view is that Dawson and Reed are legitimately doing what they think is best for their horse. They know full well what Epicenter is capable of but the suggestion that they’re ‘scared’ to face him doesn’t pass the smell test. If that was the case, why would they enter their horse in the Kentucky Derby to begin with? Even if Rich Strike never wins another race, his performance on the first Saturday in May will be forever etched in horse racing history. There’s nothing that his connections have to gain financially or tactically from skipping the Preakness, other than having a more rested horse on June 11.

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