Secretariat

Will Rich Strike Ever Run Again?

Before we begin the long arduous journey on the Derby trail, let’s pick up some of the leftovers from the 2023 season and look back and hopefully ahead at a one-time big name horse before he becomes one of today’s many forgotten stars. ~ Steve Haskin

Will Rich Strike Ever Run Again? 

By Steve Haskin

 

As we launch into 2024, we have to acknowledge one of the most bizarre stories of the decade, maybe even the century and that is really saying something considering just how crazy this last decade has been. We have had three Kentucky Derby winners disqualified, two from the race and one from his previous race, and we have had the trainer of one of the disqualified Derby horses banned from Churchill Downs, despite having won six Derbys, and the trainer of the disqualified Derby horse sentenced to four years in prison.

And that brings us to the 2022 Derby winner whose trainer actually gave him up over a dispute with the owner. When we say the Rich Strike story is bizarre here is why in its most simplistic summation, and we don’t even know whether the story is over or not:

He is bred by Calumet Farm, one of the most iconic names in Thoroughbred racing and after one terrible race runs for a $30,000 claiming tag and gets claimed by lesser known trainer Eric Reed for Rick Dawson while winning by a staggering 17 1/4 lengths.

He toils around Fair Grounds then Turfway Park all winter and early spring and then is pointed for the Kentucky Derby, even though he is highly unlikely to make it into the field. As expected, his quest appears hopeless, especially when Churchill Downs removes his security guard, and Reed makes plans to ship out of Kentucky and point for the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park.

Then the day before the Derby Rich Strike miraculously gets in after a late scratch and proceeds to shock the world, winning at odds of 80-1, the second longest priced winner in Derby history and longest in 109 years. Then he shocks everyone again by becoming the first Derby winner in 38 years to pass the Preakness while perfectly sound and instead go straight to the Belmont Stakes.

Then he fails in the Belmont and Travers. Returning to Churchill Downs, he has the Lukas Classic won in the final furlong until his jockey Sonny Leon pulls one of the most head scratching moves seen in years, costing him the race by a head. Leon then gets suspended 15 days for intentionally attempting to interfere and impede the progress of a rival by repeatedly making physical contact with another rider in the race.

He then loses the race a second time when protests by his connections, based on photographic evidence that the winner was wearing illegal shoes, is overruled.

Then he is well beaten in his next three starts followed by the weirdest incident of them all in which Eric Reed reaches an agreement with a production company headed by former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning for a documentary about the trainer’s career, which has its share of tragedies, both professionally and personally. But owner Dawson takes exception to the documentary for naturally using parts of Rich Strike’s story, to which he claims to own the trademark. The two disagree about the intent of the documentary and Reed promptly and shockingly resigns, with Rich Strike being sent to trainer Bill Mott, who thus far has failed to get the colt back to the races.

Rich Strike is sent to Margaux Farm in Kentucky for light exercise, while being treated for nagging front leg issues. Finally, after discussing the situation with veterinarians, Dawson announces Rich Strike’s retirement and decides to sell the colt at the Keeneland November sale. Whether or not it was due to lack of interest from buyers, Dawson withdraws him from the sale, saying he will attempt to return to the races after continued light exercise.

Then in late November, Rich Strike received his first stem cell treatment, with no exercise planned other than walking and daily trips to his paddock for “some horsing around activities,” whatever that entails. He is still turned out at Margaux Farm, where an ultrasound in early February will be performed to determine the horse’s future.

So where does the Rich Strike story go from here? Who knows? How will the colt be remembered? Who knows? As we saw with 50-1 Derby winner Mine That Bird in 2009, all it took was one glorious day in racing’s biggest spotlight to inspire a full-length motion picture that is a must-see for all racing fans. So how can you separate Eric Reed’s story from Rich Strike’s story? You can’t. Neither would have had their day in the sun and made history without the other, and Reed’s story would have remained hidden in the family archives.

Although the impending documentary on Reed and his family should be extremely powerful and heartbreaking, the addition of Rich Strike’s story obviously is needed and would surely make it more compelling. But we will have to see just what is allowed. After all, the conflict between owner and trainer was so strong it apparently forced Reed to give up his Kentucky Derby winner.

So if Rich Strike never runs again how should he be remembered? Anyone who has been in racing for a long time is well aware that the standards today are not as lofty as they were decades ago. We seem to remember the horses more on their story and single race splashes than their overall accomplishments. Even a horse with all-time great talent like Flightline has his detractors because of his short six-race career, and who knows how he will be remembered and for how long. Recent horses on the verge of stardom who were retired at 3 such as Essential Quality and Arcangelo do not have the opportunity to leave much of a legacy on the track, and the latter likely will be more remembered because of his trainer. Even a Triple Crown winner like Justify already seems to be remembered more for his early success as a stallion.

You can make a claim that Mine That Bird will be remembered more than the aforementioned horses based on that one-race splash, along with his compelling back story and subsequent movie. That could very well be the way Rich Strike will be remembered if his story is told correctly and in full. Then, like Mine That Bird, there is no need to go beyond his one shining moment, even though a documentary usually does not garner the recognition and public appeal of a full-length motion picture with well-known actors.

As for Rich Strike, I have no idea how talented he is or was, but I do believe he had more talent than his record would indicate, and we still don’t know what physical challenges or ailments he had, or has to overcome, and how much they may have compromised his post-Derby performances.

So, whatever is going on with him, let’s hope his return is not just a pipedream or a move of desperation, and that we can actually witness the rare sight of a Kentucky Derby winner racing at 5, especially in a year when the older horse division looks like it could be very thin. If there is one thing you can say about today’s racing  fan, they don’t ask for much.

Photo Courtesy of Heather Jackson

 

Racing historian, author, and award-winning retired journalist for the Daily Racing Form and The Blood-Horse, Steve Haskin was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame’s Media Roll of Honor in 2016. Known for his racing knowledge and insightful prose, he has been an exclusive contributor to Secretariat.com since 2020.

 


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128 Responses to “Will Rich Strike Ever Run Again?”

  1. Joanne Spencer says:

    Thank you Steve! I always look forward to what you have to say! Right now, my favorite older horse is “Long Range Toddy”! I was so happy to see him win in 2023 twice after being winless for 4 years.

  2. Davids says:

    For those devotees of Winx, her Pierro filly will be sold at the (Sydney) Australian Inglis Easter Yearling Sales April 7, 8. Sires represented include: Siyouni, Frankel, Kingman, Lope De Vega, New Bay and even a Gun Runner colt.

    Expect some very impressive sales figures as the Australian market is red hot.

  3. Lynda King says:

    Happy Sunday All. Hope everyone is staying warm. Down to 13 here last night.

    Just some tidbits.

    Contrail, Kitsian Black, Equinox – Coolmore sending Galileo mares to these three Japanese stallions.

    The Flightline foals are starting to arrive. From what I have seen so far, he is putting his stamp on them. Love this time of year and seeing all the foal photos.

    Several California Chrome progeny headed to the upcoming Dubai Racing Carnival including a filly from Chile. Kahbirkhan who won the the 2,000 meter Dubai Islands in Meydan is being pointed to the World Cup. His trainer in UAE is American Doug Watson. The colt sold for a meager $12,500 at auction to Russian interests and has won multiple stakes races in Russia.

    Arcangelo is doing very well after his fracture surgery and is “hitting all the milestones”.

    Based on a report from Australia, it seems that the trend there now is to breed to sell, not breed to race. That is bothersome to me that they seem to be headed in the same direction as American breeders.

    As to Rich Strike, I am in totally agreement with Nelson’s comment and will just add my thoughts.
    His legacy like that of Medina Spirit, California Chrome and Mine That Bird keep this sport and the dream alive that on any given race day, an unknown from sometimes very humble beginnings can win the biggest horse race in America.

    Wishing you all success in your Derby prep selections this year. I have decided to not follow the prep races this year though I will probably watch the Kentucky Derby. Instead I will be following the older horses in the United States and racing in Meydan, Japan, England and Ireland. This whole continued drama over Baffert has just left a bad taste in my mouth for CDI. Totally ridiculous that CDI is keeping on with these sanctions without any justification to do so.

    I will be back to read and probably comment on your other columns Steve. And thank you for updating us on Rich Strike. I wish him and Mr Dawson the very best of luck!!!

    • Discopartner says:

      So they’re trying to turn Galileo into a broodmare sire?

      • Discopartner says:

        Now that he’s deceased. Japanese sires did well for their own country, doesn’t mean they’re competitive internationally.

        • Lynda King says:

          Far be it for me to question the motives of one of the most successful breeding and racing operations in the world.

          Will go out on a limb and say that the success of Auguste Rodin (Deep Impact X Rhodendrum (Galileo) might be part of the reason.

          I dio not think that Coolmore, that has one of the finest broodmare bands in the world would send a very valuable mare(s) half way around the world to be bred to one of these stallions on a whim.

          Coolmare has recently made several acquisitions for the Coolmore Australia operation. Could be the Galileo daughters will be shipping from Australia.

          Just a shame that Anerican farms are not taking advantage of what these 3 stallions have to offer. Would certainly add some much needed diversity and stamina to the deeply linebred and inbred Native Dancer bloodlines in the US.
          Added bonus might be some better boned horses.

          • Discopartner says:

            Aren’t Japanese horses the most inbred anywhere? They keep importing American sires and they aren’t that successful or they die young, like Summer Bird.

            • Lynda King says:

              Discopartner, I have not found the Japanese to be “to be the most inbred anywhere.

              There is still a lot of diversity in their bloodlines and very little close inbreeding.

              Per there is a misunderstanding by some as to exactly what inbreeding and deep on breeding is.

              Inbreeding is an ancestor showing up in the first five generations in both the dam and sire lines. The closer the relative, the more deeply inbred the horse is.

              Rich Strike is an example of deep inbreeding. Smart Strike is his great grsndsire in the sire line and grandsire in the dam line.

              His dam Gold Strike was pinfired to keep her racing. The scars on her front legs ate still visible. Native Dancer was also pingfired on his back legs.

              In breeding and deep inbreeding is like playing genetic roulette.. never know what weakness is going to manifest itself.

              On another note, watched an interview with Coolmore Ireland. They are doing outcross breeding which probably explains Galileo daughters going to Japanese stallions.

              Secretariat was the product of outcross breeding. In both his sire and damlines, you have to go back at least 10 generations and the late 1800’s to find inbreeding.

              • Discopartner says:

                I meant, Sunday Silence and his male offspring are the dominant sire line in Japan. It isn’t inbreeding but it’s a very limited choice of sire line. At least North America has two dominant sirelines and always has had more than one. And there are other lines available. I guess mixing in some Japanese horses would help diversify western pedigrees. I’m also wondering about Aiden O’Brien saying the future of breeding, in his country at least, depends on outcrossing the pedigrees, like that of Auguste Rodin. How they got to this point isn’t clear, I didn’t know the breeds in Europe were failing.

                • Lynda King says:

                  Aiden was not in the video or the interview.

                  There were no comments about future of Irish Thoroughbreds being dependent on outcrossing.or failures of the current bloodlines.

                  The horse being discussed was Basset Wooten and his outcross breeding.

                  Coolmore did not breed and race Basset Wooten just like they did breed American Pharoah or Justify, they were purchased.
                  Adding Basset Wooten to the Coolmore Stud in Ireland does bring diversity to the breeding program just like the Japsnese acquisitions will bring diversity to their breeding program.

                  It is something that would certainly improve the American Thoroughbred. When is the last time, other than perhaps Calumet,, has an American stud farm imported an outcross for dirt track horses?

    • Nelson Maan says:

      Thanks for your weekly recap … I really appreciate your regular roundowns which have become a kind of racing digest we all can enjoy here. Happy to know Arcangelo is well in his path for full recovery….

      About the ” breed to sell” tide -we are now more channeled to follow the progeny of outstanding runners instead of expecting longer campaigns on the track.

      So, to just add on the news of Flightline’s babies, there are also the first foals this week for other nice runners. Olympiad, Jackie’s Warrior, Aloha West, Drain the Clock, Roadster, Magic On Tap and Colonel Liam all sired their first foal the last seven days.

      Talking about Dubai, Meydan will stage a great day of racing this Friday with two Group I, 2 Group II and 3 Group 3 races … could be good preps for many horses pointing to the Super Saturday on March 30 and even to the Saudi Cup on February 24.

      I also share your dislike for CDI’s vindictive attitude against Baffert who has been one of the greatest devotee and promoter of “their” Derby. That is why I keep talking about the road to the Triple Crown to stress that there are three jewels that deserve equal appreciation … CDI should not have monopoly on history and tradition…

      Anyway, enjoy racing wherever you chose to watch …

      • Lynda King says:

        Thank you Nelson.
        Just saw a photo of Honor AP’s first foal. He will never be able to deny that baby, LOL.

    • Suz says:

      Thank you very much for the update on Richie. We are rooting g for him to get well and have a good career in the U.S.

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      Yikes — a low of 13 degrees in GAWJA? The southern girl in me shivers. I don’t think it was much lower up here in the Catskills. Lynda, I know you will read all of Steve’s columns and I hope you will feel free to weigh in on any subject. You are one of the most insightful posters we have, and I have learned so much from your posts. Warm-up is coming soon, hand in there.

      • Ms Blacktype says:

        HANG in there. Blame it on too much cornbread with my black beans.

      • Lynda King says:

        Thank you Ms B.
        Since I moved to GA (Northeast Georgia), the winters have fluctuated between warmer than average with short rainfall to temperatures going as low as zero and ice storms and snow falls up to 10 inches.

        January and February are the coldest months usually.

        At least we did not get the dreaded ice water rain with this system though Northwest Georgia, parts of the upstate South Carolina and eastern Tennesse and western North Carolina did get snow.

        The first year I lived here I had on shorts on a Christmas Day. Then in January it got so cold the pipes under the kitchen sink froze. Luckily I was able to thaw them out with a hair dryer.

        Warm up coming next week with rain forecast for 5 days.

        What made this latest system so bad was the wind gusts up to 30 MPH.

        As a precaution I closed off the crawl space vents with green florist foam..holding it on place with wood for the woodstove.
        HA, HA…looks a bit ” you might be a redneck if”.

  4. John Goggin says:

    Two 90’s Beyers for three year old colts yesterday…
    Maymun 94
    Track Phantom 90

    • Davids says:

      John, it certainly will be interesting to see what campaign Maymun will be set while Track Phantom will be tested for distance sooner rather than later. Derby horses I’m doubtful but talented, yes. Just stay healthy.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Precisely what my thougts were after analyzing Phantom’s pedigree… I see him more like a Jackie’s Warrior than an Epicenter for Asmussen. As you righlty said, his stamina will be tested very soon (in the Risen Star Stakes on February 17 i guess…) same feelings for the brilliant Carbone.

        If you ask me, I would bet on Asmussen’s Imperial Gun to be better equiped (genetically) to the Classics … Let’s see how those prospects respond to the next 105 days of tough conditioning…

        • Davids says:

          Nelson, it will be intriguing how the $5million prize money for the Kentucky Derby is going to impact the field. You can speculate that some colts with less aptitude for the distance, but have aquired the points to enter the race, will run no matter what because ‘anything can happen in a race.’ The old days of absurd early fractions may return which may also open up the chances for the ‘come from behind’ colts.

        • Discopartner says:

          Track Phantom ran faster at the end, showed no distance limits in his other route races. His dam was a successful sprinter, but he has a low doseage index, whether or not it’s up to date, its on the router end of the spectrum. Has a classic pedigree- Quality Road/ Into Mischief very good sires,

        • Nelson Maan says:

          and the another son of Gun Runner named Hall of Fame is another pedigree for the Classics that can be the one for Asmussen.

  5. 7.5 Furlongs says:

    Steve Haskin –

    Hello. At this time of year like to follow newly turned three year olds and your column covering Kentucky Derby prep races
    and contestants. This weekend Future Wager Pool Three is being offered. Made four wagers on longshot types and would like to know if you have any info on planned next races. 1. Merit, W. Mott. 2. Resilience, S. Joseph. 3. Stretch Ride, D. Romans. 4. Snead, B. Walsh. All four are not high profile types, but each has a little upside. Will appreciate any info.
    Thank you.

    7.5 Furlongs

    • Counter Point says:

      A common error that seems to be to be accepted by most if not all.

      Newly turned 3YOs.

      Horses do not become/turn 3YOs on January 1st. They are designated and/or assigned the status of 3YO. There are horses with January foaling dates in this hemisphere. However, I am yet to see one with a January 1st foaling date. But if any exist with such a foaling date in the 2021 crop. Those are the only ones that would turn 3YOs on January 1st.

  6. Bill Dawson says:

    My current top Derby contenders, as of 1-20-24.

    1) Fierceness remains at the top, with the other 14 in no particular order of preference.

    2) Track Phantom
    3) Otello
    4) Merit
    5) El Capi
    6) Otto the Conqueror
    7) Sierra Leone
    8) Snead
    9) Catching Freedom
    10) Real Men Violin
    11) Locked
    12) Knightsbridge
    13) Carbone
    14) Resilience (new addition)
    15) Tuscan Sky (new addition)