HOW HE GOT HERE
You’d be hard pressed to find a horse who make-shifted a spot in the Kentucky Derby like Rich Strike has. A Calumet Farm homebred, this colt debuted on the Ellis Park turf last summer in a maiden special weight, where he dawdled around the course to a cozy last place effort. Switched to dirt and dropped in for a $30,000 tag, Rich Strike showed signs of being a racehorse as he won by an easy 17 lengths. From that effort he was claimed by his current connections, who have shot him up the class ladder since.
This began a couple weeks later with a solid, first-condition allowance effort at Keeneland, where he very well could’ve won with a better trip. In his fourth and final start as a juvenile he was stepped up to stakes company for the first time, where he showed very little to be fifth in the Gun Runner S. (BT) behind Epicenter.
All three of his starts have come on the Tapeta at Turfway Park this year, each of which followed along on their three-year old stakes series. This began in the Leonatus S. (BT) in late January, where he was taken back and grinded out a solid third. In the John Battaglia Memorial (L) next time out, he had to maneuver through a bigger field but still finished up well to run fourth, beaten only three lengths, which was enough to gain 1 Kentucky Derby point behind Tiz the Bomb. That colt had Rich Strike’s measure once more in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3), where our subject could only manage minor awards with a deep-closing trip behind Tiz the Bomb and Tawny Port.
HOW HE FITS HERE
There are certainly horses entering this race with worse form than Rich Strike. He’s actually ran quite credibly in his stakes efforts this year and will be able to establish favorable early position with a likely quick pace in front of him. He’s also never shown an indication that longer distances will deter him. However, he also has never been able to beat horses above a maiden claiming level, and that is definitely a problem in this field.
This fella’s happy. Rich Strike draws in after Ethereal Road scratches. Rick Strike has shown tons of energy and run for the past 9 mornings. At times, nerves. #kentuckyderby pic.twitter.com/9OKGe1QJti
— Kevin Kilroy (@TrustYourLuck) May 6, 2022
CONNECTIONS AND PEDIGREE
This is a pretty neat story all things considered. Obviously we’ve already touched on the reformed claimer element, but this will also be the first time these connections have fulfilled their Derby dreams.
Trainer Eric Reed has been a longtime horseman in Kentucky. He wins at a respectable level in weaker company than this, but his horses don’t always fair well in graded stakes. A fun note about Reed is that one of his former runners nearly toppled the great Zenyatta back in 2010, when Rinterval ran her to the wire in the Clement L. Hirsch S. (G1).
I always love seeing young jockeys get their first shot in the Kentucky Derby, and rider Sonny Leon will be reunited with this colt in the Run for the Roses. He has ridden Rich Strike in all three of his races this year. Leon has actually been very successful on the lesser tracks throughout the Ohio Valley, including a handful of recent riding titles at Mahoning Valley and Belterra Park. Last year, he set career high marks when finishing 46th in the nation in wins. Great to see hard work and loyalty being rewarded in this case.
Rich Strike’s pedigree isn’t overly sexy but does indicate the potential to thrive at the Derby distance. He is by Travers S. (G1) winner Keen Ice, who himself handled distances up to 12 furlongs very well. Rich Strike is out the Smart Strike mare, Gold Strike. On the track, Gold Strike was a gritty Canadian filly who placed in Canada’s equivalent of the Kentucky Derby, the Queen’s Plate. She is also the dam of Llanarmon, another talented Canadian filly who also had some excellent runs between 9-12 furlongs. All things considered, these bloodlines suggest he should thrive being allowed to travel this far, which might move him up a little bit in this spot.
He doesn’t have much of a chance, but he will be passing horses late. There are a surprising amount of intriguing qualities with Rich Strike, like his pedigree, late kick, and running style, but we once again have to question his true ability.
If he can take a massive leap and find a bit of racing luck, he will definitely have the setup to be picking off tired runners late. How many will he pick up? Probably not a lot, but there are certainly angles to believe in if you’re feeling wild on Derby day.