Happy Monday everyone! I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving holiday. I spent the day working around my house and watching the races at Churchill Downs and Aqueduct. I just finished a very long racing weekend. Much of our US racing focuses on big Saturday cards, and the stakes action tends to be at its best then. But over Thanksgiving weekend, it seemed like every day Thursday through Sunday there was some kind of big race.
I wanted to write about Rich Strike today. His sixth place in the Clark Stakes at Churchill was obviously a disappointment to his fans and he looked somewhat flat once the real running got under way. He has been a very fascinating study this year in how Kentucky Derby (G1) winners are thought, especially when they are winners.
In my lifetime, the two biggest Kentucky Derby long shots I can remember were Giacomo in 2005 and Mine That Bird in 2009. I don’t remember much about how people reacted to Giacomo after his Derby triumph , but Mine That Bird seemed to have. a very specific reaction. When he won the race, it seemed everyone got excited about the horse’s “story” as well as his journey to winning. He had taken a van ride and was a total no-brainer who somehow got the ride of a lifetime and ran the race of a lifetime to win the Kentucky Derby. Sounds a lot like Rich Strike, doesn’t it?
Mine That Bird ran a decent last second in the Preakness S. (G1) and I remember everyone saying how that validated his Kentucky Derby win. Even in defeat, a strong effort there seemed to make fans feel better about him winning the Kentucky Derby.
I think there was a bit of that for Rich Strike when he finished second in the Lukas Classic (G2) to Hot Rod Charlie, a race he probably should have won. Even after finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), where he was beaten 11 lengths by Flightline, some people were shouting from the social media clouds, “How about Rich Strike now!”
I tend to come from the perspective of letting the horse be what it is. In the grand scheme of horse racing, he is clearly a very nice horse. But because he had the best day on the biggest stage in US racing, he will always wear the crown and therefore be judged on it.
Winning the Kentucky Derby changed the lives of everyone associated with Rich Strike. And it also changed the way it would be viewed, discussed and thought about by racing fans. Fair or not, wearing those roses in May results in a horse being forever scrutinized, judged and dissected by us racegoers. I think these are circumstances that almost every owner, trainer and jockey would be happy to deal with.
Rich Strike doesn’t have to be anything other than what it is. Nothing he does or doesn’t do on the track leads to winning the Kentucky Derby. I know if I were an owner, I’d take a Kentucky Derby win and a bunch of last place finishes any day of the week. I think it’s an overall plus for racing if the Kentucky Derby winner not only runs after the Triple Crown, but runs regularly.
Anytime Rich Strike comes up, it will be news and debated. He’ll probably always get overbet too, so if you don’t think he’s got a chance, enjoy the bundle discount for that race.
Good week everyone!