ELMONT, N.Y.—RED-TR-Racing’s Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike had a slight change in his daily routine on Wednesday, galloping one mile over the Belmont Park training track in preparation for Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.
“We just wanted to let him play and bounce a little bit,” said trainer Eric Reed. “He’s happy.”
Wednesday’s gallop was much quieter than Tuesday when the chestnut son of Keen Ice galloped about two miles over the main track with vigor, coasting along under regular exercise rider Gabriel Lagunes.
“We wait on him for what we call a ‘happy gallop,’” Reed said of the Tuesday gallop. “He’ll get going and for three or four furlongs and then Gabriel gets him back in stride. He wanted more. I knew the last two days when he came off the track rearing up that we had to let him have his happy gallop.”
Reed said Rich Strike was still eager to do more after his mile gallop Wednesday.
“He came off the track and was like ‘Wait a minute, that’s just one [lap],’” Reed said, with a laugh. “We have to draw the line somewhere.”
Rich Strike has routinely galloped each morning for Reed and had his first two trips around Big Sandy over sloppy going. There is a chance he could encounter a wet track on Saturday with a 30 percent chance of rain in the forecast, something Reed said he should handle well.
“The only thing that concerns us is the favorite [We the People] seems to like a wet track an awful lot,” Reed said. “Our rider said he [Rich Strike] loves the mud. We’ll take whatever we get.”
Rich Strike, whose running style sees him come from well off the pace, could be more forwardly placed to combat the historic trend of deep closers in the “Test of the Champion” struggling to make up ground.
“We just hope he’ll leave the gate and wants to stay close early,” Reed said. “I watched about twelve Belmont Stakes last night and they don’t often do it from way back. But he’s happy today.”
NYRA Press Office
Rich Strike with his exercise rider Gabriel Lagunes. (Susie Raisher)