Rich Strike is a fluke… That’s all…

November 29, 2022

By Laura Pugh

Photo: Coady Photography, Rich Strike, Kentucky Derby

Actually, that isn’t all. He won the Kentucky Derby. He ran the race of his life, taking advantage of a perfect situation. The perfect pace, the perfect trip, he took advantage of it all and won the most prestigious race there is for 3yr olds. Nobody will ever be able take that away from him.
However, acknowledging that, does not mean that his win wasn’t a fluke.

Since the Kentucky Derby, Rich Strike has been given multiple opportunities to show that his Kentucky Derby victory was more than the sheer luck of everything falling into perfect place. And each time, he’s shown that was exactly the case.

He was supposed to relish the five weeks rest and 12 furlong Belmont distance, at least that’s what his connections said. Astute handicappers pointed out that he seemed to be a one-track type of horse, and closers didn’t have the best record in the race historically. Rich Strike finished a well beaten sixth. Connections said he didn’t like the track.

He returned in the Travers, where he ran fourth to Epicenter. While it was his best race from a numbers perspective, he wasn’t able to rally past the top horses in the field, Epicenter, Cyberknife and Zandon. He beat a very tired Early Voting, who would soon be retired, and several out classed second-third string types.

The Breeders’ Cup Classic was more of the same. Passing tired and outclassed horses, while not being able to get past the class of the field. His best race came at his home track, Churchill Downs, when he got another fast pace to chase, against horses that the older divisions second string. Even then, due in part to the antics of his rider, he still couldn’t win.

The Clark Stakes should be the final nail the coffin. His connections greedily ran him back in 20 days, despite their comments earlier in the year that he ran best with a month or two between starts. They undoubtably thought his affinity for Churchill Downs would be enough to carry him to a win, but instead he floundered. The pace was soft and he didn’t manage to pass a single horse, finishing dead last.

I get it. We all love the Cinderella story of a rags to riches underdog outperforming their odds and breeding, especially when they come from a small barn. But it’s time to stop pretending that this colt is that story.

Rich Strike is a solid grade 2 to grade 3 type horse. He is outclassed when run against the best in his division and will lose by several lengths more often than he will win. It’s time to accept that he’s more on the level of Mine That Bird rather than California Chrome.

Contributing Authors

Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2002. At that...

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@PastTheWire take that story & others you have and write a book. I would buy it. Any good ones out there that are pure stories?

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